Five Questions
Sonya Dumanis

Dr. Sonya Dumanis has served as the senior director of innovation at the Epilepsy Foundation since 2016. She oversees the Epilepsy Foundation innovation research program which includes the Epilepsy Innovation Institute (Ei2), Epilepsy Therapy Project, and the Next Generation Scientists program.

As a scientist, Dr. Dumanis embraces creativity and works to bring innovative ideas in epilepsy research to the forefront. She aids in their support to rapidly develop better therapies for people living with epilepsy. Her leadership and collaborative spirit have helped to engage key stakeholders in science, clinical medicine, industry and business to work together with those impacted by epilepsy to bring real and timely progress.

Dr. Dumanis appreciates the important role people impacted by epilepsy play as partners in scientific learning and this is exemplified in Ei2. The Epilepsy Innovation Institute promotes research that answers the questions the epilepsy community has identified as priorities that need addressing now. In this way, people living with epilepsy and their families help to guide researchers to solve their most pressing problems.

The Epilepsy Foundation is grateful for Dr. Dumanis's leadership and her unwavering commitment to advancing science and medicine to better the lives of people impacted by epilepsy.

1 What is your favorite thing about the work you do for the Epilepsy Foundation?

There is so much talent within our community. I love that I can help create opportunities for that talent to thrive. I oversee our Epilepsy Therapy Project, which works with startups to accelerate their epilepsy products onto the marketplace. I am extremely proud of the success of this program and the return on investment. We have had a lot of solutions enter the marketplace through this program from using smartwatches (Embrace and SmartWatch for InspyreTM) for seizure detection to education programs to other wearable technologies.

Through Ei2, I also work with the My Seizure Gauge team, an international group working on developing a seizure forecasting device. Their commitment to the project and their excitement to push themselves to do more, along with their willingness to collaborate and share, is exactly what science should be! Getting on those bi-weekly calls is one of the highlights of my week.

2 What has surprised you most about working with the Epilepsy Foundation?

How welcoming the community is! We have a lot of struggles to overcome as a community, but I firmly believe that doing it together makes us stronger. I am extremely fortunate to work with amazing colleagues both within the Foundation and across our network and partners.

3 If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

It's a toss-up between being able to draw well and learn more languages. Being able to share information is so important and being able to communicate that information in different mediums and ways is key to that. I am always in awe of those that can do this well. As a scientist by training, I sometimes get stuck in my own world of jargon and wordiness.

4 What is your motto or personal mantra?

Say yes to opportunities, stay curious and remember to breathe.

5 How does creativity play a role in science?

Science is about asking questions and solving puzzles. Sometimes out of the box ideas are the best solutions! If you have a great idea that could transform the epilepsy community, please submit to our 2020 Shark Tank competition.


Dr. Dumanis has authored over 20 scientific articles in physics and neuroscience and received multiple honors, including an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, a national science foundation (NSF) fellowship, a national research service award from the NIH and the Mark A. Smith prize from the Journal of Neurochemistry.

Authored By: 
Epilepsy Foundation Health Communications