Meet the Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Fellowship Award Winners

Since 2010, seventeen talented early-career female scientists at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have received the Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Fellow Award. Here are their stories.

image of Angélica Torres-Berrío

Whitney Cowell
2021 Winner

Dr. Whitney Cowell works in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health. Her research leverages a combination of molecular and epidemiologic tools to investigate sub-clinical changes at the biological level with the goal of translating these findings to improve population-level health. As a post-doctoral fellow, she has worked with the Programming of Intergenerational Stress Mechanisms (PRISM) pregnancy cohort to elucidate the pathways through which psychosocial and environmental stressors manifest at the biological level to disrupt pregnancy progression, ultimately contributing to adverse maternal and child health outcomes. As a post-doc, she has been awarded an NIEHS P30 Center pilot to investigate maternal traumatic and non-traumatic stress in relation to expression of placental genes involved in nutrient transport, immune responsivity, and the glucocorticoid (i.e., cortisol in humans) barrier, as well as an NIEHS K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award focused on how exposure to particulate air pollution during pregnancy disrupts communication along the maternal-placental-fetal axis. Dr. Cowell is a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Rosalind Wright, Dean for Translational Biomedical Research, Co-Director of the Institute for Exposomic Research, and Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the ISMMS.


image of Whitney Cowell

Angélica Torres-Berrío
2021 Winner

Dr. Angélica Torres-Berrío works in the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her research focuses on understanding how stress across the lifespan leads to enduring epigenetic alterations linked to depression. She is also interested in identifying molecular biomarkers that can be used to prevent and treat this psychopathology. To this end, she combines cutting-edge molecular techniques and novel behavioral paradigms to unravel the role of specific stress-induced histone modifications and microRNAs using mouse models. Dr. Torres-Berrío is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Eric J. Nestler, Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs and Director of the Friedman Brain Institute at the ISMMS.


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Ana S. Gonzalez-Reiche
2020 Winner

Dr. Ana S. Gonzalez-Reiche works in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her research focuses on applying genomics tools and next-generation sequencing to understand the evolution of zoonotic viruses, as well as virus:host interactions. Dr. Gonzalez-Reiche uses molecular epidemiology for the ancestral reconstruction of virus transmission events, which she applied most recently to investigate the genetic diversity of Severe Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in New York City through the Mount Sinai’s Pathogen Surveillance Program, which resulted in the first description of the origins and introductions of the virus in NYC in early March 2020. Currently, in collaboration with other investigators at ISMMS, Dr. Gonzalez-Reiche is applying transcriptomics and single-cell genomics to study virus:host interactions in the context of non-canonical antiviral cellular response, unusual tissue reservoirs, and in response to vaccination. Dr. Ana S. Gonzalez-Reiche is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Harm van Bakel, Assistant Professor at the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences ISMMS.


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Jessica Sook Yuin Ho
2020 Winner

Dr. Jessica Ho works in the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her current research focuses on exploiting viral adaptations to the host in order to uncover novel epigenetic mechanisms and pathways that underlie infectious and oncogenic diseases. She has recently uncovered a novel gene origination mechanism that is used by the segmented negative sense viruses. She showed that expression of these new genes affect viral pathogenicity in host cells. Her studies have implications for our understanding of these viruses, as well as in the development of therapeutics/vaccines against them. Dr. Ho is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Ivan Marazzi, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the ISMMS.


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Kirstie A. Cummings 
2020 Winner

Dr. Kirstie Cummings works in the Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her research is focused on unraveling the circuit mechanisms underlying fear memory acquisition and expression in the prefrontal cortex of mice. Specifically, Dr. Cummings is working to understand how a GABAergic cell type, which has historically been considered to play a negative modulatory role in memory, paradoxically encodes fear memory. To do this, she combines intersectional activity-dependent neural tagging, cell type-specific in vivo optogenetics, in vivocalcium imaging using head-mounted miniature microscopes (Miniscopes) in freely behaving mice, and ex vivo electrophysiology in acute brain slices. Dr. Cummings is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Clem, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the ISMMS.


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Pinar Ayata
2019 Winner

Dr. Pinar Ayata works in the Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her research focuses on uncovering molecular mechanisms by which microglia support health and function of the brain, and how their dysfunction contributes to neurodegenerative disease. She recently identified an epigenetic mechanism that regulates microglial clearance activity in different brain regions and showed that its dysregulation is detrimental to normal brain function. Inspired by recent genetic studies, which pointed to myeloid engulfment and degradation pathways as major risk factors in neurodegenerative diseases, she plans to continue to investigate regulatory mechanisms of microglial phagocytosis and its role in tissue protection and regeneration. Dr. Ayata is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Anne Schaefer, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the ISMMS.


Headshot of Shuang Wang

Shuang Wang
2019 Winner

Dr. Shuang Wang works in the Department of Medicine, Division of Liver Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her current research is focused on investigating how epigenomic reprogramming affects hepatic stellate cell biology, the key driver of liver fibrosis, using various mouse models. Her long term goal and passion is to understand how epigenomics shape cell identity and response to external stimuli in differentiated cells of the adult liver, and how this process contributes to liver diseases. Dr. Wang is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Scott L. Friedman, Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Liver Diseases at the ISMMS.


Lorna Farrelly

Lorna Farrelly
2018 Winner

Dr. Lorna Farrelly works in the Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her research investigates the complex interplay between novel chromatin regu­latory mechanisms in the brain and neuronal plasticity. Her studies have more specifically identified and delineated a previously unde­fined histone modification mediated by the monoamine serotonin. In her work, Dr. Farrelly combines a wide variety of biochemical, biophysical and molecular approaches to address the regulation of this epigenetic phenomenon within normal neurodevelopment, and in terms of its contribution to psychiatric disease.  Dr. Farrelly is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Ian Maze, Assis­tant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the ISMMS.


Sabrina Tamburini

Sabrina Tamburini
2018 Winner

Dr. Sabrina Tamburini works in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Dr. Tamburini’s research is focused on under­standing what constitutes a viable “healthy” microbiome and how the shape of viable microbiomes relates to overall health and disease. She developed a bacterial viability assay to study what bacteria can be viably transferred from a donor to a recipi­ent in order to build a new healthy viable microbiome. This assay can be applied to fecal microbial transplantation in recurrent clostridium difficile and immune bowel disease patients, and to characterize the viable microbiome transferred from mothers to newborn infants during delivery.  Dr. Tamburini’s is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Jose Clemente, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ge­netics and Genomic Sciences at the ISMMS.


Catherine Pena

Catherine Jensen Peña
2017 Winner

Dr. Catherine Peña works in the Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her research investigates the effects of early life stress on genome-wide transcriptional and epigenetic changes within re­gions of the brain implicated in depression-like behavior. Dr. Peña established a translationally relevant, “two-hit” stress paradigm in mice. In work recently published in Science, she provided new evidence of sensitive windows for de­velopment of emotion regulation, and identified a novel molecular mechanism underlying the heightened risk for depression resulting from early life stress. Dr. Pena is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Nestler, Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs, Director of The Friedman Brain Institute and Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience at the ISMMS. 

Beginning in 2019, Dr. Peña will be an Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience Institute at Princeton University, where she will be starting her own lab.


Zoi Karoulia

Zoi Karoulia
2017 Winner

Dr. Zoi Karoulia works in the Department of On­cological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medi­cine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). She investigates the mechanisms that regulate oncogenic signaling in BRAF mutant tumors. The focus of her research is to characterize mechanisms of drug resistance in order to develop more effective therapeutic approaches. Her studies involve investigating transla­tional therapeutic strategies and enabling the optimization of combinations of BRAF and MEK inhibitors in various clinical contexts including resistant BRAFV600E melanomas, colorectal and thyroid tumors as well as non-V600 BRAF malignancies. Dr. Karoulia is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Poulikos Poulikakos, As­sistant Professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the ISMMS.


Hélène Salmon

Hélène Salmon
2016 Winner

When she received this award, Dr. Salmon worked in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Currently, Dr. Salmon is an Assistant Professor of Oncological Sciences in the aforementioned de­partment, where she is mentoring two PhD students and is leading a research program focusing on un­derstanding the contribution of the tumor stroma to immune responses against cancer. Her research is specifically investigating the contribution of cancer-as­sociated fibroblasts to tumor immunity, and their role in regulating immune cell distribution and function in lung and bladder tumor lesions. In addition, she is organizing a multi-country, videoconference-based course on Immunothera­py for MD/PhD and PhD students and Postdoctoral Fellows. Dr. Salmon was a Postdoctoral Fellow in laboratory of  Dr. Miriam Merad’s (Dendritic Cell and Macrophage Biology), Professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the ISMMS.

In 2019, Dr. Salmon will start a lab at Institut Curie in Paris, France, where she will continue her research on Stroma and Tumor Immunity. She has obtained fund­ing from Genentech, Inc., Takeda, Inc. and the ARC Foundation for Cancer Re­search.


Lara Manganaro

Lara Manganaro
2016 Winner

At the time of this award, Dr. Manganaro worked in the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). She was later promoted to Instructor at the ISMMS in the Depart­ment of Microbiology. Her research focuses on characterizing the molecular pathways regulating HIV susceptibility and reactivation. In 2015 and again in 2016, she received a Young Investigator Scholarship award at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston. Dr. Mangan­aro was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Viviana Simon, Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the ISMMS.

Dr. Manganaro is currently a researcher at the National Institute of Molecular Genetics in Milan, Italy, where she is starting an independent career.


Leticia Tordesillas

Leticia Tordesillas
2015 Winner

In 2015, Dr. Tordesillas worked in the Department of Pediatrics at ISMMS. Her research was fo­cused on how to establish immune tolerance to foods for the treatment of food allergy. In particu­lar, she studied how regulatory T cells induced by epicutaneous immunotherapy are generated and suppress anaphylaxis. Dr. Tordesillas research focused on identification of the immunologic mechanisms responsible for the development of sensitization or tolerance to food allergens through the epi­cutaneous route, in order to understand how to manipulate the skin immune environment to optimize tolerance to foods. Dr. Tordesillas was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of Dr. M. Cecilia Berin, Professor in the Department of Pediat­rics at the ISMMS.

Dr. Tordesillas is a Research Scientist at Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida, where she is investigating identification and validation of novel targets for pre­vention and treatment of skin cancer.


Elizabeth Heller

Elizabeth Heller
2015 Winner

At the time of this award, Dr. Heller worked in the Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Dr. Heller’s re­search focuses on epigenetic remodeling (the mo­lecular changes that occur at specific genes) in the context of drug abuse and stress. She found that a specific epigenetic remodeling factor delivered to the reward region of the brain is sufficient to reverse the effects of drug and stress exposure, demon­strating the potential therapeutic efficacy of epigenetic regulation in combat­ing neuropsychiatric disease. Dr. Heller was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Nestler, Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs, Director of The Friedman Brain Institute and Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience at the ISMMS.

Dr. Heller is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and has her own lab, the Heller Lab, of Neuroepigenetics, in the Penn Epigenetics Institute at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.


Allyson Friedman

Allyson Friedman
2014 Winner

When she received this award, Dr. Friedman, who is a PhD alumna of the Graduate School of Bio­medical Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), worked in the Depart­ment of Pharmacological Sciences . Dr. Fried­man’s research focuses on cellular neurophysiol­ogy and behavior. Her research has demonstrated that resilience to chronic social stress is achieved through homeostatic mechanisms that stabilize mid­brain dopamine activity, an important system in the brain that controls reward and motivation. Promoting these naturally occurring homeostatic mechanisms has antidepressant effects, a conceptually new avenue for exploring depres­sion treatment. Dr. Friedman was a Postdoctoral Fellow in laboratory of Dr. Ming-Hu Han, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacological Sciences at the ISMMS.

Dr. Friedman is an Assistant Professor at Hunter College, CUNY, New York.


Sonja Schmid

Sonja Schmid
2014 Winner

At the time of this award, Dr. Schmid worked in the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Dr. Schmid’s re­search focused on the interplay between viruses and their hosts on a molecular level. This included the characterization of dis­tinct arms of the host antiviral response, as well as the development of novel viral vectors, with a goal to improve current vaccine strategies and generate innovative therapeutics. Dr. Schmid was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Benjamin R. tenOever, Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the ISMMS.

Dr. Schmid is a Senior Editor at Nature Communications in New York.


Judith Agudo

Judith Agudo
2013 Winner

In 2013, Dr. Agudo worked in the Department of Ge­netics and Genomic Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Dr. Agudo studies strategies for the induction of tolerance and preven­tion of type-1 diabetes. She received a Fulbright fellowship in 2010 to join Dr. Brian D. Brown’s lab at the ISMMS in order to work on the development of “vaccines” to prevent autoimmune attack in type-1 diabetes. She also received a postdoctoral award from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to study strategies that can prevent type-1 diabetes. In 2015, Dr. Agudo created a powerful new technol­ogy, called Jedi, to advance her studies (Agudo et al. Nature Biotechnology 2015, Agudo et al., Immunity, 2018). Dr. Agudo was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Brown, Associate Professor, in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Scienc­es at the ISMMS.

Dr. Agudo is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Immunology at Har­vard Medical School and maintains her independent lab at the Dana-Farber Can­cer Institute.


Anne-Claude Bedard

Anne-Claude Bedard
2012 Winner

At the time of this award, Dr. Bedard worked in the De­partment of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medi­cine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) and was later promoted to Assistant Professor. The Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Fellowship Award supported Dr. Bedard in her study of the neural correlates of visual-spatial working memory in children and adolescents with ADHD using fMRI, which was published in the Journal of the American Acade­my of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Bedard was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Newcorn, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the ISMMS.

Dr. Bedard is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Psy­chology and Human Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Educa­tion at the University of Toronto, Canada.


Marion Sourisseau

Marion Sourisseau
2011 Winner

Dr. Sourisseau works in the Department of Mi­crobiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her research focuses on the role of tight junction protein occluding in cell entry pathways of the Hepatitis C Virus. Thanks to this fellowship, she was able to publish in several papers and presented at international conferences. She is now working on understanding flavivirus­es-host interactions to help in the development of potent viral inhibitors, with a focus on Zika virus. Dr. Sourisseau is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Matthew J. Evans, As­sociate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the ISMMS.


Ruth Johnson

Ruth Johnson
2010 Winner

Dr. Ruth Johnson was one of two, of the very first awardees of the Robin Chemers Neustein Post­doctoral Fellowship Award in 2010.

She worked in the Department of Cell, Developmental & Regenerative Biology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her research aimed to understand how cells that are integrated within a complex tissue layer are capable of re-organizing to generate a functional organ. Dr. Johnson was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Ross L. Cagan, Professor in the Depart­ment of Cell, Developmental & Regenerative Biology at the ISMMS.

Dr. Johnson is now an Associate Professor at Wesleyan University in Middle­town, Connecticut, where she teaches Introductory Biology, and Principles and Mechanisms of Cell Biology and will be developing an advanced course in Cancer Biology. She also has her own research group, and has taken on her first graduate student.


Molly Ingersoll

Molly Ingersoll
2010 Winner

Dr.  Molly Ingersoll was the other inaugural awardee of Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in 2010.  She worked in the Department of Gene and Cell Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her research focus is urinary tract infection and bladder immunobiology. Dr. Ingersoll was a Post- doctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Gwendalyn Randolph who was a Professor in the Department of Gene and Cell Medicine at the ISMMS.

Since 2012, Dr. Ingersoll has had a research group at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France, and she also became a tenured scientist and group leader in 2016.