Meet the Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Fellowship Award Winners
Since 2010, thirteen 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.
Dr. Catherine Peña works in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs, in the Department of Neuroscience at 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. Zoi Karoulia works in the laboratory of Poulikos Poulikakos, PhD, in the Department of Oncological Sciences at 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 are investigating translational therapeutic strategies and enable 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.
At the time of this award, Dr. Salmon worked in Dr. Miriam Merad’s (Dendritic Cell and Macrophage Biology) Laboratory at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Dr. Salmon is now Assistant Professor of Oncological Science at Mount Sinai, where she is organizing a multi-country, videoconference-based immunotherapy course for MD/PhD and PhD students and Postdoctoral Fellows. She has started 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 at the tumor site in murine and human lung tumors.
Dr. Lara Manganaro works in the Dr. Vivian Simon Laboratory in the Department of Microbiology at Mount Sinai. Her research focuses on understanding patterns and mechanisms of HIV drug resistance, specifically, the characterization of the molecular pathways regulating HIV susceptibility and reactivation. Dr. Manganaro has published extensively. In 2015 and again in 2016, she received a Young Investigator Scholarship award at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston. In 2016, she received the Trainee Abstract Award at the annual meeting of the American Association of Immunologists (AAI).
Dr. Tordesillas works in Dr. Cecilia Berin’s Laboratory at ISMMS. Her research is focused on how to establish immune tolerance to foods for the treatment of food allergy. In particular, she is studying how regulatory T cells induced by epicutaneous immunotherapy are generated and suppress anaphylaxis. She is currently investigating 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.
At the time of this award, Dr. Heller worked in the laboratory of Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs at the ISMMS. Dr. Heller’s research focuses on epigenetic remodeling (the molecular changes that occur at specific genes) in the context of drugs of 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 is now an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology in the Penn Epigenetics Institute at Perelman School of Medicine.
At the time of this award, Dr. Friedman, who is a PhD alumna of our Graduate School, worked in the Ming-Hu Han Laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics. 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 is now as an Assistant Professor at Hunter College, CUNY.
At the time of this award, Dr. Schmid worked in the Benjamin tenOever Laboratory in the Department of Microbiology at Mount Sinai. 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 is now an Associate Editor at Nature Communications.
At the time of this award, Dr. Agudo worked in the Brian Brown Laboratory in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai. 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. Brown's lab 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. Nat Biotech 2015).
Dr. Agudo is currently a member of the faculty, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Division of Immunology at Harvard Medical School, as well as maintaining her independent lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The Agudo lab studies how the immune system interacts with cancer stem cells, aiming to develop novel immunotherapies to kill these cells and prevent metastasis.
At the time of this award, Dr. Bedard worked in Dr. Jeffrey Newcorn's Laboratory at ISMMS. She was later promoted to Assistant Professor at Mount Sinai and headed her own lab in the Department of Psychiatry. Her research focuses on the study of impaired cognition in childhood mental disorders, specifically, the neural correlates of visual-spatial working memory in children and adolescents with and without ADHD using fMRI to study brain activation. Dr. Bedard is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
Dr. Sourisseau works in Dr. Matthew Evan's Laboratory in the Department of Microbiology at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Mount Sinai. Her research focuses on the role of tight junction protein occluding in cell entry pathways of the Hepatitis C Virus. With the help of the Robin Chemers Neustein fellowship, Dr. Sourisseau has published three papers and is currently seeking a permanent position where she can continue to produce excellent science in a friendly environment.
At the time of this award, Dr. Johnson was working in the Ross Cagan Laboratory in the Department of Developmental and Regenerative Biology at Mount Sinai. Her research in the Cagan Lab 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 is now an Assistant Professor at Wesleyan University 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.
At the time of this award, Dr. Ingersol was working in Dr. Gwendalyn Randolph's Laboratory at ISMMS. Her research focus is on urinary tract infection and bladder immunobiology. Since May 2016, she has been a tenured scientist and group leader at the Institute Pasteur in Paris, where she has received a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant award, and also co-authored to other successful grants to investigate immune responses during bladder infection and bladder cancer. In addition to training students, Dr. Ingersoll has assembled a team that is collaborating with teams in the US and in Europe to launch two Phase III clinical trials to address improving the efficacy of BCG immunotherapy for patients with early-stage bladder cancer.