NIH Director's New Innovator Award Recipients

2022 Awardees

Farshid Alambeigi

Farshid Alambeigi, Ph.D.

University of Texas at Austin

Project Title: A Novel Semi-autonomous Surgeon-in-the-loop in situ Robotic Bioprinting System for Functional and Cosmetic Restoration of Volumetric Muscle Loss Injuries
Grant ID: DP2-AR082471

Farshid Alambeigi is an Assistant Professor at the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering in the University of Texas at Austin and is also a core faculty member in Texas Robotics. Dr. Alambeigi received his Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering (2019) and MSE degree in Robotics (2017) from Johns Hopkins University. Before starting his Ph.D. in 2014, he received an M.Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology in Iran (2012). His research in Advanced Robotics Technologies for Surgery (ARTS) lab aims to partner dexterous and intelligent robots with clinicians to promote and facilitate semi-autonomous/autonomous minimally-invasive surgical interventions. In addition to the NIH New Innovator Award, he is one the 2019 Siebel Scholars in the Bioengineering field and recipients of the NIH NIBIB Trailblazer Award in 2020.


Rachel N. Arey

Rachel N. Arey, Ph.D.

Baylor College of Medicine

Project Title: Uncovering Brain-Wide Molecular Determinants of Individual Memory Performance Across Lifespan
Grant ID: DP2-NS132372

Dr. Rachel Arey is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Precision Environmental Health and Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Arey received a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University. Dr Arey’s research program focuses on defining the molecular underpinnings of complex behaviors, which combines her multidisciplinary training in genetics, genomics, molecular and behavioral neuroscience in multiple model systems. In addition to the New Innovator Award, Dr. Arey has received support from the Caroline Wiess Law Fund for Research in Molecular Medicine, the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research and AFAR Grants for Junior Faculty, and the Whitehall Foundation. 


Michael Beyeler

Michael Beyeler, Ph.D.

Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

Project Title: Towards a Smart Bionic Eye: AI-Powered Artificial Vision for the Treatment of Incurable Blindness
Grant ID: DP2-LM014268

Michael Beyeler is currently an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Originally from Switzerland, he received his BS and MS from ETH Zurich, before moving to the US, where he earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine. His postdoctoral research in the labs of Drs. Ione Fine and Ariel Rokem at the University of Washington was recognized with a NEI K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award. At UCSB, Michael leads an interdisciplinary research group focused on the computational modeling of human, animal, computer, and prosthetic vision to elucidate the neuroscience behind bionic technologies that may one day restore useful vision to people living with incurable blindness. 


John James Blazeck

John James Blazeck, Ph.D.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Project Title: Synthetic Metabolism to Armor and Enhance a New Class of Cell Therapies
Grant ID: DP2-CA280622

Dr. John Blazeck received a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, where he worked with Dr. Hal Alper to engineer microbial metabolism and transcriptional regulation.  He continued his research career at UT Austin as a postdoctoral fellow, working with Dr. George Georgiou to develop enzyme immunotherapies.  As an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech, Dr. Blazeck leads a laboratory focused on developing cellular and metabolic immunotherapies and on engineering evolutionary platforms to create synthetic immune proteins.  In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Dr. Blazeck has received a Beckman Young Investigator Award and an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship.


Rachel Buckley

Rachel Buckley, Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital; Brigham and Women's Hospital; Harvard Medical School

Project Title: The Inactive X: Discovering Sex Genes that Influence Female Vulnerability to Alzheimer's Disease
Grant ID: DP2-AG082342

Dr. Buckley is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and holds an honorary appointment with the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She is a recipient of an NIH-NIA K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award and an Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship. She is an Editorial Board member at Neurology and an Associate Editor of Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring. She is also Vice-Chair of the Sex and Gender Differences in Alzheimer’s Disease ISTAART Professional Interest Area for the Alzheimer’s Association. Her field of expertise is in the investigation of sex differences in Alzheimer's disease (AD) biomarkers in preclinical AD; specifically, her interests lie in what sex biological mechanisms might explain female vulnerability, and resilience, to AD pathology and subsequent cognitive decline. 


Lindsay Case

Lindsay Case, Ph.D.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Project Title: New Insights Into the Molecular Regulation of Mechanotransduction
Grant ID: DP2-GM149549
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Lindsay Case is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at MIT, where her lab studies how cells regulate the spatial organization of signaling molecules at the plasma membrane. She completed her graduate training in cell biology through a joint program between the University of North Carolina and the National Institutes of Health, working with Dr. Clare Waterman to study integrin receptors and the actin cytoskeleton with superresolution light microscopy. She completed postdoctoral training in molecular biophysics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, where she worked with Dr. Michael Rosen to determine how phase separation regulates signaling molecules at the plasma membrane. She has been recognized as a Searle Scholar, an Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator, and a Damon Runyon-Dale F. Frey Breakthrough Scientist. 


Michelle M. Chan

Michelle M. Chan, Ph.D.

Princeton University

Project Title: Building a Systematic, Comprehensive Mammalian Cell Fate Map
Grant ID: DP2-HD111537

Michelle Chan is an Assistant Professor at the Lewis-Sigler Institute of Integrative Genomics and in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University.  Originally from Canada, she earned her B.Sc. in Computer Science and Microbiology at the University of British Columbia.  Her graduate work centered on epigenetic regulation during mammalian embryogenesis and she received her Ph.D. in Computational and Systems Biology from M.I.T. under the supervision of Aviv Regev.  As a LSRF fellow in Jonathan Weissman's lab at UCSF, she developed a CRISPR-Cas9 molecular recording technology to study cell differentiation during mammalian embryogenesis.  The Chan lab integrates computational and experimental methods to characterize the mammalian cell fate map with a focus on understanding how robustness is encoded in the process of development.


Chi-Lun Chang

Chi-Lun Chang, Ph.D.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Project Title: Understanding Metabolism in Space and Time – Mechanistic Analysis of the Dynamic Spatial Organization of Metabolism
Grant ID: DP2-GM150192
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Chi-Lun Chang is an Assistant Member in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Dr. Chang received his B.S./M.S. in Zoology from National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan. He went on to perform his Ph.D. work with Dr. Jen Liou at UT Southwestern Medical Center, where he developed synthetic markers to study how lipid and Ca2+ signaling is relayed between organelles. He then pursued post-doctoral research with Dr. Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz at HHMI Janelia Research Campus interrogating the molecular basis of inter-organelle fatty acid and protein trafficking. Building on his training in imaging technologies, the Chang lab applies multidisciplinary approaches including in vitro reconstitution, synthetic biology, and CRISPR-genome editing to tackle fundamental questions in the dynamic spatial organization of inter-organelle logistic network and how this network is impaired in diseases. 


Alejandro (Alex) Chavez

Alejandro (Alex) Chavez, M.D., Ph.D.

University of California, San Diego

Project Title: Methods to Rapidly Explore Combinatorial Diversity and Their Application to CRISPR-Cas9 Systems
Grant ID: DP2-NS131566

Dr. Chavez completed his Bachelor of Arts at Northwestern University, M.D./Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, residency in Clinical Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and postdoctoral training at the Wyss Institute at Harvard. Before transitioning to the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California San Diego, he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology at Columbia University. His laboratory focuses on the development of high-throughput genome engineering and screening technologies to speed the rate of discovery, with a particular interest in applying these tools to the fields of neurodegeneration and infectious disease. In addition to the NIH New Innovator Award, Dr. Chavez is also the recipient of a Career Award for Medical Scientists from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and grants from DARPA, DoD, CZI, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.


Lucas Cheadle

Lucas Cheadle, Ph.D.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Project Title: Neuroimmunological Insights Into Brain Development and Dysfunction: An Integrative Approach Focused on Microglial Dynamics
Grant ID: DP2-MH132943
Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health

Dr. Lucas Cheadle is an assistant professor of neuroscience at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York. Dr. Cheadle received a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Smith College and a Ph.D. from Yale University before training as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cheadle’s work merges cutting-edge approaches ranging from in vivo multi-photon microscopy to single-cell genomics to define the contributions of the immune system to brain development and function. A long-term goal of the Cheadle Lab is to harness insights into healthy brain development to pioneer new therapeutic strategies for treating disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Dr. Cheadle is a recent recipient of a Rita Allen Scholar Award, a McKnight Scholar Award, a Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship in Neuroscience, and a NARSAD Early Investigator grant. 


Xioyin Chen

Xiaoyin Chen, Ph.D.

Allen Institute

Project Title: Unraveling the Developmental Logic of Cortical Long-Range Projections Using In Situ Sequencing-Based Neuroanatomy
Grant ID: DP2-MH132940

Xiaoyin is an Assistant Investigator at Allen Institute for Brain Science. Xiaoyin obtained his B.S. in biology at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. He then moved to New York City and did his Ph.D training with Dr. Martin Chalfie at Columbia University, where he studied mechanosensation in the nematode C. elegans. Xiaoyin then joined Tony Zador’s lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a postdoc, where he developed BARseq, a high-throughput neuroanatomical technique based on in situ sequencing of RNA barcodes. At the Allen Institute, Xiaoyin's team is focusing on further developing in situ sequencing-based neuroanatomical techniques and applying them to understand the development and evolution of brain circuits.


Jan Christoph

Jan Christoph, Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco

Project Title: AI-Assisted Imaging and Prediction of Cardiac Arrhythmia Origins Using 4D Ultrasound
Grant ID: DP2-HL168071

Jan Christoph is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, where he leads the Cardiac Vision Laboratory. He is a faculty member of the Cardiovascular Research Institute, with appointments in the Division of Cardiology, School of Medicine, and the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences. His research interests include cardiac electrophysiology and biomechanics, cardiac arrhythmia mechanisms, the physics of complex biological systems, numerical modelling, artificial intelligence and imaging. Previously, he established novel optical and ultrasound-based imaging techniques for the visualization of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias.


Tyler Clites

Tyler R. Clites, Ph.D.

University of California, Los Angeles

Project Title: Compliant Limb Reconstruction: Co-engineering Body and Machine to Revolutionize Limb Salvage
Grant ID: DP2-HD111538

Tyler Clites is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UCLA, with joint appointments in Bioengineering and in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. Dr. Clites earned his Ph.D. in 2018 from the Harvard/MIT program in Health Sciences and Technology, where he carried out his doctoral research with Dr. Hugh Herr. In his doctoral work, Prof. Clites led the development of the Agonist-antagonist Myoneural Interface (AMI), a novel technique for limb amputation surgery to improve the neural and mechanical interfaces between persons with amputation and their prosthetic devices. Dr. Clites currently directs the Anatomical Engineering Group at UCLA. His group’s research in rehabilitation and augmentation technology is focused on synchronizing the efforts of surgeons and mechatronic engineers to enable co-development of body and machine, in pursuit of bionic performance beyond what is possible with mechatronics alone.


Joe Delaney

Joe R. Delaney, Ph.D.

Medical University of South Carolina

Project Title: Tumor Suppressor Vulnerability Conferred by Aneuploid Loss of Haploinsufficient Metallothionein Genes
Grant ID: DP2-CA280626

Dr. Delaney graduated with a B.S. degree in Chemical Biology from the University of California at Berkeley in 2007. Dr. Delaney received his Ph.D. degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Washington in 2012. His Ph.D. thesis under the mentorship of Dr. Matt Kaeberlein established new mechanisms of longevity regulation using yeast as a model organism. Dr. Delaney performed his post-doctoral cancer biology and DNA repair research at the University of California at San Diego and Duke University under the mentorship of Dr. Dwayne Stupack and Dr. Albert La Spada. Dr. Delaney was recruited to join the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Medical University of South Carolina in 2018, where his laboratory researches the origins and effects of copy-number alterations in cancer.


Joe Delaney

Fangyuan Ding, Ph.D.

University of California, Irvine

Project Title: Universally-applicable RNA mapping at subcellular and single-base resolution
Grant ID: DP2-GM149554
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Fangyuan Ding is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at University of California Irvine. She received her Ph.D. in Physics from the École Normale Supérieure de Paris, where she completed her training on single molecule biophysics using magnetic tweezers in Bensimon/Croquette’s lab. She then gained experience in cell engineering, quantitative single cell analysis, and mathematical modeling of biological circuits as a postdoctoral fellow at California Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Michael Elowitz. Fangyuan started her lab at UC Irvine in 2020. Her lab is broadly interested in single molecule biology and engineering, emerging from basic single-cell research to tool developments for nucleic-acid based therapies.  


Luisa Escobar-Hoyos

Luisa Escobar-Hoyos, Ph.D., M.Sc.

Yale University

Project Title: Unleashing T-Cell Anti-Tumor Response Through Repair of Altered RNA Splicing and Antigen Mimicry Recognition
Grant ID: DP2-CA280625

Luisa Escobar-Hoyos is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Therapeutic Radiology and Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University. She grew in Colombia where she received her BSc in Biology and M.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences. Funded by the Fulbright Fellowship, in 2010 she moved to the US and completed her Ph.D. at Stony Brook University, where she discovered the oncogenic roles and prognostic value of keratin 17 under the mentorship of Dr. Ken Shroyer. She then completed her postdoctoral work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center under the mentorship of Drs. Steven Leach and Omar Abdel-Wahab, where she identified altered RNA splicing as the mechanism of cooperation between mutant p53 and KRAS, two of the most common co-occurring mutations in cancer. The overall objectives of her research program are to design and test novel biomarker-based and targeted therapies for pancreatic cancer, a common deadly cancer that is refractory to standard treatments and recent experimental interventions. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, her lab is also supported by the Damon Runyon Foundation and career development awards from the National Cancer Institute and the American Association for Cancer.


Amelia Escolano

Amelia Escolano, Ph.D.

Wistar Institute

Project Title: Manipulating Epitope Immunodominance and Tracking B-cell-Antigen Interactions for Vaccine Design.
Grant ID: DP2-AI175470

Dr. Amelia Escolano is currently an Assistant Professor in the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center at The Wistar Institute and a Wistar Institute Assistant Professor in Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Escolano received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Autonoma University of Madrid and the Spanish Cardiovascular Research Center (CNIC) where she investigated the role of Calcineurin in macrophage polarization and migration in Dr. Juan Miguel Redondo’s laboratory. For her postdoctoral studies, Dr. Escolano joined the laboratory of Dr. Michel Nussenzweig at The Rockefeller University, where she worked on the development of novel sequential immunization strategies against HIV-1, studies that were recognized as one of the Notable Scientific Advances of 2016 by Nature Medicine. In addition to the NIH New Innovator award, Dr. Escolano is a recipient of the Blavatnik Award as a finalist, a K99/R00 NIH Award and the Pew Biomedical Scholars Award. At The Wistar Institute, Dr. Escolano’s research is focused on understanding the humoral and cellular immune responses to sequential immunization, aiming to identify general guidelines for the design of efficacious vaccines against highly mutating viruses. 


Alison Feder

Alison Feder, Ph.D.

University of Washington

Project Title: A Phylodynamic Time Machine for Solid Tumors
Grant ID: DP2-CA280623

Alison Feder is an Assistant Professor of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University, and was then a Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley. Research in her lab combines genomic data analysis and mathematical modeling to understand how viruses, bacteria, and cancers evolve within their hosts, with a particular interest in disentangling how this evolution varies over space and time. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, research in the Feder lab is also supported by the Gilead Research Scholars Program in HIV.


Fleur Ferguson

Fleur M. Ferguson, Ph.D.

University of California, San Diego

Project Title: Chemical Control of Misfolded Protein Fate
Grant ID: DP2-NS132610

Fleur Ferguson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, where she leads an interdisciplinary chemical biology research group. She received her Ph.D in chemistry from the University of Cambridge and performed her postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Prof. Nathanael S. Gray at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Her research focuses on expansion and development of targeted protein degradation and proximity-mediated pharmacology strategies, and applying them to interrogate disease biology and develop new therapeutics.


Yvette Fisher

Yvette Fisher, Ph.D.

University of California, Berkeley

Project Title: How Does Neuromodulation Shape the Fluidity of Spatial Working Memory?
Grant ID: DP2-NS132373

Yvette Fisher is an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology in the Molecular & Cell Biology Department and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at University of California Berkeley and a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator. Her lab uses navigational circuitry to understand how nervous systems flexibly process information. Her research group explores this question in the fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Many insects are expert navigators; the circuits that hold the fly’s internal compass have been recently identified within a brain region that is conserved across most insects.  By combining the fly’s advanced genetic toolbox with accessibility to in vivo electrophysiology and 2-photon imaging during behavior, they explore how real-time changes in synaptic physiology, intrinsic excitability, and circuit dynamics enable the fly’s brain to form a sense of direction under varying conditions. 


Vikram Gadagkar

Vikram Gadagkar, Ph.D.

Columbia University

Project Title: The Female Songbird as a Novel Mechanistic Model for the Neural Basis of Social Evaluation
Grant ID: DP2-AT012347

Vikram Gadagkar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University. By studying songbirds, the Gadagkar Lab aims to reveal the neural circuits for social behavior and communication. Vikram received his B.Sc. in physics, chemistry, and mathematics from Bangalore University, M.S. in physics from the Indian Institute of Science, and Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University. He then transitioned to neuroscience for his postdoc with Jesse Goldberg at Cornell, where he discovered that dopamine neurons encode performance error (the difference between actual and predicted performance) in singing birds. Vikram is a recipient of the Searle Scholar Award, the Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award in Neuroscience, the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, and the Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain Postdoctoral Fellowship.


Felipe Garcia Quiroz

Felipe Garcia Quiroz, Ph.D.

Emory University

Project Title: Multifunctional Phase Sensors for Probing and Manipulation of Intracellular Biomolecular Condensates
Grant ID: DP2-GM149749

Felipe G. Quiroz is an Assistant Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering of Emory University and Georgia Tech. He received a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University for his work with Ashutosh Chilkoti, where he uncovered sequence heuristics to program the phase separation behavior of intrinsically disordered protein protein-polymers. As a postdoctoral fellow with Elaine Fuchs at Rockefeller University, he pioneered the study of intracellular liquid-liquid phase separation dynamics in mammalian skin. He is a recipient of the Career Award at the Scientific Interface from Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Building on this path, through a combination of genetic, protein and cellular engineering approaches, his team at Emory mines the self-assembly of intrinsically-disordered proteins across engineered and biological systems.


Jellert Gaublomme

Jellert Gaublomme, Ph.D.

Columbia University

Project Title: Spacially Mapping of Pooled In Vivo CRISPR Screens in the Tumor Microenvironment
Grant ID: DP2-CA281605

Jellert Gaublomme is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. His research efforts focus on expanding our understanding of  cellular behavior through technological innovation in single cell genomics. He obtained his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Chemistry and Chemical Biology under the guidance of Hongkun Park, and performed his postdoctoral training with Aviv Regev (Broad/MIT). To date, his work is directed to in situ multi-omics interrogation of individual cells, and their intra- and intercellular signaling mechanisms.


Emily Goldberg

Emily L. Goldberg, Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco

Project Title: Discovering Mechanisms of Tissue-Resident Immune Aging
Grant ID: DP2-AI175641

Emily Goldberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology at UCSF where her lab studies how coordination between immune and metabolic systems controls inflammation and chronic disease. Dr. Goldberg completed her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona under the guidance of Dr. Janko Nikolich-Zugich where she studied how longevity interventions impact the host immune response to acute infection. For her postdoctoral training, Dr. Goldberg joined the lab of Dr. Vishwa Deep Dixit at Yale where she investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of ketone bodies in sterile inflammation and infection. Most recently, the Goldberg lab has become interested in the aging tissue-resident immune system and how this contributes to functional decline. In addition to the New Innovator award, Dr. Goldberg is also the recipient of the Pathway to Independence award from the National Institute on Aging. 


Adam Granger

Adam Granger, Ph.D.

Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard

Project Title: High-Throughput Methods for Measuring Cortical Synaptic Connectivity at Single-Cell Resolution
Grant ID: DP2-MH132942
Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health

Adam Granger is a Group Leader at the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His group’s research strives to determine how the many different cell-types in the brain interact with each other, and how those interactions can go awry in psychiatric diseases. His lab leverages a variety of approaches, including electrophysiology, imaging, virology, synthetic biology, and spatial transcriptomics. Adam earned his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco under Dr. Roger Nicoll studying the molecular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity. He followed this with a post-doc in the lab of Dr. Bernardo Sabatini at Harvard Medical School, where he trained in advanced optical approaches and optogenetics to determine the function of neurotransmitter co-transmission from the acetylcholine-releasing neurons. 


Nathan Grubaugh

Nathan D. Grubaugh, Ph.D.

Yale University

Project Title: Enhancing Dengue Virus Genomic Surveillance to Uncover Circulating Genetic Diversity
Grant ID: DP2-AI176740

Dr. Grubaugh is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health. He received his Ph.D. from Colorado State University studying West Nile virus evolution and he completed his postdoc training at Scripps Research investigating the Zika epidemic. The Grubaugh Lab at Yale now uses genomic epidemiology to study virus emergence, transmission, and evolution. The project funded by the New Innovator Award will (1) develop tools needed to construct a global dengue virus genomic surveillance system and (2) use virus genomics to investigate the epidemiological drivers of dengue outbreaks. The long-term goal of his lab is to incorporate routine virus genomic surveillance into public health infrastructure to better inform control programs.


Gavin Ha

Gavin Ha, Ph.D.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center; University of Washington

Project Title: Translating the Tumor Regulome from Cell-Free DNA for Precision Oncology
Grant ID: DP2-CA280624

Dr. Gavin Ha is a computational biologist who studies the role of genomic alterations in cancer. He and his research team focus on developing and applying computational methods to profile cancer genomes from patient tumors and blood. His laboratory develops novel approaches to study cell-free DNA released from tumor cells into the blood (also known as circulating tumor DNA). The use of this approach, called “liquid biopsies,” combined with insights from tumor genome analysis, will be critical to uncover causes of treatment resistance, discover novel genetic biomarkers from the blood, and develop non-invasive applications for cancer precision medicine.


Sinisa Hrvatin

Siniša Hrvatin, Ph.D.

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

Project Title: Biology and Applications of Mammalian Hibernation-Like States
Grant ID: DP2-DK136123

Siniša Hrvatin is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Member of the Whitehead Institute. Originally from Croatia, he received his A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard University where he worked with Prof. Douglas A. Melton on the differentiation of human embryonic stem-cells into pancreatic beta cells. During postdoctoral training in Prof. Michael E. Greenberg’s lab at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Hrvatin worked on developing new viral technologies to genetically access defined neuronal cell types and discovered a population of neurons in the mouse brain that regulates a hibernation-like state called torpor in mice. The Hrvatin Lab is studying the mysterious biology of stasis or “suspended animation”, using models such as mammalian torpor and hibernation. The lab is investigating: 1) how the brain regulates torpor and hibernation, 2) how cells and genomes of different organisms adapt to these states, and 3) whether inducing these states can slow down tissue damage, disease progression, and even aging.


Hidehiko Inagaki

Hidehiko Inagaki, Ph.D.

Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

Project Title: A Novel Approach to Crack Neuronal Mechanisms that Shape Computations in the Brain
Grant ID: DP2-NS132108

Hidehiko Inagaki is a Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of Tokyo, and his Ph.D. in Biology from California Institute of Technology where he studied the neuronal mechanisms of internal state control in Drosophila. As a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow in Karel Svoboda lab at Janelia Research Campus, HHMI, he studied the neuronal mechanisms of short-term memory in mice. He started the Inagaki lab in Sep 2019 to study neuronal mechanisms of motor and cognitive functions. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Hidehiko is a recipient of the Searle Scholar Award, the Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award in Neuroscience, and the Klingenstein-Simons Foundation Fellow Award.


ChengCheng Jin

Chengcheng Jin, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania

Project Title: A Blueprint for Neutrophil Heterogeneity and Reprogramming in Cancer
Grant ID: DP2-CA280834

Dr. Jin received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from Tsinghua University. She obtained her Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Immunology from Yale University, where she studied innate immunity and host-microbiota crosstalk under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Flavell. As a Helen Hay Whitney fellow, she carried out her postdoctoral research in tumor immunology with Tyler Jacks at MIT. Research in the Jin lab integrates immunology, cancer biology and host-microbiome interaction to elucidate the mechanisms of myeloid cell heterogeneity and reprogramming in the tumor microenvironment. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Dr. Jin is a recipient of the NIH Pathway to Independence Award, Damon Runyon Rachleff Innovation Award, and she has been selected as a Pew Stewart Scholar for Cancer Research.


Alok Joglekar

Alok V. Joglekar, Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh

Project Title: Signaling via MHC: Engineering Immune Cells with New Capabilities
Grant ID: DP2-AI176138

Alok Joglekar completed his Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles under the guidance of Dr. Donald B. Kohn, where he focused on gene therapy using site-specific nucleases. Upon graduating, Dr. Joglekar completed his postdoctoral research at California Institute of Technology in Dr. David Baltimore's lab, focusing initially on the role of T cells in natural control of HIV infection. While in the Baltimore lab, he began working on cell engineering using chimeric receptors and created a cell-based T cell epitope discovery method. In 2019, Dr. Joglekar started his lab at the Center for Systems Immunology and the Department of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, where he focuses on understanding T cell mediated immune responses using systems approaches and creative engineering.


Benjamin Kleinstiver

Benjamin P. Kleinstiver, Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital; Harvard Medical School

Project Title: Scalable Development of Custom Genome Editing Technologies
Grant ID: DP2-CA281401

Ben Kleinstiver is a Principal Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. He completed his Ph.D in Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario (Canada) and then completed his postdoctoral studies at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The Kleinstiver laboratory is situated within the Center for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, where it seeks to optimize and apply new protein engineering methods to accelerate the development of improved CRISPR technologies, to develop new capabilities for editing genomes, together with the hope of transforming these tools into safe and effective genetic therapies.


Zheng Kuang

Zheng Kuang, M.D.

Carnegie Mellon University

Project Title: Microbial Regulation of Mammalian Circadian Rhythms and the Sexual Dimorphism: from Metabolism to Immunity
Grant ID: DP2-DK136278

Zheng Kuang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. He received a B.S. in Biological Sciences and Biotechnology from Tsinghua University and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Johns Hopkins University with Dr. Jef Boeke, where he studied transcriptional and epigenetic regulation of the metabolic cycles in yeast. As a postdoctoral fellow mentored by Dr. Lora Hooper at UT Southwestern Medical Center, he focused on host-microbial interactions and identified key mechanisms that govern microbiotal regulation of mammalian circadian rhythms. He started his lab in 2021 at Carnegie Mellon to understand the fundamental principles of circadian rhythms in health and disease at the host-microbe interface. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Zheng is a recipient of the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award and the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation New Investigator Award. 


Aditya Kundapur

Aditya M. Kunjapur, Ph.D.

University of Delaware

Project Title: Determining Age-Dependent Metabolic Changes in Tumors and Their Microenvironment
Grant ID: DP2-AI176137

Aditya Kunjapur is an Assistant Professor in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware, which he joined in December 2018. The Kunjapur Lab investigates how to program microbes to create and harness new-to-nature building blocks for human and environmental health applications. Aditya earned B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemical Engineering from UT-Austin and MIT, and he then conducted post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School in the laboratory of George Church. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Aditya is fortunate to have received an Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative Fellowship, the 35 Under 35 Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the 2021 Langer Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Excellence, a New Innovator Award from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award.


Evgeny Kvon

Evgeny Kvon, Ph.D.

University of California, Irvine

Project Title: Deciphering the Mechanism of Long-Range Gene Regulation in Vivo
Grant ID: DP2-GM149555
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Evgeny Kvon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Kvon obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna and the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in the lab of Dr. Alexander Stark, where he studied transcriptional regulation during early Drosophila development. He continued his training with Drs. Len Pennacchio and Axel Visel at Berkeley lab, where he investigated the molecular basis of vertebrate evolution and human congenital disorders. At UC Irvine, the Kvon lab is broadly interested in understanding transcriptional regulation by enhancers during early mammalian development. Dr. Kvon is a recipient of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation and Human Frontier Science Program Fellowships, as well as the NIH Pathway to Independence Award.


Audrone Lapinaite

Audrone Lapinaite, Ph.D.

Arizona State University, Tempe Campus

Project Title: Engineering Novel Precision Genome Editing Tools
Grant ID: DP2-GM149550
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Audrone (Audrey) Lapinaite is an assistant professor at the School of Molecular Sciences and the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center. Her lab focusses on engineering next generation precision genome editing tools with enhanced specificity for biomedical applications and on understanding the molecular mechanisms of bacterial immune systems with the goal of harnessing them for genome, transcriptome and epitranscriptome editing. She received her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the Vilnius University (Lithuania), followed by a Ph.D. from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL-Heidelberg, Germany) working with Prof. Teresa Carlomagno. She was an HFSP postdoctoral fellow with Profs. Jennifer Doudna and Jamie Cate at UC Berkeley. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Lapinaite lab is currently supported by the Edson Foundation.


Zhongwei Li

Zhongwei Li, Ph.D.

University of Southern California

Project Title: The Synthetic Kidney: A Revolutionary Solution for the Shortage of Kidneys for Transplantation
Grant ID: DP2-DK135739

Dr. Zhongwei Li is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. from Tsinghua University where he studied the molecular mechanisms governing pluripotent stem cell fate decisions in Dr. Ye-Guang Chen’s lab. He then completed postdoctoral studies at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in Dr. Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte’s lab, where he focused on developing stem cell-based approaches to kidney regeneration. In his independent laboratory at the University of Southern California, he is combining stem cell techniques, genome editing tools and bioengineering approaches to develop novel strategies for kidney regeneration and to establish platforms for kidney disease modeling and drug discovery. This NIH Director’s New Innovator Award project is to target the Holy Grail of the kidney regeneration field – to solve the shortage of kidneys for transplantation by developing a synthetic kidney from stem cells.


Ci Ji Lim

Ci Ji Lim, Ph.D.

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Project Title: Unraveling the Telomere Black Box: A New Single-Molecule Approach to Define the Telomere Chromatin Landscape and its Functional Mechanisms
Grant ID: DP2-GM150023
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Ci Ji Lim is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his B.Sc. (Hons. 1st) in Theoretical Physics from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and his Ph.D. in Single-molecule Biophysics from the National University of Singapore studying mechanisms of bacterial nucleoid-associated protein functions with Dr. Jie Yan. He then did his postdoctoral training in biochemistry and structural biology with Dr. Thomas Cech at the University of Colorado Boulder. His lab uses an interdisciplinary approach to understand the mechanisms of human telomere replication and maintenance. Ci Ji is also the recipient of the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award.


Christopher Makinson

Christopher Makinson, Ph.D.

Columbia University Health Sciences

Project Title: Unlocking the Postnatal Human Brain Using Activity Augmented Organoids
Grant ID: DP2-MH132944
Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health

Chris Makinson is an Assistant Professor of Neurological Sciences in the Institute for Genomic Medicine and Department of Neurology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center where his lab studies mechanisms of neurological disease that span causative genetic variants to affected cell types, circuits, and behaviors. As a graduate student at Emory University, Chris investigated the contributions of voltage-gated sodium channels to the development of epilepsy in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew Escayg. Chris then completed his postdoctoral training at Stanford University where he interrogated neural circuits in epilepsy using state-of-the-art genetic, electrophysiological, and optical methods under the mentorship of Dr. John Huguenard. During his postdoc, he also trained with Dr. Sergiu Pasca to characterize the function of neurons in some of the first human stem cell-derived 3D cortical organoid models. Building on these experiences, he has assembled a dynamic research team to support the work within this New Innovator Award to test the importance of synaptic inputs in brain organoid maturation, which aligns with his lab’s long-term goal to advance approaches for precision medicine in neurological disease.


Steven Mansoor

Steven E. Mansoor, M.D., Ph.D.

Oregon Health and Science University

Project Title: Elucidation of P2X7 Receptor Signaling and Development of Novel Small Molecule and Aptamer Ligand Therapies
Grant ID: DP2-GM149551
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Steven E. Mansoor is a physician-scientist in the Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry (CPB) and the Knight Cardiovascular Institute (KCVI) at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). In addition to running a basic science research program, Steven is an active clinical cardiologist treating patients with cardiovascular disease. The Mansoor lab uses structure/function studies to explore and define the molecular pharmacology of ligand-gated ion channels and G-protein coupled receptors in order to then use in silico, structure-based drug design to develop novel small-molecules capable of selectively modulating the function of these receptors. His research vision spans from studying molecular ligand/receptor interactions at the laboratory bench, to development of novel small-molecule pharmacologic therapies, and to ultimately treating patients with cardiovascular diseases at the bedside. Prior to receiving the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Steven has received an NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), an American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) Young Physician-Scientist Award, and a Gilead Research Scholars Award in Cardiovascular Comorbidities.


Aaron McKenna

Aaron McKenna, Ph.D.

Dartmouth College

Project Title: Annotated Lineage Trees of Murine Development
Grant ID: DP2-GM149750

Aaron McKenna is currently an Assistant Professor in the Molecular and Systems Biology Department within the Geisel School of Medicine and the Dartmouth Cancer Center at Dartmouth College. He received his Ph.D. in Genomics from the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington in Jay Shendure’s lab, where he helped to develop a promising lineage tracing technology after a series of doomed approaches. Before his Ph.D., Aaron was a software engineer at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, where he helped to develop software tools for cancer and germline genomics in the labs of Mark DePristo and Gad Getz. Aaron’s lab now tries to develop new experimental and computational tools to map and perturb cell fate in both canonical development and in cancer. It’s going ok so far. 


Kara McKinley

Kara L. McKinley, Ph.D.

Harvard University

Project Title: Life History of the Menstruating Uterus
Grant ID: DP2-HD111708

Kara McKinley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University and principal faculty of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. Her lab studies how the uterine lining (endometrium) regenerates after menstruation with the goal of improving care for people with endometrial pathologies and/or menstrual experiences that interfere with their quality of life. She received her Ph.D. from MIT in 2016 under the mentorship of Iain Cheeseman. She performed postdoctoral training in the laboratories of Ron Vale and Ophir Klein at the University of California, San Francisco as a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and NIH K99 Pathway to Independence Postdoctoral Fellow. She is also the founder of Leading Edge, an initiative to improve the gender diversity of faculty in the biomedical sciences.


Ellis Monk

Ellis Monk, Ph.D.

Harvard University

Project Title: The Optics of Health: Race Skin Tone Minority Health and Health Disparities in the U.S.
Grant ID: DP2-MH132941
Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health

Ellis Monk is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. His award-winning research focuses on the comparative examination of social inequality, especially with respect to race/ethnicity, in global perspective. This research uses both quantitative and qualitative methods, while drawing heavily upon contemporary theories of social cognition and categories. By deeply engaging with issues of measurement and methodology, it examines the complex relationships between social categories and social inequality; and extends into topics such as social demography, health, aging, race/ethnicity & technology (e.g., artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer vision), social psychology, sociology of the body, and comparative & historical sociology.


Shyamal Mosalaganti

Shyamal Mosalaganti, Ph.D.

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Project Title: In-Situ Architecture of Membrane Contact Sites Mediating Organelle Fission
Grant ID: DP2-GM150019
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Shyamal Mosalaganti is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan Medical School.  He earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology/TU Dortmund working in Stefan Raunser’s laboratory. For his postdoctoral work he joined Martin Beck’s group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory working on structure of the human nuclear pore complex. His lab is interested in understanding the structure and the function of lysosomal membrane proteins.


Maral Mousavi

Maral Mousavi, Ph.D.

University of Southern California

Project Title: Building a Two-Way Communication System: Bio-Orthogonal Superhydrophobic Nanoparticles for Controlled Stimulation and Real-Time Sensing of Neurotransmitters
Grant ID: DP2-GM150018
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Maral Mousavi is an Assistant Professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California. Maral’s research experiences and interests span from point-of-care diagnostics, to electrochemical sensors, wearable devices, neural probes, and tools for precision medicine. She received her B.S. from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran. She completed her PhD studies in 2016 at the University of Minnesota, under advisement of Prof. Philippe Buhlmann, who is one of the world leaders in supramolecular electrochemical ion sensing. In her doctorate studies, she worked on electrochemical devices for sensing and energy storage, and use of fluorous compounds as novel materials for improving selectivity of potentiometric sensors. From 2016-2019, Maral was a postdoctoral fellow in the research group of Prof. George Whitesides at Harvard University, and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, working on affordable diagnostic devices to make healthcare and analysis accessible to all.


Hadi Nia

Hadi T. Nia, Ph.D.

Boston University, Charles River Campus

Project Title: Probing Functioning Lung at the Cellular Resolution in Health and Disease
Grant ID: DP2-HL168562

Hadi T. Nia is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University. He received his B.Sc. from Sharif University of Technology, and did his doctoral training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under the supervision of Drs. Alan Grodzinsky and Christine Ortiz. He then moved to Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School for his post-doctoral training under the mentorship of Dr. Rakesh Jain where he studied the tumor microenvironment with a focus on the physical hallmarks of cancer. Hadi’s current research include developing novel models and tools for imaging the lung in real-time and at the cellular resolution to probe the links between the lung physics, biology, and immunity in health and disease. In addition to the NIH New Innovator Award, Hadi has received multiple awards for his research including Beckman Young Investigator and NIBIB Trailblazer awards.


Tagbo Niepa

Tagbo H. R. Niepa, Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh

Project Title: Designing A High-Throughput Platform to Bioprospect the Human Microbiome and Manipulate Its Interplay with Host Environments
Grant ID: DP2-GM149553
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Dr. Niepa is an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. His MicroBioInterface Lab has built a national reputation for 1) developing electrochemical technologies against drug-resistant infections, 2) designing multifunctional nanoculture systems to grow challenging microbial species in near-native environmental conditions, and 3) controlling the interfacial and metabolic properties of microbial films. Dr. Niepa started his academic journey in Côte d'Ivoire after receiving an Associate Degree in Food Science and a research experience at the Pasteur Institute. He then moved to Germany to pursue his education in bioengineering at the University of Dortmund and transferred to Syracuse University. He received his B.Sc. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering with honors from Syracuse University and then held a Postdoctoral Fellowship for Academic Diversity at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Niepa became an experienced inventor with a strong track record in innovative research, founding in 2011 Helios Innovative Technologies Inc. (now Leviant, Inc.), a medical device company that develops automated sterilization systems to fight microbial cross-contamination. In addition to the NIH Director's New Innovator, Dr. Niepa received numerous awards, including an S-STEM grant and the 2022 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to promote diversity in engineering research and education.


C. Denise Okafor

C. Denise Okafor, Ph.D.

The Pennsylvania State University

Project Title: Improving Drug Design to Eliminate Side Effects: From Computational to Animal Models
Grant ID: DP2-GM149753

Denise Okafor is an assistant professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) and Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University.  She received a B.S. in Biomedical chemistry from Oral Roberts University, followed by M.S. and Ph.D degrees in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology. As an NIH-IRACDA postdoctoral fellow at Emory University School of Medicine, she used molecular dynamics simulations to study ligand regulation and functional evolution in nuclear receptors. She began her lab in January 2020. Ina addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Denise is a recipient of the CASI award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the NSF CAREER award.


Rebecca Pearl

Rebecca L. Pearl, Ph.D.

University of Florida

Project Title: Transdiagnostic Intervention to Reduce Internalized Health-Related Stigma
Grant ID: DP2-MH132938

Rebecca L. Pearl, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology and in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, where she directs the Body Image and Stigma Lab. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Yale University and completed her predoctoral clinical internship at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Weight and Eating Disorders and was an Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Pearl’s research investigates the health impacts of and interventions to reduce appearance- and health-related stigma, with a primary focus on weight stigma. Her work has been supported by a K23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.


Carlos Ponce

Carlos R. Ponce, M.D., Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Project Title: Defining mechanisms for natural vision in the primate brain with machine learning
Grant ID: DP2-OD032793

Carlos R. Ponce, M.D., PhD., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) in Boston, Massachusetts. He received his M.D. from HMS and his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, working in the laboratory of Richard T. Born, where he was supported by an NIH Individual Predoctoral Fellowship. He undertook some pathology residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital and then completed postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of Margaret S. Livingstone at HMS. He also conducted a postdoctoral collaboration with Gabriel Kreiman via the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Ponce’s research program is aimed at discovering and characterizing the visual representations of the primate brain, using machine intelligence approaches. He is the recipient of a Packard Fellowship, and was born in Chihuahua, Mexico.


Bushra Raj

Bushra Raj, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania

Project Title: Genomic tools for massively parallel recording of signaling activity at cellular resolution in a brain-wide manner
Grant ID: DP2-NS131787

Bushra Raj is an Assistant Professor in the department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Toronto studying alternative splicing in the nervous system. She completed her postdoctoral training with Prof. Alex Schier at Harvard University where she investigated cell diversity and lineage relationships in a developing zebrafish brain. At Penn, the Raj lab is studying cell specification and gene regulatory programs underlying brain development using genomics, advanced barcoding, and genetics. Dr. Raj is also the recipient of a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award from NICHD. 


Viviana Risca

Viviana I. Risca, Ph.D.

Rockefeller University

Project Title: Cross-Regulation Between Loop Extrusion, Chromatin Fiber Structure and Chromatin-Associated RNAs
Grant ID: DP2-GM150021

Viviana Risca is an Assistant Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Genome Architecture and Dynamics at The Rockefeller University. She obtained a B.S. in physics from Stanford university and a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied how mechanical forces regulate nucleation in branched actin networks in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel Fletcher. She then joined the laboratory of Dr. William Greenleaf and collaborated with Dr. Aaron Straight as a postdoc at Stanford University, to develop novel technologies for studying the structure of chromatin and chromatin-associated RNAs. Her current research focuses on understanding how molecular components contribute to the three-dimensional organization of eukaryotic chromatin in the nucleus, and how this organization contributes to the regulation of DNA-based processes, including transcription and regulation of therapy responses in cancer. Dr. Risca is a recipient of the V Scholar Award and a Rita Allen Scholar Award.


Silvi Rouskin

Silvi Rouskin, Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Project Title: Constructing the Nest - Understanding the Mechanisms of Nidoviridae RNA Genomes Transcription and Recombination
Grant ID: DP2-AI175475

Silvi Rouskin is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School. Born in Bulgaria in a family of rock musicians, Silvi immigrated to the USA by herself to pursue a career in science at the age of 15. She obtained her PhD at University of California San Francisco, in the lab of Jonathan Weissman, where she pioneered a high-throughput approach to measure RNA structure in cells. After graduating, she started her own lab as a Whitehead Institute Fellow, and her lab established experimental and computational approaches that revealed genome-wide RNA structure heterogeneity of HIV-1 with functional impacts on alternative splicing. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rouskin lab determined the genomic structure of SARS-CoV2 in infected cells and identified alternative structures important for ribosomal frameshifting. Along with the NIH New Innovator Award, Silvi is also a recipient of the Smith Family Award, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the 2021 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. 


Serena Sanulli

Serena Sanulli, Ph.D.

Stanford University

Project Title: Harnessing the Chromatin Conformational Code for Epigenetic Regulation
Grant ID: DP2-GM149752

Serena Sanulli is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics and a fellow of the Sarafan ChEM-H Institute at Stanford. She grew up in Italy and she received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biotechnology from the University of Bologna. In 2013, Dr. Sanulli completed her Ph.D. at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, where she studied the mechanisms of gene silencing in development. In 2014, she joined the laboratories of John Gross and Geeta Narlikar at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as a Postdoctoral Fellow to investigate the biophysical properties of chromatin and the emerging role of phase separation in biology. The Sanulli lab at Stanford studies genome organization across length and time scales with the long-term goal to understand how cells leverage the diverse biophysical properties of chromatin to regulate genome functions. Dr. Sanulli is a recipient of the Independent Postdoctoral Fellow Award from the program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research, the McCormick and Gabilan Faculty Fellowship, and she was recently named a Searle Scholar and Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator.


Deblina Sarkar

Deblina Sarkar, Ph.D.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Project Title: Circulatronics: A New Paradigm for Biomedical Implants
Grant ID: DP2-HL168072

Deblina Sarkar is an assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and AT&T Career Development Chair Professor at MIT Media Lab. She heads the Nano-Cybernetic Biotrek research group and carries out trans-disciplinary research fusing engineering, applied physics, and biology to develop disruptive technologies for nanoelectronic devices and create new paradigms for life-machine symbiosis. Her inventions include, among others, a 6-atom thick channel quantum-mechanical transistor overcoming fundamental power limitations, an ultra-sensitive label-free biosensor, technology for nanoscale deciphering of biological building blocks of brain and ultra-miniaturized antenna that can work wirelessly from inside a living cell. Her PhD dissertation was honored as one of the top 3 dissertations throughout USA and Canada in the field of Mathematics, Physical sciences and all departments of Engineering and she is the recipient of numerous other awards and recognitions, including the Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 from India, NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, IEEE Early Career Award in Nanotechnology, Innovative Young Engineer Recognition from National Academy of Engineers apart from the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award.


Johannes Schoneberg

Johannes Schöneberg, Ph.D.

University of California, San Diego

Project Title: Decode Mitochondrial Morphology Dynamics to Predict Cell Fate Decisions
Grant ID: DP2-GM150022
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Johannes Schöneberg is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California San Diego. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also a Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) fellow. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science and Biophysics from the Free University Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, and his B.Sc. in Bioinformatics from Saarland University. His newly formed research group at UC San Diego uses computational and experimental approaches to advance four-dimensional (4D) cell biology. Specifically, his group studies the link between mitochondrial dynamics and diseases that are caused by mitochondrial dysfunction such as intestinal diseases, epilepsy, and dementia, using adaptive optics lattice light-sheet microscopy, organoids, human-induced pluripotent stem cells, computer simulations, and machine learning.
 


Debattama Sen

Debattama Sen, Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School; Massachusetts General Hospital

Project Title: Dissecting the Enhancer Logic Governing Immune Cell Fate Decisions
Grant ID: DP2-AI176139

Debattama (Deb) Sen is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Principal Investigator in the Center for Cancer Research at Massachusetts General Hospital. She received her B.S. from Columbia University in Biomedical Engineering & Computer Science before training with Nick Haining at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for her PhD in Immunology at Harvard Medical School. The Sen laboratory investigates the regulation of T cell dysfunction and explores epigenetic approaches for T cell engineering. This work lies at the interface of human immunology, systems biology, and functional epigenomics – merging clinical observations with mechanistic mouse studies to develop novel therapeutic strategies. Dr.  Sen's work  has  been recognized with a NextGen Star Award from the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), a Young Investigator Award from the Melanoma Research Alliance, and a V Foundation Scholar Award.


Xiaoyu Shi

Xiaoyu Shi, Ph.D.

University of California, Irvine

Project Title: Gel-based Optical-isolation Single-Cell 3D Spatial Multiomics
Grant ID: DP2-GM150017
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Xiaoyu Shi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology and the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Irvine. Her research group uses optical and chemical approaches to develop super-resolution microscopy and spatial multiomics methods. She uses these cutting-edge technologies to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms of aging and cancers. Prior to UC Irvine, she received training in super-resolution microscopy and nonlinear optics during her postdoctoral research with Dr. Bo Huang at UCSF and her Ph.D. studies with Dr. Cheuk-Yiu Ng at UC Davis. In addition to the New Innovator Award, Xiaoyu is the recipient of the NIH Pathway to Independent Award (K99/R00), Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Frontiers of Imaging Award, and Hellman Research Fellowship.


Mark Skylar-Scott

Mark A. Skylar-Scott, Ph.D.

Stanford University

Project Title: Trillion cell culture to fuel organ biofabrication
Grant ID: DP2-HL168563

Mark Skylar-Scott is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and a faculty member of the Basic Science and Engineering Initiative of the Children's Heart Center at Stanford University. He received a Ph.D. in Medical and Electrical Engineering from MIT in 2012, where he performed bioprinting research with Dr. M. Fatih Yanik. After working as a materials researcher at Formlabs in 2012, a 3D printing company, Mark embarked on a postdoc at Harvard University and the Wyss Institute with Jennifer Lewis to tackle the challenge of vascularizing thick tissues. At Stanford, the Skylar-Scott Lab focuses on building a pipeline for therapeutic-scale cardiac tissue engineering, generating new scalable methods at the stem cell, organoid, and tissue levels through innovations in synthetic biology and 3D printing. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Mark has received the NIBIB Trailblazer Award and a Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Fellowship.


Joanna Smeeton

Joanna Smeeton, Ph.D.

Columbia University

Project Title: Deciphering multi-scale differentiation and patterning cues driving whole craniofacial joint regeneration
Grant ID: DP2-DE032725

Joanna Smeeton is a member of the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative and an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Rehabilitation & Regenerative Medicine and Genetics & Development at Columbia University. Joanna obtained her B.Sc. from McGill University and her Ph.D. training from the University of Toronto in the laboratory of Norman Rosenblum at the Sick Kids Research Institute. As a postdoctoral fellow with Gage Crump at the University of Southern California in USC Stem Cell, she developed genetic and surgical injury models for osteoarthritis and joint tissue regeneration in zebrafish. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Joanna is also a recipient of the NIH Pathway to Independence Award. The Smeeton lab aims to uncover the cellular and molecular mechanisms driving the development and regeneration of synovial joint tissues, including ligaments and articular cartilage.


Berna Sozen

Berna Sozen, Ph.D.

Yale University

Project Title: Deciphering Principles of Human Embryonic Patterning in Development and Disease
Grant ID: DP2-DE032725

Berna Sozen is an Assistant Professor in the Yale Departments of Genetics and Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences. Berna received her B.S. in Biology in 2009 and Ph.D. in Developmental Biology in 2018 from Akdeniz University. During her Ph.D. which extended through to her post-doctoral work, she trained at the University of Cambridge and California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where she worked with Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz to develop several impactful stem cell-based models of mammalian early embryogenesis. Combining her expertise in both in vivo and in vitro systems, the Sozen lab is now using single-cell ‘omics and quantitative imaging techniques to study key mechanisms that shape local and global embryonic structure, as well as how metabolism coordinates cellular functions in early development with a long-term aim to understand the origins of human developmental disease.


Sergey Stavisky

Sergey Stavisky, Ph.D.

University of California, Davis

Project Title: Understanding and restoring speech production using an intracortical brain-computer interface
Grant ID: DP2-DC021055

Dr. Sergey Stavisky received his Sc.B. in Neuroscience from Brown University in 2008, after which he worked as a research engineer in the BrainGate group for two years. Sergey completed his PhD in neurosciences at Stanford University in 2016, where he studied motor cortical control of reaching and developed brain-computer interfaces in a preclinical monkey model in the lab of Prof. Krishna Shenoy. He then completed a postdoctoral training in the Stanford Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory, mentored by Profs. Jaimie Henderson and Krishna Shenoy. There he focused on both the scientific and engineering challenges necessary to develop BCIs to restore the ability of clinical trial participants with movement impairments to speak and make reach and grasp movements. In 2021 he started his tenure-track faculty position in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, Davis, where he co-directs the UC Davis Neuroprosthetics Lab. 


AJ te Velthuis

AJ te Velthuis, Ph.D.

Princeton University

Project Title: Structure and dynamics of RNA elements regulating viral aberrant RNA synthesis
Grant ID: DP2-AI175474

Aartjan (AJ) te Velthuis received his Ph.D. cum laude for his work on the replication of the SARS coronavirus from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. AJ subsequently joined the University of Oxford as Marie Curie/Rubicon fellow and Henry Welcome fellow to study influenza virus replication in the laboratories of Prof Ervin Fodor and Prof Achilles Kapanidis, and to teach at Lincoln College, Oxford, as Kemp Research fellow. AJ started his own research group at the University of Cambridge with a Henry Dale fellowship from the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society. In 2021, AJ moved his lab to Princeton University, where his research focuses on how emerging RNA viruses replicate and induce innate immune responses and disease in humans.


Summer Thyme

Summer Thyme, Ph.D.

University of Alabama, Birmingham

Project Title: Defining the Chemical Perturbome of Neural Development and Activity
Grant ID: DP2-NS132107

Dr. Thyme is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the UAB Heersink School of Medicine. Her primary research goal is to uncover the molecular basis of complex neurodevelopmental disorders and ultimately create therapies. As a Ph.D. student with Dr. David Baker, she engineered biomolecular interactions, providing the foundation and skills for her long-term goals of developing new therapeutics for these disorders. As a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Alexander Schier, she studied the genes involved in complex neuropsychiatric disorders, generating over a hundred zebrafish mutants for schizophrenia-associated genes and assessing their brain activity, brain structure, and behavior. Such models form the basis for identifying targets for rational drug discovery and phenotypes for unbiased drug screens.


Caroline Uhler

Caroline Uhler, Ph.D.

Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard

Project Title: Causal Representation Learning for the Spatial Analysis of Transcriptomic and Imaging Data in Tissue Contexts
Grant ID: DP2-AT012345

Caroline Uhler is a core institute member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she co-directs the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Center, and she is a Full Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at MIT. Uhler obtained her Ph.D. in statistics from UC Berkeley and then spent three years as an assistant professor at IST Austria before joining the faculty at MIT in 2015. Uhler develops machine learning methods for integrating and translating between vastly different data modalities and inferring causal or regulatory relationships from such data. She is particularly interested in using these methods to gain mechanistic insights into the link between genome packing and regulation in health and disease. She has received multiple career prizes including a Simons Investigator Award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, and an NSF Career Award.


David Van Valen

David Van Valen, M.D., Ph.D.

California Institute of Technology

Project Title: Unraveling the genetic basis of cellular behaviors with deep learning and imaging-based reverse genetics
Grant ID: DP2-GM149556
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

David Van Valen is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biology and Bioengineering at Caltech. Before becoming faculty, he studied mathematics (B.S. 2003) and physics (B.S. 2003) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, applied physics (Ph.D. 2011) at Caltech, medicine (M.D. 2013) at UCLA, and bioengineering as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. At Caltech, his research group develops new technologies at the intersection of imaging, genomics, and machine learning to produce quantitative measurements of living systems with single-cell resolution. In addition to the NIH New Innovator Award, David has been named a Rita Allen Scholar, a Pew-Stewart Cancer Research Scholar, a Janelia Scholar, and a Moore Inventor Fellow.


Chao Wang

Chao Wang, Ph.D.

Arizona State University, Tempe Campus

Project Title: Integrated Nano-Opto-Fluidic System on Sapphire towards Single-Molecule Protein Sequencing
Grant ID: DP2-GM149552
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Chao Wang is currently an associate professor in the School of Electrical, Computer & Energy Engineering (ECEE) and affiliated with the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design & Biomimetics at Arizona State University (ASU). Prior to joining ASU, he obtained his Ph.D. degree in Jan 2012 from department of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University, and worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at IBM T.J. Watson research center until 2015. The Wang lab at ASU explores fundamental science at nanometer scale and solves biomedical problems at the interface of different disciplines and across dimensional scales. His research activities span across several fields, including novel micro-/nano-fabrication, nanophotonics and metasurface, molecular fluidic dynamics, nanopore sensing, and biomarker detection. 


Sihong Wang

Sihong Wang, Ph.D.

University of Chicago

Project Title: Immunocompatible Electronic Polymers and Devices for Implantable Sensors and Stimulators that Resist Foreign-Body Responses
Grant ID: DP2-EB034563

Sihong Wang is an Assistant Professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, with research focusing on biomimetic electronics for interfacing with the human body as implantable and wearable devices. His group has developed a class of semiconducting and conducting polymers that combines advanced electronic functions with biomimetic mechanical and chemical properties. These functional polymers are being used to enable various bio-sensing and modulation devices for achieving long-term compatibility with biological systems. He received his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he worked with Prof. Zhong Lin Wang on nanomaterials and nano-devices for generating power from the human body, and then worked as a postdoctoral scholar with Prof. Zhenan Bao at Stanford University, where he developed stretchable polymer semiconductors, transistors, and circuits. Dr. Wang is a recipient of the Highly Cited Researcher by Clarivate Analytics in 2020 and 2021, ONR Young Investigator Award, MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35 Global, Advanced Materials Rising Star Award, iCANX Young Scientist Award, etc.


Wenjing Wang

Wenjing Wang, Ph.D.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Project Title: New classes of optogenetic and chemogenetic tools with a feedback control
Grant ID: DP2-MH132939

Dr. Wang is an Assistant Professor in the Life Sciences Institute and Department of Chemistry at the University of Michigan. She obtained B.S. in Chemistry at Xiamen University, China, and Ph.D. in Bioorganic Chemistry at Michigan State University mentored by Prof. Babak Borhan, followed by postdoctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, mentored by Prof. Alice Ting.  Her research lab applies directed evolution-based protein engineering methods to design a range of molecular sensors for mapping neuromodulators and recording neuronal activity in animal models. Her group also develops new classes of optogenetic and chemogenetic tools to manipulate cellular signaling and neuronal activity with a temporal gating. Additionally, her group is interested in developing protein-based biologics as research tools and potential therapeutics for targeting protein aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases. 


Amy Weeks

Amy M. Weeks, Ph.D.

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Project Title: Post-Translational Modification Proteomics in 4D: Chemoenzymatic Tools to Map the Dynamic Spatial Organization of Eukaryotic Signaling Pathways
Grant ID: DP2-GM149548
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Amy Weeks is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her S.B. in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley under the mentorship of Prof. Michelle Chang. She completed postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of Prof. James Wells at the University of California, San Francisco. Her current work is focused on developing technologies for mapping the spatial organization and temporal dynamics of cellular signaling. She is also the recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface and a Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering. 


Aaron T Whiteley

Aaron T. Whiteley, Ph.D.

University of Colorado

Project Title: Deciphering the Crosstalk Between Bacteria and Their Mammalian Hosts
Grant ID: DP2-AT012346

Dr. Aaron Whiteley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Colorado Boulder. His laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms and evolution of immune signaling pathways. Dr. Whiteley’s research contributions include tracing the origins of proteins from the human innate immune system to bacteria, where they evolved for defense against phage. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley in Dr. Daniel A. Portnoy’s lab as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, he trained as a Jane Coffin Childs Fund Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Medical School in the labs of Dr. John J. Mekalanos and Dr. Philip J. Kranzusch, and started his independent lab in January 2020. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Dr. Whiteley is a recipient of the Boettcher Foundation Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Award.


Aaron Young

Aaron J. Young, Ph.D.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Project Title: A New Framework for Self-Adaptive Artificial Intelligence to Personalize Assistance for Patients Using Robotic Exoskeletons and Prostheses
Grant ID: DP2-HD111709

Dr. Aaron Young's research focuses on wearable robotic technology primarily to improve mobility in individuals with disabilities. For many of these individuals with neurological injury or limb loss, mobility throughout the local community is greatly impaired-- a phenomenon which has implications on long term health, economics (such as the ability to work a job), independence and quality of life. To address this critical need, Dr. Young works to identify ways to optimize robotic technologies physically improve human mobility and outcomes. In order to improve the control system between a robotic device and human user, Dr. Young research uses new artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning techniques to enhance the capability of wearable robotic systems.  The AI systems he is developing can enable real-time, closed loop control which predicts future intent of human operators to adapt to changes in human and environmental state to improve community ambulation capability.

This page last reviewed on November 4, 2022