OxCam Student Profiles - Class of 2020
Hugo Ferreira Pontes
Track 1 & 2 MD/PhD starting PhD Training Phase
Ai Phuong Tong
NIH Oxford Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Gregoire Altan-Bonnet (NCI) & Prof. Mike Dustin (Oxford)
Degrees: University of Virginia, B.S. Biochemistry, Minor Mathematics
Research Interests: Immunology, Computational and Systems Biology, Cancer Biology
As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Sooraj performed computational biology research under the supervision of Professor Cameron Mura. His research in Professor Mura’s group involved using molecular dynamics simulations to gain a better understanding of the kinetics of protein-RNA binding interactions in bacterial RNA chaperones. He also conducted research at the NIDDK with Dr. Caroline Philpott, where he analyzed the interaction dynamics of two cytosolic mammalian iron chaperones using immunoprecipitation assays and molecular docking. Upon graduation, Sooraj joined the laboratory of Dr. Gregoire Altan-Bonnet at the NCI as an NIH post baccalaureate fellow, where his project focused on deconvolving the effects of the quality (TCR binding affinity) and quantity (surface density) of an antigen on T cell activation. During the course of this research project, Sooraj developed and optimized a robotic platform and data processing pipeline to allow for high time resolution measurements of many aspects of T cell activation dynamics. In his doctoral research project, he aims to combine these robotics-based temporal measurements with microscopy-based spatial measurements of immune cell activation to gain a holistic understanding of how T cell activation is governed by antigen quality. His eventual goal is to apply these techniques to analyze CAR-T cell activation to produce more robust pre-clinical metrics for assessing immunotherapy efficacy.
NIH Oxford Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Amy Newman (NIDA/NIH), Dr. Timothy Donohoe (Oxford)
Degrees: BS in Specialized Chemistry, BSLAS in Physics
Research Interests: Organic Chemistry, GPCR signaling, Neuroscience
Francisco Battiti, grew up in Honduras and moved to the USA shortly before beginning college. Francisco is immensely passionate about organic chemistry, where scientific determination and artistic spirit clash to form that he believes to be the most creative of all the sciences. Big non-fiction reader, big time Liverpool FC fan, avid soccer/tennis player, and strong believer that staying in and watching TV is largely underrated.
NIH Gates Cambridge Scholar MD/PhD
Mentors: Dr. Zhengping Zhuang (NCI) & Dr. Eamonn Maher (Cambridge, Dept of Medical Genetics)
Degrees: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.S. Biology, 2016; Imperial College London, M.Sc. Genomic Medicine, 2017; Medical Student at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (in progress)
Research Interests: Cancer genomics, metabolism, bioinformatics
Yasemin Cole was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her scientific curiosity was sparked in high school after her same-aged cousin was diagnosed with medulloblastoma. This experience motivated her to pursue clinical experiences and a research internship with Dr. Aziz Sancar’s circadian rhythms of DNA repair laboratory, at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (UNC SOM), over multiple summers.
She subsequently studied biology and medical anthropology at UNC at Chapel Hill. Yasemin joined Dr. Anton Jetton’s lab at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences as an IRTA fellow with the Summer Internship Program. She worked with Dr. Gary ZeRuth over two summers to investigate Glis3 regulation and the role of Glis3 on the transdifferentiation of pancreatic exocrine cells as a therapeutic option for type I diabetes. She likewise flourished in the lab of Dr. Jeannette Cook, where her studies culminated in her senior honors thesis on the regulation of the cell cycle protein Cdt1 by phosphorylation. Her aforementioned research experiences were published in PLOS ONE and MBoC. Concurrent to her research work, she found a deep connection between scientific advancement and medical progress. This led her to design and teach a course offered to UNC undergraduates called “The Past, Present, and Future of Medicine,” which covered a range of topics from Fleming’s penicillin discovery to the human genome project. She was awarded a Student Undergraduate Teaching Award for her teaching excellence and creation of a dynamic learning environment.
After graduating in 2016 with Highest Distinction and Honors, she decided to follow her interest in personalized medicine by completing a Master of Science in Genomic Medicine at Imperial College London. With the Dean’s Master’s Scholarship, she completed foundational genomic coursework and joined the lab of Professor Anne Bowcock at the National Heart and Lung Institute. There, she completed her master’s thesis on the genomics of uveal melanoma tumorigenesis. The specific aims of her investigation were to evaluate the sequence of genomic events leading to tumor development utilizing Sanger sequencing and FISH. After studying phenotype aware approaches to whole-exome sequencing in the laboratory of Dr. Jonathan Berg at UNC SOM, she began her MD/PhD studies at the same institution with the long term goal of becoming a physician-scientist.
In total, her research experiences motivated her to study the genomic and molecular mechanisms of cancer with the goal of applying this knowledge into translational precision medicine diagnostics and therapeutics. After completing basic medical science coursework and multiple clinical electives, she is now working with Dr. Zhengping Zhuang (NCI) and Professor Eamonn Maher (Department of Medical Genetics). As an NIH Gates Cambridge Scholar, she plans to study the genomic and metabolic underpinnings of the neuroendocrine tumors paragangliomas, pheochromocytomas, and gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Outside of research, she is deeply committed to refugee health, genetics outreach, and mentorship.
NIH Oxford Scholar MD/PhD
Mentors: Dr. John O’Shea (NIAMS) and Dr. Mike Dustin (Oxford)
Degrees: University of Chicago (BA)
Research Interests: Tumor immunology, immunology, cancer biology
Hannah developed an interest in research in high school where she was fortunate enough to have basic science exposure. She conducted breast cancer research on signaling pathways that were important to metastasis. The lab focused on RAF kinase inhibitory protein (RKIP) signaling which functions as a metastasis suppressor by inhibiting cell migration, invasion, intravasation into blood or lymph vessels, and extravasation from circulatory vessels. These exciting projects unveiled how exciting science can be because she likened signaling to finding pieces of a puzzle.
Hannah remained in the same research lab during college. This allowed her to delve deeper into her passion for science to uncover more pieces to the puzzle in the RKIP signaling project. From this experience she knew she wanted to further her knowledge in cancer research. Consequently, a cancer project was her only criteria after graduation. Luckily Hannah was able to work on a cancer project during my gap years. Her gap years also afforded her the opportunity to become exposed to Immunology and tumor immunology. She fell in love with this field during my time off. Hannah worked on resistance mechanisms to immunotherapy in melanoma, pancreatic cancer, and breast cancer and learned just how intriguing the human body is. Hannah hopes to further her knowledge in immunology and discover novel ways the body’s best defense can perform its job in the fight against cancer.
Hugo Ferreira Pontes
NIH Cambridge Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Claudia Kemper (NHLBI) & Prof. Christoph Hess (Cambridge)
Degrees: University of Washington, B.S. Chemical Engineering, B.A. Biochemistry, 2020
Research Interests: Immunometabolism, autoimmunity, systems biology
As an undergraduate at the University of Washington (UW), Hugo used nanotechnology to study pediatric neurologic disorders under the supervision of Dr. Elizabeth Nance. Hugo developed a tool to use polymeric nanoparticles and data science to characterize changes in the brain microenvironment in an in vivo pediatric model of neuroinflammation. As a result of their work, Hugo received the Washington Research Foundation Fellowship for two consecutive years, contributed to two publications, and presented their work at the steps of the U.S. Capitol at the 2019 Posters on the Hill event. In addition to their work at UW, Hugo gained additional experience in the lab of Dr. Michael Wilson at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Hugo’s research at UCSF aimed to develop a novel CAAR-T regulatory cell therapy for patients with paraneoplastic neurologic disorders, a rare autoimmune disorder affecting the brain.
Upon graduating, Hugo intends to pursue a career in academia to merge their interests of research in translational immunology and mentorship of students from diverse backgrounds. With a systems biology approach, Hugo hopes to understand how immunometabolic reprogramming of T cells during infection affects patients with autoimmune disorders.
NIH Cambridge Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Iain Fraser (NIAID) & Dr. George Malliaras (Cambridge)
Degrees: University of California Berkeley, B.A. Molecular and Cell Biology, 2018
Research Interests: Cellular Immunotherapy, Microelectromechanical Systems, Personalized Medicine
As an undergraduate at the University of California Berkeley, Asmaysinh studied molecular biology with an emphasis in immunology. In addition to his coursework, he developed microfluidic interfaces for silicon photonic biosensors under the supervision of Professor Vladimir Stojanvoic in the department of electrical engineering and computer science. In particular, Asmaysinh engineered multilayer microfluidic packaging to overcome the unique challenges of interfacing with small footprint integrated circuit devices while allowing for photonic access. Upon graduating in 2018, Asmaysinh gained additional experience as a research and development engineer in the lab of Professor Mekhail Anwar at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) in the department of radiation oncology. Here he played diverse roles in microfabrication, bioconjugation chemistry, cell culture, and software development in a continued collaboration with electrical engineering groups at Berkeley with the ultimate goal of creating implantable diagnostic sensors for highly personalized cancer therapy.
In his graduate studies, Asmaysinh hopes to leverage advances in microelectronics and immunology to develop a platform to generate cellular therapies. He strives to commercialize such high efficiency platforms to reduce the cost of personalized immunotherapies and ensure their universal accessibility.
NIH Cambridge Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Robin E. Stanley (NIEHS) & Prof. Alan J. Warren (Cambridge)
Degrees: Appalachian State University, B.S. Biology, 2018
Research Interests: Ribosome assembly, Ribosomopathies, Molecular machines
Jacob Gordon, a native of Stokes County, North Carolina, graduated with university and departmental honors from Appalachian State University in 2018 with a B.S. in Biology. He conducted undergraduate research in the laboratory of Dr. Chishimba N. Mowa for three years. This research investigated the hypothesis that mechanical forces of the growing fetus on the female cervix direct mechano-sensitive cell signaling (mechanotransduction) in cervix tissue remodeling during pregnancy. Jacob’s published undergraduate work showed that certain mechano-sensitive molecules involved in cytoskeletal organization, tissue remodeling, and cell proliferation are dynamically expressed in murine cervix epithelia as pregnancy advances from early to late stages. These three years were formative in Jacob’s passion for research discovery and exploration in the context of human health and disease.
Upon concluding his undergraduate education, Jacob joined the NIH laboratory of Dr. Robin E. Stanley at the NIEHS in Research Triangle Park, NC as a Post-baccalaureate Fellow. For two years, he learned to pursue an integrative experimental approach utilizing biochemistry, structural biophysics, and molecular/cell biology to study pre-ribosomal RNA processing enzymes involved in building the eukaryotic ribosome. He contributed to two published works that uncovered the subcellular spatial regulation and functional catalytic motif elements of an essential pre-ribosomal RNA processing complex in eukaryotes, RNase-PNK. It was during these two years that Jacob became interested in the molecular machines that construct the ribosome, along with the mysterious class of diseases (known as ribosomopathies) that are associated with aberrant ribosome assembly/function in humans.
As an NIH Cambridge Scholar, Jacob is continuing his work on human molecular machines involved in ribosome assembly in the lab of Dr. Stanley at NIEHS. His co-mentor will be Professor Alan J. Warren at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, where Jacob will begin to study structural and functional mechanisms of mutant enzyme machinery identified in specific ribosomopathies. Jacob plans to ultimately pursue a career in academic medicine.
NIH Cambridge Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Grégoire Altan-Bonnet (NCI) and Dr. Martin Miller (CRUK-Cambridge Institute)
Degrees: Georgia Institute of Technology, B.S. Biomedical Engineering, 2019
Research Interests: Tumor heterogeneity and evolution, tumor-immune microenvironment, immunology
Anagha graduated with Highest Honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology as a Stamps President's Scholar in May 2019. As an undergraduate supervised by Dr. Krishnendu Roy, she developed three-dimensional microfluidic models to study the interactions between fibroblasts and stromal cells during lymphatic vasculature formation. She has also worked on projects at the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Dallas; she developed phononic crystals for improved ultrasound imaging and ran a computational analysis of migraine drug targets, respectively. Her research has been recognized by several awards, including the MARS Generation 24 Under 24 Award, the Alfred H. Gibeling Research Award, and the Goldwater Scholarship (which she received as a high school senior at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science). Following graduation, Anagha worked at Glympse Bio, where she assisted with assay development and animal testing for active protease sensors that noninvasively monitored patient response to immunotherapy.
In addition to her research interests, Anagha is extremely passionate about STEM education and outreach; as an undergraduate, she co-founded an organization that used computer science education to improve young womens’ self-efficacy. To further her interests in education, Anagha was awarded a Fulbright Grant in 2019 and served as a visiting lecturer at Uva Wellassa University in Sri Lanka.
For her thesis work, Anagha will be studying how intratumor heterogeneity affects immune response in a variety of cancers. She intends to attend medical school after the completion of her doctorate.
NIH Oxford Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Eugene Koonin (NIH/NLM/NCBI) and Prof. Peter Simmonds (Oxford)
Degrees: Harvard University, A.B. in Computer Science (minor in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology), 2020
Research Interests: Virology, Computational Biology, Infectious Disease
Benjamin graduated from Harvard University with a degree in computer science in 2020. As an undergraduate, he focused extensively on research, with topics ranging from robotic chemical synthesis to nutritional science to biological defense. Beginning his sophomore year, Benjamin worked with collaborators at Indiana University and MIT to develop a robotic system capable of synthesizing peptides and peptoids. He continued this research as an undergraduate research fellow in the lab of George Church at Harvard Medical School during his junior year and remains the lead software developer of the project. Additionally, Benjamin developed software for the optimization of daily meal plans. For this work, he was given the Emerging Leader in Nutrition award by the American Society for Nutrition at their national convention.
Since his sophomore year, Benjamin has worked at Lab41, the machine learning research lab of In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the US Intelligence Community. There, he has focused on developing bioinformatic methods for determining the origin of outbreaks of infectious disease as well as identifying and attributing deliberate genetic engineering in pathogens from sequencing data. At In-Q-Tel, he has published four papers, all as first or sole author, and presented at several international conferences.
As an NIH Oxford scholar, Benjamin will be joining the labs of Dr. Eugene Koonin at NCBI and Prof. Peter Simmonds at Oxford. He intends to focus on metagnomics-based pathogen discovery and comparative genomics. Outside of academia, he enjoys contributing to open-source software development, listening to audiobooks, and experimenting with cooking.
NIH Oxford Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Alexander Cartagena-Rivera (NIBIB) & Dr. Ramin Golestanian (Oxford)
Degrees: Macaulay Honors College CUNY, B.A. Physics and Art, Mathematics Minor
Research Interests: Biomedical Optics, Mathematics, Theoretical Biophysics
Samantha is a graduate of the Macaulay Honors Program at Hunter College of the City University of New York, where she received a degree with a double major in Physics and Studio Art, and a minor in Mathematics. During her undergraduate career, Samantha was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa International Academic Honor Society, received the Gillet Memorial Prize for excellence in Physics, the John P. McNulty Research Award for Leadership in Math and Science, and the Toulmin Healthcare Merit Scholarship, which supported her work in Biophotonics. Samantha believes that in order to problem-solve, it is helpful to call upon influences from many different fields. In addition to being a scientific thinker, she is an artist, which gives her an added appreciation for the beauty of mathematics and characteristic patterns of disease in image processing and 3D modeling. Her research has focused on developing computational and optical tools to guide medical diagnostics. Samantha spent four years as a research assistant at The Rockefeller University analyzing microscopic properties of tissue, applying feature engineering and machine learning techniques to characterize disease patterns for quantifiable metrics, and developing 3D-bioprinting assays. At Hunter’s Biomedical Photonics lab, Samantha spearheaded a project to extract diagnostic value from differences in cancer fractal geometric parameters. She applied these image processing and laser physics techniques as a part of the Harvard-MIT Wellman Center for Photomedicine, where she investigated the biocompatibility of integrating intracellular micro-resonators into a spheroid cancer model and developed a quantitative approach to track and tag these laser particles. As an NIH OxCam Scholar, in partnership with the NIBIB at the NIH and the Department of Theoretical Physics at Oxford University, Samantha will utilize the formalism of mathematics, mechanobiology, and quantum mechanics to uncover emergent geometrical properties that arise from the unique spatial distribution and collective migration of organotypic cells. Upon graduation hopes to pursue an academic research career and become a professor at the university level.
NIH Cambridge Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Claudia Kemper (NHLBI) & Menna Clatworthy (Cambridge)
Degrees: University of Pennsylvania, BA Biology and BS Economics, 2018
Research Interests: Neuroimmunology and immunometabolism
Daniel graduated from the Roy and Diana Vagelos Life Sciences & Management program at the University of Pennsylvania and was elected Phi Beta Kappa, earning degrees from the College of Arts & Sciences and the Wharton School. As an undergraduate at Penn, he had a formative experience working under the mentorship of Dr. Aimee Payne to study B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. This is where Daniel developed his passion for immunology and an obsession to understand fundamental mechanisms that regulate the balance between an over-active and under-active immune response. Based on parallel interests in genetic engineering, Daniel co-founded a company with an idea to reinvent the way that cells are engineered for therapeutic purposes. He received numerous awards to support the company and individual awards for his entrepreneurialism. Outside of research, he also held positions within Wharton Entrepreneurship and co-founded Penn Club Basketball as a nationally competitive club basketball team.
Since graduating from Penn, he has continued his work with Dr. Aimee Payne to develop a precision medicine approach for the treatment of the autoimmune blistering skin disease pemphigus vulgaris. This has led to an investigational new drug application, peer-reviewed journal publications, and a first-in-class clinical trial in humans. Alongside his work in the laboratory, he was also recruited to support the business development efforts in the spin-out company that was founded based on this technology.
For his graduate studies, Daniel has been struck by developments that suggest that the immune system not only is important in autoimmunity, oncology, and infectious disease, but also plays thought-provoking roles in regulating systemic metabolism, brain health, and tissue homeostasis. This is the direction that Daniel intends to take his research as an NIH OxCam Scholar and beyond.
NIH Cambridge Scholar MD/PhD
Mentors: Dr. Pamela G. Robey (NIDCR), Dr. Marc Ferrer (NCATS), & Dr. Kevin Chalut (Cambridge)
Degrees: University of California, Berkeley, B.A. Integrative Biology, 2015
Research Interests: Stem Cell Biology, Regenerative Medicine, Drug Development
During his undergraduate career at UC Berkeley, Byron studied cataractogenesis and supported the development of gelatin microbead templated chambers in hydrogel as a platform to engineer lens organoids. The latter project inspired a fascination for biomimetic designs and their applications in modeling biological systems and in therapeutic development. At the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, he continued this area of research but with a focus on its connection to clinical therapies. He evaluated genipin cross-linked fibrin as an injectable, cell- and compound-delivering biomaterial to repair the intervertebral disc after herniation as a member of Dr. James Iatridis’s Spine Bioengineering Lab. He then joined the Medical Research Scholars Program under the supervision of Dr. Pamela G. Robey to explore human bone marrow stromal cells embedded in fibrin microbeads as a repair strategy for focal articular cartilage defects in animal models. These collective experiences have cultivated Byron’s passion for stem cell biology, and as a future MD/PhD, aspires to apply his research background to the development of regenerative therapies.
Moving forward, Byron will study the biomechanical and chemical signaling pathways involved in skeletal modeling with the goal of developing novel treatment modalities for bone fractures. As a solar-powered individual, Byron plans to spend his free time biking and playing tennis. Additionally, in caring deeply about environmental sustainability, he aims to participate in organizations that support local farms and communities through green practices like composting.
NIH Oxford Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Falk W. Lohoff (NIAAA); Dr. Michael V. Holmes (Nuffield Department of Population Health)
Degrees: Brown University (2016), A.B./Sc.B., Economics and Neuroscience
Research Interests: Genetics and Genomics; Neuroscience
Daniel graduated from Brown University with an A.B./Sc.B in Economics and Neuroscience. While at Brown, he was a member of the varsity baseball team and researched the formation of Martian gullies in the Planetary Geosciences Group. During a leave of absence from Brown, Daniel founded and was Executive Director of a 501c3 non-profit, TRB Baseball, which provided sports, training, college advising, and educational opportunities for inner-city youth in Durham, North Carolina. Since graduation, he has been an NIH Post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Fellow in the Section on Clinical Genomics and Experimental Therapeutics (CGET) at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), where his research has focused on leveraging population genetics to examine the causes and consequences of alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder.
His research at the NIAAA has resulted in seven co-authored publications and six first-author publications. Daniel has also had the opportunity to present his work at conferences in the United Kingdom (Mendelian Randomization Conference, University of Bristol), and at the World Psychiatric Genomics Conference (Anaheim, California). As an NIH-OxCam Scholar, Daniel will use multi-omic and genetic approaches to examine how epigenetic and environmental risk factors impact disease risk.
NIH Oxford Scholar MD/PhD
Mentors: Dr. Michael Ward (NINDS) & Professor Cornelia van Duijn (Oxford)
Degrees: University of Tennessee, B.A. in neuroscience, 2016; University of Cambridge, MPhil in epidemiology, 2018; Medical student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (in progress)
Research Interests: Neurodegeneration, molecular & genetic epidemiology, functional genomics
Sahba graduated summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee in 2016, with a BA in neuroscience. She pursued her first research experience through the NIH Summer Internship Program, during which she studied the innate immune response in multiple sclerosis. As an Amgen Scholar, Sahba spent the next summer working on a novel therapy for Alzheimer’s disease in the laboratory of Dr. Frank Longo at Stanford University. Intrigued by the possibility of uncovering targets for early intervention, she then continued this line of work at the Cajal Institute in Spain for a semester. At UT, she also spent three years in the Cooper Lab, completing and defending an honors thesis on brain and behavioral adaptations throughout the lifespan. Her undergraduate research received awards at numerous scientific conferences and was published in Physiology and Behavior and Behavioral Neuroscience. She also received the Chancellor’s Extraordinary Professional Promise Award and was named Class of 2016 Torchbearer in recognition of her academic achievements and contributions to the university and local community.
After graduating, Sahba studied Alzheimer's disease as an IRTA Fellow in Dr. Madhav Thambisetty’s group at the NIH National Institute on Aging. This year-long fellowship culminated in four publications, including two as first author. With a growing interest in population-based research on dementia, Sahba was then awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue an MPhil in epidemiology at the University of Cambridge. Her MPhil dissertation demonstrated a causal, genetic link between Alzheimer’s disease and cancer and was published in Scientific Reports.
Sahba joined the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine MSTP in 2018 and has since completed the first two years of medical school. During this time, she also served on the Alzheimer’s Congressional Team to advocate for patient-centered legislation and increased research funding from the federal government. As an NIH-Oxford student, Sahba plans to leverage insights from large-scale, epidemiological studies to guide basic science investigations into the presymptomatic stages of neurodegenerative disorders. Ultimately, she hopes to pursue a career as a physician-scientist dedicated to reimagining care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
NIH Oxford Rhodes Scholar
Mentors: Dr. John Schiller (NCI), Dr. Eleanor Stride (Oxford), Dr. Udo Oppermann (Oxford), Dr. Ralph Mazitschek (Harvard)
Degrees: Northeastern University, B.S. Bioengineering, 2020
Research Interests: Chemical Biology, Bioengineering, Immuno-oncology
Kritika’s passion for biomedical research started in high school during an internship at Acetylon Pharmaceuticals where she worked on epigenetics and malaria. This drove Kritika to pursue additional research experiences at the Wirth Lab at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the Long Lab at the NIAID. Her research experiences in high school also inspired her to found a non-profit, Malaria Free World, which engages in national and international peer-to-peer education on infectious diseases.
In 2020, Kritika graduated summa cum laude from Northeastern University BS in Bioengineering and a minor in chemistry. She attended Northeastern as a University Scholar, member of the Honors Department, and a Presidential Scholar. She furthered her passional for translational research and spent 4 years in the lab of Ralph Mazitschek at Massachusetts General Hospital working on malaria, epigenetics, and platform development. Throughout undergrad, she also developed her passion for connecting the bench and the bedside by shadowing physician-scientist, Dr. Ken Anderson at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. At Northeastern, she founded the Northeastern University Global Health Initiative (NUGHI) which organizes and develops novel content for an annual, international and interdisciplinary student-led global health conference while connecting students, faculty, and experts.
A recipient of the Rhodes, Truman, and Goldwater Scholarships, Kritika understands that science alone will not eradicate disease. She aims to integrate biomedical research, clinical practice, and global health policy in her career and is excited to pursue her PhD at the intersection of bioengineering, chemical biology, and immuno-oncology. Her goal is to develop technologies and therapies that can be widely adapted in high- and low-resource settings.
NIH Marshall Scholar
Ai Phuong Tong
NIH Oxford Scholar MD/PhD
Mentors: Dr. Kareem Zaghloul (NINDS), Dr. Peter Brown (Oxford) & Prof. Mark Woolrich (Oxford)
Degrees: Colby College, B.A., 2016; Columbia University, B.S., 2016; Medical student at University of Washington (in progress)
Research Interests: Brain networks, complex systems, information theory
As an undergraduate at Colby College, Ai Phuong performed laser experiments to study quantum states of atoms with Prof. Charles Conover in the Physics Department. She also performed microscopic studies on living organisms with Prof. Andrea Tilden in the Biology Department. To learn more about technologies to image complex systems, she enrolled into a dual-degree program with Columbia University where she studied Biomedical Engineering. With a specific interest in studying the brain, Ai Phuong investigated the role of anterior cingulate cortex neurons in pain processing with Dr. Jing Wang and Prof. Zhe (Sage) Chen at New York University. She then investigated the role of hypothalamic circuits in stress responses with Prof. Linda Buck at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her studies and research interests evolved to center around the processing of information.
As a medical student at the University of Washington, Ai Phuong studied electrical brain signals at rest and examined the static white matter structure of the human brain with Drs. Jeffrey Ojemann and Andrew Ko. This motivated her interest in brain networks. She subsequently participated in the NIH Medical Research Scholars Program to investigate human brain networks during memory retrieval with Dr. Kareem Zaghloul. For her doctoral studies, she will work with Dr. Zaghloul at the NIH and with Dr. Peter Brown and Prof. Mark Woolrich at Oxford to probe how neural computations are performed across different brain networks in health and disease.
NIH Oxford Scholar MD/PhD
Mentors: Dr. Curtis Harris (NCI) and Dr. Xin Lu (Oxford)
Degrees: University of Maryland, Baltimore County, B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2018
Medical student at University of Texas Health San Antonio (in progress, M.D. expected in 2026)
Research Interests: Tumor immunology, immunotherapy, cancer genomics
After Neha graduated from high school and partook in initial scientific research, she pursued additional laboratory experiences as an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). In research rotations at the National Cancer Institute, UMBC, and at the Johns Hopkins University, Neha engaged in a range of projects that examined tumor immunology and cancer genomics in the context of immunotherapy clinical efficacy, which further strengthened her passion for these fields. Neha realized that a dual-degree program would therefore be the best option to weld her strong interests in science and medicine. After she graduated summa cum laude from UMBC, Neha was selected in the South Texas Medical Scientist Training Program in San Antonio as an M.D./Ph.D. student. After she completed her second year of medical school, Neha was accepted into the OxCam program. In her graduate studies between the NCI and Oxford, Neha will now elucidate the implications of p53 isoforms on immune cells and immunotherapy in esophageal cancer.
NIH Oxford Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger (NIAID) & Dr. Ervin Fodor (Oxford)
Degrees: Virginia Tech, B.S. Microbiology (minor in music), 2017
Research Interests: Emerging viral diseases, pathogenesis, evolution
Stephanie’s research experiences have been a blend of microbiology and virology. While in the lab of Dr. Ann Stevens at Virginia Tech, she worked to characterize the unique genome and metabolic capabilities of an emerging bacterial strain of Vibrio parahaemolyticus that causes Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) in shrimp which has significant impacts on the aquaculture industry where it’s endemic. Additional to her academic research experience, Stephanie had the opportunity to conduct research with BEI Resources at American Type Culture Collection located in Manassas, VA to develop a safe and immunogenic Virus-Like Particle (VLP)-based vaccine against Zika virus as a part of their internship program. Upon graduating from Virginia Tech in 2017, Stephanie remained on campus as lab technician in the lab of Dr. Jonathan Auguste to study and develop vaccines for variety of vector-borne viruses such as Mayaro, Chikungunya, and Zika viruses. Since 2018, Stephanie has been a member of the Viral Pathogenesis and Evolution Section run by Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger at the National Institutes of Health studying influenza and SARS-CoV-2. Stephanie’s research uses a combination of molecular virology, animal models, and bioinformatics to characterize the hemagglutinin (HA) pathogenicity of the 1918 Pandemic and Classical Swine influenza A viruses. Using the data from this study, the lab aims to uncover answers behind the virulence of the 1918 influenza virus. In her years of research, she has generated four publications, of which she has one first authorship. Stephanie has been recognized by Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Sciences for her research efforts and was inducted into the university’s Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Sigma chapters for being a dedicated and well-rounded researcher in the biological sciences.
Stephanie plans to follow her passion for emerging and re-emerging viral diseases upon graduation and seek out research opportunities to study their evolution and pathogenesis. She hopes that her future endeavors could be useful in developing better preventative measures, treatments, and overall lessen the burden of emerging viral diseases on global health.
NIH Oxford Scholar
Mentors: Dr. Kareem Zaghloul (NINDS) & Dr. Tim Behrens (Oxford)
Degrees: Johns Hopkins University, B.S. in Neuroscience
Research Interests: Cognitive Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, Functional Neurology
Jiali graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in December 2019. Her interest in Computational Cognitive Neuroscience took shape over several diverse research experiences throughout her undergraduate career.
While participating in a rigorous biochemistry program at the University of Oxford her sophomore year, what began as a final project evolved into a cross-continental study of diabetes, stroke, and the development of dementia under the supervision Dr. Gina Hadley. This work cumulated in a couple of systematic reviews and prompted her long-term interest in applying research to functional neurological diseases. While at Oxford, Jiali was an executive board member of the Oxford AI Society, where she discovered her interest in the intersection of artificial and natural intelligence. Upon returning to Hopkins, she founded and chaired the Johns Hopkins AI Society, generating interdisciplinary discussion regarding AI applications in research, healthcare, and other industries among students and faculty. As a junior, she explored the use of AI in stroke research at the Brain Behavior Learning and Animation Lab, where she built a powerful computer to implement a deep learning algorithm that accurately tracks hand joint positions to study post-stroke rehabilitation. That following summer, she interned in Dr. Chris Baker’s Lab at the NIMH, where she studied human visual perception using artificial neural networks. This project earned the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award, allowing her to continue it throughout her senior year at Hopkins.
As an NIH-Oxford Scholar, Jiali aims to use computational modeling and a combination of intracranial and neuroimaging brain data to explore how humans harness sparse information and previous experiences to efficiently navigate new environments. She plans to attend medical school after completing her D.Phil. to combine her research with clinical practice as a physician-scientist. She hopes to conduct research that will further our understanding of natural intelligence and improve AI technology, while pushing the frontier of AI in medicine in translating her research to better diagnose and treat functional neurological disorders.