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OxCam Student Profiles - Class of 2019

Aaron Bernstein
Teddy Cai
Amelia Foss
Abigail Giles
Samika Kumar
Marya Sabir

Track 1 & 2 MD/PhD starting PhD Training Phase

Sean Corcoran
Stephen Gadmoski
Olive Jung
Sara Saheb Kashaf
Katherine Masih
Nicholas Pasternack
Mario Shammas
David Cruz Walma (DMD/PhD)
Boya Wang

Aaron Bernstein

Aaron Bernstein
NIH Gates Cambridge Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Montserrat Garcia-Closas (NCI) & Dr. Jonas Almeida (NCI) & Dr. Paul Pharoah (Cambridge)

Degrees: Pennsylvania State University; MPhil in Epidemiology at University of Cambridge

Research Interests: Development of machine learning-driven algorithms for identification and evaluation of breast cancer histology slides

Aaron Bernstein is passionate about oncology research. Throughout his undergraduate study at The Pennsylvania State University, he made a point of exploring the full spectrum of biomedical research, from basic gene regulation work to clinical studies of chemotherapeutic toxicity. While Aaron began in wet-bench molecular biology research, intending to work as close to the fundamental mechanisms of cancer as possible, he ultimately found that he preferred the more computational approaches of bioinformatics and biostatistics.

Aaron earned an MPhil in Epidemiology at University of Cambridge.  Under the supervision of Dr. Paul Pharoah and Dr. Serena Nik-Zainal, he completed a bioinformatics thesis on the association between germline risk-conferring variants and somatic mutational signatures in breast cancer. As both an NIH OxCam Scholar and a Gates Cambridge Scholar, Aaron will pursue PhD research on the development of machine learning-driven algorithms for identification and evaluation of breast cancer histology slides, under the supervision of Dr. Pharoah, as well as Dr. Montserrat Garcia-Closas and Dr. Jonas Almeida at the NCI.

Aaron’s ultimate goal is to become a physician-scientist with a specialty in oncology and a research focus on the application of machine-learning to patient genetics and histology. A PhD through the NIH OxCam program will aid Aaron in forming collaborations with international leaders in these topics, promoting the integration of his research directly into the clinic and helping inform patient treatment globally.

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Teddy Cai

Teddy Cai
NIH Cambridge Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Peter Basser (NICHD) & Dr. Karla Miller (Oxford)

Degrees: B.S. Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering 2019

Research Interests: Diffusion-weighted MRI, neuroimaging, machine learning 

Teddy graduated with University and College honors from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. Early in his undergraduate studies, Teddy became interested in applying engineering principles to brain research. To broaden his exposure and develop an interdisciplinary skill set before graduate school, Teddy sought research experiences in disparate areas of brain research.

Teddy eventually completed research projects in clinical psychology (Prof. Theodore Cooper, University of Texas at El Paso; Prof. Kasey Creswell, CMU), neurobiology (Dr. Kausik Si, Stowers Institute for Medical Research), neural engineering (Prof. Pulkit Grover, CMU), and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (Dr. Peter Basser, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development). Project topics ranged from psychographics in Hispanic smokers to prion-like proteins in the Drosophila brain.Of the fields he had gained exposure to, Teddy found diffusion-weighted MRI to be the most compelling. The central idea of diffusion-based imaging, that tissue features can be noninvasively probed by looking at the movement of water in and around the tissue, resonated with him. Teddy's diverse technical background and burgeoning passion for the field enabled success; during his summer internship in Dr. Basser's lab, Teddy completed a project on rapid diffusion exchange imaging that resulted in a first-author publication. For his potential in research and continued commitment to teaching, Teddy was awarded a 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (award declined).

Teddy is now returning to Dr. Basser's group as an NIH-Oxford scholar and aims to continue developing novel diffusion MR image acquisition and analysis methods for neurological applications. Interested also in the increasingly data-driven insights in medical imaging, Teddy will be co-mentored by Prof. Karla Miller of Oxford's Wellcome Center for Integrative Neuroimaging, whose group plays a central role in the ongoing, 100,000 subject UK Biobank project. 

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Sean Corcoran

Sean Corcoran
NIH Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Louis Staudt (NCI) & Dr. Daniel Hodson (Cambridge)

Degrees: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, B.S. Biology, 2016

Research Interests: Cancer biology, metabolism, inflammation, immunology

Sean graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2016 with a B.S. in Biology. During his time at MIT, he spent 4 years in the lab of Rudolf Jaenisch, participating in projects involving neurological disease modeling. Over the course of his undergraduate career, the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing revolution started and his main project became developing a system to create double strand breaks in mitochondrial DNA in order to create new tools for the greater scientific community to study mitochondrial biology.

After graduating, Sean went to work at CRISPR Therapeutics for a year. At CRISPR, he was a Research Associate in Hematology, and his team focused on making cures for Beta Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Disease. The work that he did at CRISPR Therapeutics is now in clinical trials in the US and Europe. Sean then moved on to start his MD/PhD at the Boston University School of Medicine. His love for cancer biology, which he found in a class he took his senior year of college based on the famous Hanahan and Weinberg review “The Hallmarks of Cancer,” led him to pursue his introduction to clinical medicine course in an oncology clinic. The educational experience in class combined with his clinical experience with patients opened his eyes to the complexities of cancer treatment and how much there still was to know about emerging hallmarks of cancer.

With this in mind, Sean chose to do his PhD in the field of Cancer Biology, and decided to join the labs of Louis Staudt at the NCI and Daniel Hodson at the University of Cambridge. In the Staudt and Hodson labs, Sean will work on aspects of Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. As a future physician scientist, Sean hopes to bring his love for patient care and research together to create cures for serious diseases.

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Amelia Foss

Amelia Foss
NIH Cambridge Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Michael Gottesman (NCI); Prof. Manav Pathania (Cambridge)

Degrees: Princeton University, B.A. (Molecular Biology); Uppsala University / Heidelberg University, M.S. (International Master in Innovative Medicine)

Research Interests: Cancer biology, tumor microenvironment, chromatin remodeling

Amelia’s interest in research was sparked at Princeton University, where she pursued a B.A. in molecular biology. Her studies culminated in her thesis project in the lab of Professor Elizabeth Gavis, during which she investigated translational regulation and RNA splicing events in Drosophila models. After graduating from her bachelors in 2016, Amelia was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research on chronic kidney disease at the Semmelweis Medical University in Hungary. Continuing her education, Amelia participated in an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree under full scholarship, which enabled her to study at a consortium of prestigious European universities, namely Heidelberg University and Uppsala University. In this International Master in Innovative Medicine (IMIM), she embarked on her study of cancers. Having investigated melanoma metastases in Heidelberg and glioblastoma at Uppsala, Amelia was inspired to continue cancer research into her PhD. As an NIH-OxCam scholar, Amelia will be investigating chromatin remodeling and the modulation of the tumor microenvironment in adult and childhood brain cancers.

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Stephen Gadomski

Stephen Gadomski
NIH Gates Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Pamela Robey (NIDCR), Dr. Simón Méndez-Ferrer (Cambridge), & Dr. Andrew McCaskie (Cambridge)

Degrees: University of Scranton, B.S. Exercise Science, 2015; Medical student at Medical University of South Carolina, in progress.

Research Interests: Stem cell biology and regenerative medicine

Stephen Gadomski, a native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Scranton with a B.S. in Exercise Science.  As an undergraduate, Stephen examined the ability of L-citrulline and watermelon juice to improve exercise performance in college-aged subjects with Dr. Paul Cutrufello.  Continuing work with human subjects during a summer research fellowship, Stephen began to assess range of motion and postural adaptations in powerlifters. 

After graduation, Stephen joined the laboratory of Dr. Jonathan Keller at the National Cancer Institute and began to study the intrinsic and extrinsic regulation of hematopoietic stem cell quiescence as an NIH Postbaccalaureate Fellow.  This research lead him to pursue an MD/PhD degree at the Medical University of South Carolina with the goal of studying stem cell and regenerative mechanisms that can be used to understand and treat human disease.

As an NIH-Gates Cambridge Scholar, Stephen plans to study the mechanisms that regulate skeletal stem cell differentiation into chondrocytes and osteoblasts in hopes to gain insight on the pathophysiology and treatment of skeletal disease.  Outside of the lab, Stephen plans to compete in the sport of powerlifting and to partner with healthcare teams to provide medical services to the poor and underserved.

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Abigail Giles

Abigail Giles
NIH Cambridge Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Robert Balaban (NHLBI) & Dr. Mike Murphy (Cambridge) 

Degrees: Binghamton University, BS in Cellular and Molecular Biology, May 2017

Research Interests: Metabolism, cellular energetics, mitochondria

Abigail graduated from Binghamton University in May 2017 with Presidential Honors for academic excellence as a Binghamton University Scholar and a BS in Cellular and Molecular Biology. As an undergraduate, Abigail investigated the genetic basis of environment toxicant susceptibility in Drosophila melanogaster under the supervision of Dr. Anthony Fiumera with the support of an Undergraduate Research Award. At the conclusion of her junior year, she was selected to participate in the Biomedical Research Apprenticeship Program at Washington University in St. Louis where she characterized glycolytic substrate metabolism and serine biosynthesis in several Osteosarcomas under the supervision of Dr. Brian Van Tine. Here, she developed an interest in cellular metabolism, metabolic remodeling, and bioenergetics. Hoping to expand her background in these areas, Abigail was selected for an Intramural Research Training Award Postbaccalaureate Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in June 2017. She joined the Lab of Cardiac Energetics where she investigated mitochondrial metabolism in the heart under the supervision of Dr. Robert Balaban. During this time, Abigail helped develop a novel method of transmural absorbance spectroscopy and differential, spectral analysis which enables investigators to monitor mitochondrial energetics at the molecular scale in an intact tissue. Abigail also employed these methodology to evaluate the effects of nitric oxide, a diverse signaling molecule, on mitochondria redox status and cardiac function. She will continue investigating mitochondrial function in cardiac physiology and pathophysiology as an NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholar under the supervision of Dr. Robert Balaban (NHLBI) and Dr. Mike Murphy (Mitochondrial Biology Unit, University of Cambridge).

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Olive Jung

Olive Jung
NIH Oxford Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Marc Ferrer (NCATS) & Prof. Eleanor Stride (Oxford)

Degrees: Northwestern University (BA in Chemistry 2015); Medical School: Case Western Reserve University (In progress, expected 2025)

Research Interests: Microfluidics; Blood-brain barrier; Neurology

Olive first came to love science and research when she was tasked with running a thin-layered chromatography (TLC) for dissolved acetaminophen as part of a high school project. The then-fascination she developed with medicinal chemistry led her to working with Dr. Richard B. Silverman at Northwestern University, where she was given an independent research project that would continue on for the remainder of her undergraduate career. The project involved designing and synthesizing a transition-state inhibitor of the mevalonate pathway in Streptococcus pneumoniae, a pathogen responsible for pneumonia, meningitis and otitis media in humans.  After receiving her BA in chemistry, Olive went on to work with Dr. Ellen Sidransky and Dr. Juan Marugan, under the supervision of Dr. Wendy Westbroek and Dr. Sam Patnaik at NHGRI and NCATS, in order to evaluate chaperone molecules for Gaucher disease by developing novel molecular probes for high throughput (HTS) assays. The work was a CRADA involving NHGRI, NCATS and Merck as the results from the project would help not only the Gaucher patients, but also Parkinson patients, as Dr. Sidransky had previously shown that there was a genetic link between Gaucher and Parkinson disease. Olive genuinely enjoyed the challenges and the opportunities such a collaboration gave her, and the experience encouraged her to apply to NIH-Oxcam to continue the kind of joint, interdisciplinary research that was only possible at the program. She will now be working with Dr. Marc Ferrer at NCATS and Dr. Eleanor Stride at University of Oxford to construct a microfluidics-based platform for the human blood-brain barrier and characterize the model with various parameters such as confocal microscopy, ultrasound, in hopes that the platform can then be developed into a viable HTS tool.

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Sara Saheb Kashaf

Sara Saheb Kashaf
NIH Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Julie Segre (NHGRI), Rob Finn (Cambridge) 

Degrees: Carnegie Mellon University, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford

Research Interests: Bioinformatics, Microbiome

Through her studies and research experiences, Sara has used computational techniques to understand phenomena from the nano-scale all the way to the population level. Sara first discovered her passion for computational approaches during her undergraduate studies in chemical engineering and biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She completed her honors research project at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center where she used computational modelling to investigate the relationship between the neuromuscular junction structure and function. Her passion for quantitative approaches led her to pursue an MPhil in Advanced Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge where she used metabolic modeling to find novel drug targets against the pathogen Clostridium difficile. She subsequently joined the Khademhosseini lab where she was able to combine experimental and computational techniques to understand the effect of a nanoparticle formulation on mesenchymal stem cell differentiation. During her Master’s in International Health and Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford, she used computational modeling to assess the impact of a public health intervention. She is currently pursuing an MD/PhD at the University of Chicago and the NIH where she will use computational approaches to better understand the skin microbiome.

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Samika Kumar

Samika Kumar
NIH Cambridge Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Peter Bandettini (NIMH) & Dr. Tristan Bekinschtein (Cambridge)

Degrees: University of California, Berkeley, B.A. Cognitive Science, 2017

Research Interests: Neuroimaging, Mental Health

Samika Kumar graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2017 as a Regents' and Chancellor's Scholar with a degree in Cognitive Science. Her interest in sleep research began in high school when she interned at Dr. Seiji Nishino's lab at Stanford University to study the practicality of using the piezoelectric system to detect cataplexy-like behavior in mice. In her undergrad, she examined the effects of regional GABA on the auditory resting-state network at Dr. Fumiko Hoeft's lab at the University of California, San Francisco, and she studied how pharmacological manipulations of sleep influence emotion regulation at Dr. Sophie Schwartz's lab at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. After graduation, Samika joined Dr. Matthew Walker's lab in Berkeley, where she explored the potential of transcranial electrical brain stimulation to enhance sleep quality.

In her doctoral work, Samika aims to investigate how specific memories are processed during sleep and other states of consciousness, and she intends to extend this work into clinical applications, as well as mental health awareness and advocacy, in the future.


 

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Katherine Masih

Katherine Masih
NIH Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Javed Khan (NCI) & Prof. Richard Gilbertson (CRUK – Cambridge Institute)

Degrees: University of Miami, B.S., Biology. 2015
Medical Student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (In Progress)
University of Miami, M.S., Genomic Medicine (In Progress)

Research Interests: Cancer genomics, tumor heterogeneity and evolution, resistance mechanisms

Katherine graduated with honors from the University of Miami in 2015 with a B.S. in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Religious Studies, where she was a student in the Advanced Program for Integrated Science and Math (PRISM), an interdisciplinary, research focused program for top STEM students. As an undergraduate, she worked with Dr. Athula Wikramanayake, investigating the role and localization of Wnt signaling components during early embryonic development. She spent two summers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Dr. Charles Mullighan’s laboratory, where she examined genomic alterations in acute erythroid leukemia, a rare blood cancer with a dismal outcome. This experience ignited her passion for understanding mechanisms underlying malignancies and solidified her drive to become a physician-scientist.

Katherine matriculated at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine concurrently pursuing a M.D. and M.S. in Genomic Medicine. She continued to be fascinated by the genetic underpinnings of human disease and worked with Dr. Mustafa Tekin and Dr. Maria Figueroa studying, respectively, autosomal recessive etiologies of intellectual disability and epigenetic changes in the bone marrow leading to malignancy. After completing her third year, she was selected for a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation funded position in the NIH’s Medical Research Scholars Program, during which she worked with Dr. Javed Khan, elucidating resistance mechanisms to CD19 CAR T cell therapy in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

For her thesis work, Katherine will be researching under the tutelage of Dr. Javed Khan and Prof. Richard Gilbertson using high throughput omic analyses to understand clonal evolution, immune microenvironment, and treatment resistance in pediatric malignancies. After completing her graduate and medical schooling, she will pursue clinical training in pediatric hematology-oncology. She hopes to utilize genomics to gain insight into the mechanisms driving these tumors and translate these discoveries into novel therapeutic strategies for children with cancer.

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Nicholas Pasternack

Nicholas Pasternack
NIH Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Avindra Nath (NINDS) & Prof. Ole Paulsen (Cambridge)

Degrees: University of Florida, B.S. Psychology, 2016
University of Oxford, MSc Neuroscience, 2017
Medical Student at VCU School of Medicine (in progress)

Research Interests: Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration, Neurovirology

Nick first decided to pursue medicine and neuroscience when he was a high school student in Sarasota, Florida. He attended a lecture at his local hospital where a neurosurgeon demonstrated how deep brain stimulation (DBS) was used to treat a Parkinson’s disease (PD) patient. Witnessing the instantaneous cessation of the patient’s resting tremor upon activation of the stimulator left a lasting impression on Nick and convinced him to pursue medicine and neuroscience research as an undergraduate at the University of Florida (UF) Honors Program. The summer before his first year at UF, Nick secured a research position at the McKnight Brain Institute (MBI) at UF. Nick worked with Dr. Florian Siebzehnrubl and Dr. Loic Deleyrolle in the Department of Neurosurgery where he studied glioblastoma, the most common and lethal form of brain cancer. Nick’s research on glioblastoma developed into his senior thesis project where he demonstrated that glioblastoma cells expressing the transcription factor Zeb1 preferentially form a compartment of glioblastoma cells that rebound from radiation therapy. Nick’s thesis project unanimously received Highest Honors by his Thesis Committee, and he graduated Summa Cum Laude from UF. After graduating from UF, Nick was selected to be a Frost Scholar to complete his MSc in neuroscience at Exeter College, University of Oxford. During this time, Nick completed two theses: for the first, Nick worked with Dr. Tommas Ellender in the Department of Pharmacology and uncovered the importance of a specific neural progenitor cell in determining the neural circuitry of the basal ganglia, a brain region involved in motor function. For the second, Nick worked with Prof. Stephanie Cragg in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and determined that deficits in dopamine neurotransmission could be seen more than a year before motor impairments and cell death in a mouse model of PD.

Nick’s long term career goal is to become a physician-scientist specializing in treating patients with neurodegenerative diseases in the clinic and developing novel treatments to stop the process of neurodegeneration in the lab. Towards this goal, Nick has completed his second year of medical school at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and is looking forward to starting his PhD at the University of Cambridge as an NIH Cambridge Trust Scholar. The focus of his thesis project will be on understanding virally-mediated origins of neurodegeneration in an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) mouse model.

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Marya Sabir

Marya Sabir
NIH Oxford Scholar

Mentors: Dr. Sonja Scholz (NINDS) & Dr. Michele Hu (Oxford)

Degrees: Arizona State University, B.S. Honors Biochemistry, 2015

Research Interests: Genetics, genomics, computational neuroscience

Marya graduated from Arizona State University with a B.S. in biochemistry. As a rising freshman, she became involved in hypothesis-driven research in Dr. Peter Jurutka’s molecular endocrinology laboratory. Her main focus was to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying putative vitamin D-vitamin D receptor signaling modulators, in addition to using in vitro techniques to demonstrate the influence of vitamin D in serotonin biosynthesis, reuptake, and catabolism. Next, she was extended a summer internship opportunity in Dr. David Azorsa’s pediatric cancer laboratory as a TGen Helios Scholar. The specific aim of her investigation was to examine the application of high-throughput functional screening as an assay platform for the efficient and rapid analysis of drug sensitivities and resistance in a panel of Ewing's sarcoma lines.

After graduating, she was accepted as an Ivy Neurological Science Scholar at TGen in Dr. Michael Berens’ and Dr. Nhan Tran’s CNS Tumor laboratory studying mechanisms of glioblastoma invasion. Then, to become more involved at the intersection of healthcare and education, as an AmeriCorps VISTA at a public, safety-net hospital, she served as a health literacy educator for at-risk, justice-involved populations. At the hospital, she also frequently observed in the Emergency Department leading to a collaboration with Dr. Murtaza Akhter in which she was able to conduct clinical research in the form of retrospective chart reviews. Finally, she was a NIH postbac IRTA fellow in Dr. Sonja Scholz’s laboratory investigating the genetic etiology of atypical parkinsonism syndromes. She has worked on several, large international whole-genome sequencing studies. Further, during her time as an IRTA, she was also selected as a NIH Academy Fellow.

As an OxCam scholar, she hopes to meaningfully contribute to improving diagnosis and treatment options for patients suffering with neurodegenerative diseases. Her research interests lie at the intersection of modern genomic technologies and neurological disorders, specifically utilizing these revolutionary advances in technologies and computing resources to investigate the genetic etiology of neurodegenerative diseases. Her goal is to examine genotype-phenotype correlations and the molecular genetic defects underlying the spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases to develop ancillary diagnostic and therapeutic tools to improve patient care. She plans on attending medical school after completion of her doctoral studies.

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Mario Shammas

Mario Shammas
NIH Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Derek Narendra (NINDS) & Prof. Patrick Chinnery (Cambridge) 

Degrees: University of Michigan, B.S. in Neuroscience (2016); Medical student at University of Chicago (in progress)

Research Interests: neurodegeneration, mitochondria, genetics

Born in Iraq and raised in Oman, Mario developed a love for science during his time at Al-Ibdaa International School in Muscat. He came to America at the age of fifteen, and at Henry Ford II High School he promised his AP Government teacher – who had Parkinson’s – that he would cure the disease. To that end, he studied neuroscience at the University of Michigan Honors College. In 2014, Mario joined the lab of Prof. Robert Kennedy and worked with Dr. Omar Mabrouk to understand changes in brain chemistry during Parkinson’s disease treatments. Using in vivo microdialysis followed by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and mass spectrometry (MS), he helped characterize changes in the levels of over 25 different neurotransmitters and molecules following L-DOPA administration or deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the brains of rats subjected to 6-hydroxydopamine lesions (a model for Parkinson’s). The following year, under the supervision of Prof. Alexander Zestos, he worked on his honors thesis showing a neuroprotective effect of sodium benzoate with lower levels of L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia in the 6-hydroxydopamine rat model.

During his last year at the University of Michigan, Mario designed and taught a short course offered to freshmen in the Honors College. The course examined the mystery and wonder of neurological diseases and discussed recent advances in neuroscience that have led to better treatments. Mario graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan in 2016. Later that year, through the International Program for the Advancement of Neurotechnology (IPAN), Mario studied multi-sensory integration with Dr. Malte Bieler in the lab of Prof. Ileana Hanganu-Opatz at the Centre for Molecular Neurobiology in Hamburg, Germany. There, he helped show that anatomical connections exist between visual and tactile pathways in the brain, and that the somatosensory cortex is involved in integrating tactile as well as visual information.

In 2017, Mario began his medical studies at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He completed two years of medical school and is now working with Dr. Derek Narendra (NINDS) and Prof. Patrick Chinnery (Mitochondrial Biology Unit) to understand the mechanism by which mutations in the proteins CHCHD2 and CHCHD10 lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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David Cruz Walma

David Cruz Walma
NIH Oxford Scholar
DMD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Kenneth Yamada (NIDCR) & Prof. Alex Bullock (Oxford)

Degrees: University of Alabama at Birmingham, B.S. Biomedical Engineering, 2015; Dental student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry (in progress)

Research Interests: Cell and structural biology, tissue engineering, craniofacial embryogenesis and development

David is a DMD-DPhil student pursuing his dental degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Dentistry and DPhil at the University of Oxford.  He joined UAB’s Early Dental School Acceptance Program (EDSAP) as a first-year undergraduate student in 2011 and graduated Summa Cum Laude from UAB’s EDSAP, University Honors, and Biomedical Engineering Programs with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering in 2015.  Throughout his undergraduate and professional education, he trained in the Biomedical Engineering lab of Dr. Ho-Wook Jun developing novel bionanomatrix materials and partook in multiple clinical research trials.  With exposure to prominent clinical research teams caring for individuals with craniofacial diseases and disorders, three years of dental education further solidified his aim for an academic career investigating molecular mechanisms of craniofacial embryogenesis and development.

Intent on characterizing mechanisms driving these processes from a basic biology perspective, in 2018 he joined the lab of Dr. Kenneth Yamada in the NIDCR as an NIH Medical Research Scholars Program fellow.  In the Yamada lab, he analyzed basic cell signaling mechanisms and sought means of continuing to learn from some of the most notable scientists of the era.  These efforts brought him to his current position in the NIH-OxCam program as a student of Dr. Kenneth Yamada and Professor Alex Bullock investigating the functional and structural characteristics of proteins implicated in development and disease.  Upon completing the NIH-OxCam program, David will build on this basic science foundation through continued research and clinical training.  His goal is an academic career leading a team of clinicians and scientists who design and develop novel biomaterials that can regulate cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions in clinical therapeutic applications.

 

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Boya Wang

Boya Wang
NIH Cambridge Scholar
MD/PhD

Mentors: Dr. Louis Staudt (NCI), Dr. Nitzan Rosenfeld & Dr. Carlos Caldas (Cambridge)

Degrees: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, B.A. Chemistry, 2016

Research Interests: Genomics, Bioinformatics, Cancer

Boya graduated with high honors from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with a degree in Chemistry. While there, she conducted microbiology research with Dr. Matthew Wolfgang. She studied a Pseudomonas aeurginosa motility system that allows the bacteria to colonize patients with cystic fibrosis. This work was published in Journal of Biological Chemistry. Throughout undergraduate, Boya also led a nonprofit organization to establish a medical lab in Lawra, Ghana. After graduation, Boya worked in the lab of Dr. Camille Ehre at UNC. She used primary human epithelial cell models to investigate new compounds which break down mucus in patients with obstructive lung disease. This work was published in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. In total, Boya’s research experience motivated her to address questions with clinical relevance and learn bioinformatic skills applicable to a range of topics.


Subsequently, Boya completed two years of medical school at UNC. Her current research interest is in the translational application of cancer genomics. She will analyze circulating tumor DNA to monitor treatment response and tumor evolution. Outside of research, Boya enjoys running, traveling, and baking desserts for any occasion. Ultimately, Boya is thrilled to continue the journey of becoming physician scientist as a NIH Cambridge Scholar.

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