Biomedical Research

The Biomedical Research program is devoted to strengthening basic research in the biomedical sciences. Revson provides two kinds of fellowship awards to exceptionally talented scientists.

Each year, the Charles H. Revson Senior Fellowship in Biomedical Science is offered competitively to eight outstanding researchers in their third or fourth years of postdoctoral studies at participating New York City research institutions.

We also support the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Postdoctoral Program for Advancing Women in Science, which provides supplementary financial support to Israeli women scientists who have already been awarded postdoctoral fellowships by prestigious institutions in North America.

View All Biomedical Research Grants

Featured Project: Spotlight on the Revson Fellowship class of 2018-2020

After a rigorous selection process, eight extraordinary Post-Doctoral researchers have been chosen for the Charles H. Revson Senior Fellowship in Biomedical Science! Please welcome our Revson Fellowship class of 2018-2020! 

This year, we asked each Fellow to tell us why they wanted to become a scientist and when they knew this was their path in life–keep reading to learn about the Fellows!

Alexandra Alvarsson- Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Dr. Alvarsson’s research involves a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the role of specialized neurons produced by the central nervous system as they relate to blood glucose and thus limitations in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. She received a Master of Medical Science in Biomedicine and later her PhD from the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

My scientific incentive is that an improved understanding of the link between the brain and metabolic functions would lead to an increased understanding of why psychiatric disorders and dementia are more prevalent in patients with diabetes mellitus. My interest in neuroscience was kindled during my first internship in the lab of professor Kerstin Brismar at the Karolinska University Hospital where I realized how poorly understood the links between diabetes, mood disorders and dementia were, and still remain today. Thus I believe there is a call for a greater understanding of the role of the brain in diabetes. Not only could this pave the way for new therapeutic options, but it may also unravel shared biological mechanisms between psychiatric and neurological disorders associated with diabetes.

 

Gayan Balasooriya- Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Dr. Balasooriya’s work offers a comprehensive approach using state of the art sequencing and imaging technologies to examine the mechanisms of stochastic mono-allelic expression of autosomal genes. He received a B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka. He then went on to receive a M.Sc. in Molecular Biology from the University of Hertfordshire, and then his PhD from The Gurdon institute at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

The things that fascinate me most are the wonders of the life. For me, becoming an experimentalist is the only way I could explore these unexplained secrets of nature. I tried to divert my carrier to a different path, which made me realize that I should follow my heart and science became my path in life.

 

Rebecca Brown- Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Dr. Brown’s research involves using a variety of approaches, both molecular and imaging-based, to define the mechanisms of alphavirus assembly—an emerging pathogenic problem in humans. She received a B.Sc. in Cell and Molecular Biology & Genetics from the University of Delaware. She later received a Master of Philosophy and her PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

I decided to become a scientist because I enjoy being able to figure out how things work. As a scientist, I am able to design experiments and perform research that help us understand how life works at the molecular and cellular levels. I knew this was my path in life when I first performed research as an undergraduate student. I saw first-hand how scientists use both logic and creativity to discover how biological processes happen and I knew this was what I wanted to do.

 

Eric Erkenbrack- Yale University

Dr. Erkenbrack’s research explores the hypothesis that a specific factor, FOXO1, has roles that are conserved between marsupial mammals (no placenta) and humans, but has also evolved unique roles specific to placental mammals. He received a B.S. in biology and a B.A. in Philosophy from Tufts University, and then went on to receive his PhD in Biology from the California Institute of Technology.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

Growing up I watched my parents struggle to support a family while simultaneously working three or more jobs. I was astonished to learn that there was a career path where I would get paid to make contributions to society’s collective knowledge by asking and answering questions about biological systems and how they evolved. Between high school and college, I got serious about becoming a scientist. Today I work to make a lasting contribution to our understanding of the molecular changes and mechanisms that gave rise to the stunning diversity of cells and organisms that inhabit our planet.

 

Vincent Fiore- The Rockefeller University

Dr. Fiore’s work examines the structure of the body’s native polymeric scaffolds, including the basement membrane, how molecular scale mechanical forces influence this structure, and how these forces contribute to malignant progression of the world’s most prevalent epithelial cancers. He received a B.S.E. in Biomedical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University and later received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

As a boy, I was always taking things apart and putting them back together (hopefully), sometimes to the annoyance of my siblings and parents. Also, I was drawn to nature and spent a lot of my time outdoors – hiking, camping, and playing sports. I suppose this was a natural path to studying the structure and function of biological systems as a biomedical engineering. During my doctoral research at Georgia Tech, I initially designed synthetic materials to interface with the body. While successful for their intended applications, I began to appreciate the incredibly intricate and complex design principles biological systems have evolved, which can become maladapted during disease. Inspired, I expanded my research focus into how biological systems give rise to emergent phenomena like network elasticity, and how such signals can be interpreted through mechano-chemical signaling pathways. Using the tools of mechanical engineering, genetics, and biochemistry, I attempt to understand the basic design principles nature has used to construct biological tissues, and how these structures breakdown in diseases such as cancer.

 

Daxing Gao- The Rockefeller University

Dr. Gao’s research explores the hypothesis that single gene mutations in patients lead to severe disease based upon finding mutations in patients in immunity related genes. He received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China and then received his PhD in Immunology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

I have been fascinated with science I was young. It is science which shows me that we can understand this world in such a precise and logical yet elegant way. The high curiosity for science inspired me to choose it as my career initially.  After joining UT Southwestern Medical Center, one of the most prestigious institutions in the US, I not only met and learned from some of the greatest scientists in the world but also experienced the bittersweet struggle through years of exploration. Excited and disappointed, yet I never get bored. More importantly, I feel I could help people by doing the work I love. It is this responsibility and passion that makes me respect science more and carry on towards this path.

 

Andres Grosmark- Columbia University Medical Center

Dr. Grosmark’s research aims to explore how long term memory consolidation occurs by using multiple technologies that include imaging, electrophysiology and optogenetics to study the maturation of memory traces during learning and subsequent re-activation in mice. He received a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.S. with Honors in Biology from Duke University. He later went on to receive his PhD in neuroscience from Rutgers University.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

My initial interest in neuroscience stemmed from my studies of philosophy at Duke University. There I learned the modern empirical philosophical consensus that, while often of great value, no analytical argument or introspective insight will lead to an adequate understanding of how our epistemology and cognition actually work. Appreciating the centrality of data in understanding mental processes, I began my neuroscience career by volunteering at Prof. Miguel Nicolelis’ systems neuroscience lab. However, while I might have left philosophy, some core philosophical ideas never left me. My time in neuroscience has strengthened my conviction that the brain can neither be resolved as a sum of independent biological components or as an optimally engineered cognitive machine. Rather, in order to make progress our understanding of brain physiology and function must necessarily co-evolve. Consequently, my goal, first in my graduate studies with Prof. György Buzsáki and now in my post-doctoral work with Prof. Attila Losonczy, has been to understand intricate cognitive phenomena, particularly memory, as the result of the complex internal dynamics of their biological substrates.

 

Kellie Jurado- Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Jurado’s work aims to leverage native immune function in order to better understand antibody access to the central nervous system. She received a B.S. in Biology and Microbiology from New Mexico State University and then received her PhD from Harvard University’s Division of Medical Science, Program of Virology.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

Curiosity and problem-solving are two of my favorite things and by being a scientist I get to do both everyday as a career! Unlike most, I did not realize the practice of science as a possibility until I reached college, as this was when I was first introduced to a scientist and to the field. 

Featured Project: Spotlight on the Revson Fellowship class of 2017-2019

Please welcome our Revson Fellowship class of 2017-2019!

Ghazaleh Ashrafi- Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Dr. Ashrafi studies how metabolism plays a role in cognition by investigating a glucose transporter that is involved in the generation of ATP via function at the synaptic surface. She received a B.S. in Cell Biology from the University of Alberta, and later received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Harvard University.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

I became interested in pursuing scientific research as a career during my undergraduate summer research projects at the University of Alberta. I especially enjoyed the collaborative nature of science, and the use of problem solving skills to understand biological processes. Although science is often challenging, putting the pieces together about how cells work has been inspiring for me throughout my career. 

 

Alan Healy- Yale University

Dr Healy’s research offers a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the ability of a strain of E.coli called Nissle 11917 to play an efficacious role in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) despite the fact that it produces the colibactins that usually promote IBD. He received a B.A. in Medicinal Chemistry from Trinity College Dublin, a MSc in Biomedical Science with Distinction from the University of Edinburgh, and finally went on to receive his PhD in Chemistry from the University of St. Andrews.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

From a young age I was very interested in medicine and human health, but it was the intrigue and excitement of discovery that led me to science. A landmark point in my career was undertaking my final year research project towards the development of therapeutics to treat neglected tropical diseases at the CSIC in Madrid, Spain. This experience demonstrated to me that science is truly borderless, and the opportunity to meet new people, explore new cultures whilst doing work that could impact people’s lives cemented this as the path for me.

 

Joseph Luna- The Rockefeller University

Dr. Luna is a virologist and genomic scientist specializing in the molecular systems biology of RNA virus infections. He received a B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University and his PhD in Molecular Biology from The Rockefeller University.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

I was 10 years old sitting in a movie theater watching Jurassic Park for the third time, completely enthralled. Then as now, I hadn’t encountered a more vital and visceral demonstration of the power of molecular biology (you could make a dinosaur!) along with its potential perils (the dinosaurs could not be controlled!) What motivates me as a scientist started there and remains centered on a responsibility to wield curiosity with humanity, compassion, and reason. 

 

Gouki Okazawa- New York University

Dr. Okazawa studies the mechanisms of visually-guided behavior. He received a B.A. from Kyoto University and then received his PhD with a dissertation in the “Localization of regions activated by surface gloss in macacque visual cortex using fMRI” from The Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Japan.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

When I was in high school, I somehow started to ask fundamental questions such as the meaning of life and the origin of consciousness. This led me to study philosophy but at university I became more interested in psychology and neuroscience, which provide an empirical way to understand our mind. Although they don’t give us a direct answer to philosophical questions, I decided to pursue the path as a neuroscientist to contribute to the expansion of human knowledge about ourselves.

 

Jie Su- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center

Dr. Su is investigating the molecular mechanism and transcription regulation of cell state changes during cancer progression and development. She received her B.S. in Biological Science in Peking University in Beijing, China. She then completed her PhD in Biomedical Science in Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, with Dr. Ihor Lemischka. In recognition of her outstanding research performance she was named as Young Pioneer in Basic Science at her graduation. She went on to join Dr. Joan Massague’s lab as a Research Fellow in Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York. Dr. Su began her scientific training in high school. She has witnessed many family and friends suffer from cancer and have no effective treatment. She realizes that despite significant advances in disease treatment, chronic diseases such as cancer have a severe impact on people’s lives. Dr. Su thus developed her scientific career towards understanding the molecular mechanisms of cancer, with the ultimate goal of developing more effective and innovative therapies for cancer patients.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

I developed a passion for science at a very early age and knew this was my path since high school. I was a finalist in China’s National Mathematics and Biology Contests. When I was doing graduate study in the US, my two grandfathers were diagnosed with cancer. However, the existing clinical therapies could not save them from the deadly disease. This experience made me enthusiastic in doing cancer research, which would have potential application to clinical therapy.

 

Robert Thompson- Princeton University

Dr. Thompson’s research aims to provide an important new method to explore key areas of chromatin biology and also the biology of other systems influenced by modification of peptides through a novel method of synthesis that involves intein ligation that is supplemented by a transpeptidase strategy. He received a B.Sci. Adv. in Chemistry and Physics and then his PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Sydney in Australia.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

I finally knew I wanted to pursue a scientific career while undertaking undergraduate research in a synthetic chemistry lab. This experience showed me how truly different it was to ‘do’ science than simply to ‘learn’ science. Where else could you create something completely new, or learn something completely unknown every single day?? The thought that you could do this while also contributing to scientific progress – be it medically, biologically or chemically focused – has and will always be incredibly fulfilling. 

 

Matthew Ulgherait- Columbia University Medical Center

Dr. Ulgerhait’s research investigates how circadian rhythm relates to aging, with possible therapeutic implications, by building upon prior work which demonstrated that mutations in the molecular clock prolong life span in the fruit fly, a key model organism in biological studies. He received a B.S. in Biology from Drexel University and then his PhD in Biological Chemistry from the University of California Los Angeles.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

I was always interested in science generally. Even in grade school, there were always cheap chemistry sets, microscope kits, and electronics kits littering my bedroom. As I progressed on to high school, I fell in love with Biology. Discovering that there are monumentally complex processes going on in every cell of our body functioning to accomplish the necessities of life was a revelation! I wanted to contribute to our understanding of how these processes work.

Once in college, I immediately sought a research assistant position in a biology lab.  Quickly, I found myself enthralled with the laboratory work. Particularly, I found it to be a very creative endeavor. Tackling big questions with new techniques, and the thrill of knowing that the work I was doing was doing was contributing to my group and the collective body of knowledge in Biology was exciting. After a short time doing research, I now had the ultimate goal of becoming an independent scientist with my own lab and research program.

Early in my Biology research career there was one fundamental question in Biology that really bothered me; why do some organisms live longer than others? We are lucky if we get 90 years on this earth.  Moreover, can we extend the lifespan of an animal significantly or maybe even lengthen lifespan indefinitely? Over the last two decades we’ve begun to understand that longevity is not set in stone. Genetic, dietary, and metabolic interventions can greatly extend the lifespan of laboratory animals. I have focused my research on discovering processes that govern the metabolism and lifespan of the fruit fly, with the ultimate goal of extending the healthspan and lifespan of humans in the future.

 

Zhe Zhang- The Rockefeller University

Dr. Zhang’s work relates to Cystic Fibrosis, a devastating disease caused by defects in a single protein, the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane conductance Receptor (CFTR.) His research investigates how drugs interface with the structure to impact CFTR function, which has the potential to lead to new therapeutic strategies, and lies at the cutting edge of structural biology. He received a B.S. in Biotechnology from Shandong University in Jinan, China and then his Doctor of Philosophy, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, China.

“Why did you want to become a scientist and when did you know this was your path in life?”

Revealing the pathogeneses of human diseases and developing better treatments for patients are my motivations to do research. I could not bear to hurt animals, so I choose to do structural studies of disease-related proteins in order to understand their functional mechanisms and develop effective medicines for corresponding diseases. Scientific research is very difficult and competitive. Along the way I have experienced many failures and frustration. Until recently, I got a bit success and finally decided to continue working as a scientist. This is the nature of life: “No cross, no crown”.