Jumpstart Awards Recognize Early-Career Investigators

test tubes in a lab

Six Weill Cornell Medicine postdoctoral associates, instructors and junior faculty seeking to pursue independent research careers have received 2022 JumpStart Career Development awards.

The Jumpstart Program supports investigators during the critical period of career development spanning from the completion of research training to the early years on faculty at Weill Cornell Medicine. By providing one year of initial funding, with the opportunity of up to $300,000 over three years, the program aims to assist investigators as they apply for a National Institutes of Health K award, an early-career grant that lays the foundation to conduct independent research.

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Dr. Sadaf Amin

Dr. Sadaf Amin, a postdoctoral associate in neuroscience, is researching the role of innate antiviral immunity in brain aging and neurodegeneration. The innate immune system utilizes nucleic acid sensors in the cell detect foreign and mis-localized nucleic acid species, such as those from viruses, and mount an inflammatory response against them. Dr. Amin seeks to investigate the role of antiviral nucleic acid sensing pathways in driving maladaptive immune responses and consequent neuronal changes in Alzheimer’s disease, and to develop new strategies to alleviate chronic neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. 

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Dr. Jorge Baquero

Dr. Jorge Baquero, a postdoctoral associate in pharmacology, is seeking to characterize the role of a gene called B lymphoma Mo-MLV insertion region 1 (Bmi1) in oral squamous cell carcinomas. Bmi1 is a major component of a complex that represses transcription of many developmental genes. The gene is highly expressed in adult cancer stem cells involved in head and neck squamous carcinoma (HNSCC), and HNSCC patients with elevated Bmi1 expression have worse prognoses. Dr. Baquero plans to investigate the effects of increasing Bmi1 expression in epithelial stem cells of the mouth to determine how it contributes to the onset or development of HNSCC and to develop new therapeutic approaches to the cancer.

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Dr. Seoyeon Bok

Dr. Seoyeon Bok, a postdoctoral associate in pathology and laboratory medicine, researches the stem cells that form the skeleton, with a specific focus on the skull. Previous research findings suggest that the skull contains two distinct stem cells that work together to form bone, and alternations in how they “talk” to each other is an unrecognized cause for disorders of the skull in children and neonates. Dr. Bok is investigating a possible third stem cell that may also contribute to skull formation. This third stem cell drives formation of specialized bone marrow in the skull and may be implicated in multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory disorders of the brain.

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Dr. Seyed A. Safavynia

Dr. Seyed A. Safavynia, an assistant professor of anesthesiology, investigates the use of non-invasive neuromonitoring techniques to mitigate neurocognitive insults following surgery and anesthesia. His research focuses on understanding the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying altered conscious states, including post-anesthesia care unit delirium and delayed recovery of consciousness following sedation exposure in patients critically ill with COVID-19.

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Dr. Marianne Sharko

Dr. Marianne Sharko, an instructor in population health sciences and in pediatrics, is studying the complex privacy needs of adolescent patients under the 21st Century Cures Act, and in the context of variable state privacy laws. She will create educational material for adolescent patients and their parents that promote equitable access to electronic information, while protecting privacy and confidentiality. 

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Dr. Kathleen Walsh

Dr. Kathleen Walsh, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, investigates the clinical and molecular epidemiology of drug-resistant tuberculosis in low-resource areas. Based in the Center for Global Health, and working in collaboration with GHESKIO in Haiti, Dr. Walsh is seeking to identify sentinel populations for isoniazid-resistant tuberculosis and characterize strains of M. tuberculosis at high risk of developing further drug resistance. This will enable early targeted interventions to prevent the transmission of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

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