Salk Scholars Research Cancer, Antimicrobial Properties, Brain Activity and Learning

May 3, 2010 | The University

Eight outstanding City University of New York pre-medical students – recognized for research on subjects including gold compounds as anticancer agents, the antimicrobial properties of organic salts, and connections between brain activity and learning — have been awarded Jonas E. Salk Scholarships to study medicine in 2010, Chancellor Matthew Goldstein announced.

The awards, among the most prestigious awarded by the University, recognize the high ability and scholarship of students who plan careers in medicine and the biological sciences, and who are judged likely to make significant contributions to medicine and research. They are selected on the basis of original research papers undertaken with prominent scientist/mentors.

“I commend this year’s Salk Scholars on their commitment to academic excellence and to public service, whether as physicians treating the sick and underprivileged, or as researchers working towards medical breakthroughs,” said Chancellor Goldstein. “Their work exemplifies the proud legacy of Dr. Jonas E. Salk.”

Dr. Salk, a 1934 graduate of City College, developed the polio vaccine in 1955.  He turned down a ticker-tape parade in honor of his discovery, asking that the money be used for scholarships. The city provided initial funding for the Salk Scholarships in 1955. The endowment provides a stipend of $8,000 per scholar, to be appropriated over three or four years of medical studies, to help defray medical school costs. Salk Scholars also receive achievement citations and diagnostic kits including an otoscope and ophthalmoscope.

The 2010 Salk Scholars, representing Brooklyn, City, Hunter and Queens colleges, include one accepted to Mount Sinai School of Medicine, two to New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, one to New York University School of Medicine, one to Stony Brook University School of Medicine and three to SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

The Salk Scholarships will be awarded on Wednesday, May 12, at 9 a.m. at Baruch College’s William and Anita Newman Conference Center, 151 E. 25th St., Manhattan.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Marc A. Nivet, Ed.D., Chief Diversity Officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, a longtime champion of improving higher education through initiatives that advance diversity, particularly in the health professions. Prior to joining the AAMC this spring, Dr. Nivet was chief operating officer of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, which supports programs designed to improve the education of health professionals in the interest of public health. He oversaw the foundation’s operations and managed its $150 million endowment while concurrently serving as special assistant to the senior vice president of health at New York University.

Biographies of 2010 Salk Scholarship Winners:

Miriam Herschman
Queens College
SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Miriam has researched development of new antimicrobial surfaces and agents that may potentially combat new, highly dangerous, resistant bacteria in hospital and other settings. Her paper focused on the synthesis of materials that may serve as pharmaceutical antibacterials using polycationic lipid salts. The daughter of physicians, Miriam grew up immersed in medicine, is interested in pharmacology and plans to become a clinician and researcher. A history major and chemistry minor at Queens who made Dean’s list every semester, Miriam has been very active in campus activities including the History Club and the Queens College Knight News, and won numerous awards including the Presidential Achievers Honor Roll and Community Service awards for organizing a community blood drive and for hospital volunteering. Her outside interests include music (piano and voice), swimming and biking, writing, intellectual history, pursuing her pilot’s license and volunteering in a pediatric oncology clinic. “I am determined to incorporate research into my clinical practice for I believe that in so doing I can extend the best possible care to my patients,” she wrote in a personal statement submitted to the judges. The summa cum laude graduate will attend SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Daniel Lubelski
Queens College/Macaulay Honors College
Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University

Daniel’s research interest is the mesolimbic dopamine reward pathway and he is currently at the National Institutes of Health studying the regulatory mechanisms for transcription of oxytocin and vasopressin in the supra optic nucleus. At Queens College, he worked in a lab researching reward-related learning in lever-pressing rats, testing the hypothesis that NMDA receptors in the ventral tegmental area are necessary for reward-related learning to occur. Daniel, a neuroscience biology major and psychology minor, originally dreamed of a career in law, but was drawn to medicine as a more meaningful path toward bettering the lives of others and making a contribution. “I know that as a physician I will be able to help others and thereby give my life meaning and purpose,” he said in his statement. Daniel’s academic honors at Queens included making Dean’s List every semester, Phi Beta Kappa, receiving Queens College’s Sunny and Saul Budow Memorial Scholarship and the Macaulay Chancellor’s and Presidential Achievers awards. His outside interests include tennis, running, biking movies and piano. He will attend Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

Erika F. Osorio
Hunter College
New York College of Osteopathic Medicine

After graduating from Hunter, Erika worked as a research assistant at Rockefeller University on a project studying the mutagenesis of Glucagon-like peptide 1 receptors and how it can potentially treat hyperglycemia in Type II Diabetes. At Hunter, Erika majored in chemistry and minored in interdisciplinary physics and mathematics, was president of the Biology Club, a member of the West African Dance Club and was Secretary of the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (Hunter chapter). A native of Peru, she said the suffering and violence she witnessed there – and her cardiologist grandfather’s struggle to save lives with inadequate resources – sparked her interest in medicine. “At that young age I was intrigued and fascinated by the hard work and devotion involved in the saving of a life,” she wrote. Her further hardships as her early years as an immigrant student here “shaped me and my wanting to be a pediatrician with a background in research.” Erika’s personal interests include dance, puzzle-solving and soccer. She will attend the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Zahava Rubel
Queens College
New York College of Osteopathic Medicine

Zahava’s research targeted the role of suppressor mutants in the development of C. elegans,a multicellular genetic model system for studying the degradation processes that can play a role in cancer development and longevity. “Zahava’s genetic experiments may expand our studies and may eventually lead to new genetic and pharmacologic approaches in the treatment of certain cancers and in the prevention of aging,” wrote her mentor, Dr. Alicia Melendez, an assistant professor of biology. A double major in biology and anthropology and an accomplished pianist who has studied at CUNY’s Aaron Copland School of Music, Zahava has found music and medicine “to be profoundly intertwined …. My passion for science, medicine and the human body combined with the skill set I have gained from music, continue to drive me forward in my quest to become a doctor.” At Queens, she earned high honors in biology and anthropology and is a member of the Future Healers of America Club and the Biology Honor Society. Cooking, baking, reading and skiing are other interests. She will attend the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Lucas Resende Salgado
Hunter College
New York University School of Medicine

Lucas has worked on the synthesis and purification of a new generation of porphyrin (dye molecule)-based materials and therapeutics. Specifically he has synthesized porphyrins that are designed to attach to gold surfaces and that have the potential to serve as synthetic molecular electronic devices. His interests include cancer studies and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which afflicts his grandmother and two great-aunts. “I therefore see it as almost an obligation when going into medical school to do an extensive amount of medical research,” he wrote. A chemistry/interdisciplinary studies double major who minored in mathematics and physics at Hunter, Lucas emigrated to the United States from Brazil at 12 after his parents suffered financial setbacks and decided to seek new opportunities here. After learning English, Lucas returned to excelling academically as he had in Brazil, eventually discovering a keen interest in the sciences. At Hunter, he delved into organic chemistry, making Dean’s List every semester and winning a series of honors culminating in membership in Phi Beta Kappa.  His determination to become a physician is made even more acute by the medical afflictions of family members – diabetes on his father’s side, lung cancer and Alzheimer’s on his mother’s. Lucas’s outside interests include playing soccer and reading. He will attend New York University School of Medicine.

Maurice Selby
City College
SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Maurice is interested in immunological development and function. His research used immunogold labeling and scanning electron micscroscopy to show distribution of the pH91 antigen on thymic nurse cells – a discovery that may have therapeutic relevance in development of reagents to combat autoimmune diseases. He is excited by the many ways physician researchers can positively influence lives, from teaching medical students to working with health maintenance organizations to directing health and safety programs. “The fact that I’d be able to serve in so many different ways truly excites me,” he wrote. At CCNY, Maurice was an English major, minoring in premedical studies. Active on campus, he edited The Paper and served as president of the Minority Association of Pre-health Students. He hosts WHCR 90.3 FM’s Health in Harlem.Maurice’s academic awards include Dean’s List, the Alberto Traldi Memorial Award for Excellence in Italian, the CUNY Leadership Academy Leadership Award, the Kaye Scholarship for Studies in the Humanities and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students Travel Awards. A volunteer EMT, he has received a Distinguished Service Medal from North Shore Rescue Squad No. 1 in Staten Island. Maurice traces his resolve to become a doctor to the many asthma attacks he suffered as a child and the care of his mother, doctors and hospital staff. “The commitment of the staff members of those hospitals had a profound impact on me, and I made it my goal to have the same impact in the lives of others someday,” he wrote. Maurice, whose outside interests include creative writing, literary fiction, and sports, will attend SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Neha Shaik
Brooklyn College
SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Neha, a double chemistry/biology major, has been investigating gold compounds as anti-cancer agents. Her Brooklyn College activities have centered on her work in the sciences, from working as an undergraduate research assistant in the biology and chemistry departments to membership in the American Medical Students Association on campus to tutoring in biology. Neha has received several Brooklyn College awards including the Arnold and Ruth T. Kaufman Memorial Undergraduate Chemistry Summer Research Award and the Abraham Koblin Award, and she is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society. Her outside interests include badminton and classical dance. Neha’s desire to become a physician dates to her early childhood in India, when she played doctor with her dolls, but it was strengthened when her father fell unconscious in a New York subway station and was rushed to the hospital. “My appreciation for the doctors and nurses who took care of my father …. remains immense to this day,” she wrote. Later, Neha volunteered at Beth Israel Hospital, an experience that “reconfirmed my aspirations of becoming a physician.” Neha will attend SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Sara Wildstein
Queens College/Macaulay Honors College
Stony Brook University School of Medicine

Sara is interested in the function and regulation of new neurons born in adult brains, and the relationship between new neurons and behavior. She has researched whether usage of a neural circuit, in the absence of learning, affects the survival of new neurons within that circuit in the brain. “I see how my results have direct relevance to the nervous system and the treatment of neurological disorders,” she wrote. “As a physician I will be able to administer the best course of treatment for my patients, for I will have a solid foundation in the biomedical sciences.” At CUNY, the widely traveled art history major has been involved with Future Healers of America, undergraduate research conferences and the Macaulay Honors College University Scholars Council.  Her Macaulay and Queens awards include the Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence, the Chancellor’s Award for Student Leadership and Community Service, Phi Beta Kappa, University Scholar, Dean’s List, the  Presidential Achievers Honor Roll and the Golden Key International Honor Society. She had an undergraduate research fellowship at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Systems Biology Center. Her outside interests include contemporary fiction and nonfiction, visiting art museums and travel. Sara will attend Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

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