CUNY’s Jonas E. Salk Scholars Honored for Research in Neuroscience, Cancer, Genetics and Molecular Biology

The City University of New York has awarded its prestigious Jonas E. Salk Scholarships for medical study to eight graduates in recognition of their outstanding research on subjects including neuroscience, cancer, genetics and molecular biology.

The Salk Scholarships 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.

“The University is deeply proud of our 2014 Salk Scholars,” said Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly. “Their commitment to advanced medical research and public health service is very much in the spirit of Dr. Salk’s enduring legacy.”

Salk, a 1934 City College graduate, developed the polio vaccine in 1955. He turned down a ticker-tape parade that was offered to honor of his discovery, asking that New York City use the money 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 that include an otoscope and ophthalmoscope.

The 2014 Salk Scholars hail from Baruch College, City College and Queens Colleges as well as the Macaulay Honors Colleges at Hunter College and The College of Staten Island. Scholars were accepted at the medical schools of Harvard, Princeton, Rochester, Yale, New York University, New York Institute of Technology and SUNY Stony Brook.

The Salk Scholarships will be awarded at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 14, at the Baruch College Library, 151 E. 25th Street, 7th floor, in Manhattan.
The winners are:

Shah Nawaz Chaudhary (City College, 2014)

Attending New York Institute of Technology-College of Osteopathic Medicine


Curious about the human body since high school science classes, Shah Nawaz Chaudhary joined a neurobiology laboratory at City College, seeing the role of researcher in testing hypotheses as that of a detective. He learned experimental techniques by researching genes in invertebrates resembling those implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Chaudhary volunteered at a public hospital, serving as a mentor to children with psychiatric disorders, and interned at a public health center. He also shadowed a Philadelphia physician who serves a poor and underserved population. As a physician, he intends to pursue research in neurology and genetics.


Christopher V. Cosgriff (Baruch College, 2013)

Attending New York University School of Medicine


Christopher Cosgriff says he was an unimpressive high school student until he confronted a spinal tumor and mortality at 18. His mother developed multiple sclerosis when he was 17, propelling him into his first clinical research position, recruiting patients for treatment experiments. At Baruch College, he joined the computational chemistry research group, which combined his interest in organic chemistry with his love for computing. Using molecular modeling, he designed nine novel drugs that he believes will have the ability to modulate a crucial brain receptor; further research and in vivo testing are needed. He published papers with his mentor and presented his work at national conferences. At Staten Island University Hospital’s ER he served as liaison between patients, family, staff and physicians. “ I learned the importance of communication and understanding in the fast-paced clinical setting,” he said.


Ariel Karten (City College, 2013)

Attending Stony Brook University School of Medicine


Ariel Karten calls health “the universal equalizer,” since illness strikes people regardless of economic status or ethnic background – and then they all wish to be treated by a competent doctor. He volunteered in clinics in India and Peru. Majoring in biology and psychology, Karten cites his father, a physician, as both an example to follow and a reality check on the challenges of the profession (weekend and late-night calls from patients were the norm as he grew up). Karten intends to study neuroimaging, particularly the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine neural substrates, the part of the nervous or brain system that underlies specific behaviors or psychological states. He is currently researching how autism alters the neural mechanisms involved in language processing.



Rebecca Moore (City College, 2014)

Accepted to: Princeton, Brown, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin- Madison, University of North Carolina, Colorado State University


Rebecca Moore recognized her calling as a medical scientist when, as an 8-year-old, she dissected an abandoned wasp’s nest to investigate its inner byways. She is majoring in biology and history. As a freshman, she studied in the immunology-genetics lab of professor Shubha Govind. She spent a summer studying protein biochemistry at Montana State University under a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates grant. In her Salk-funded research, she intends to focus on RNA (which carries instructions from DNA to make proteins) and protein biogenesis. “Without understanding the fundamentals – production and regulation of these proteins and RNA – it will be impossible to use, in their entirety, the multitude of modem techniques and knowledge to cure the diseases that plague our world,” she says.



Kristina Navrazhina  (Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, 2013)

Attending Yale School of Medicine


After emigrating from rural Russia to the South Bronx as a young child, Kristina Navrazhina faced bullying because she couldn’t speak English. She resolved to learn the language by speaking and listening to as many people as she could. She emerged not only with a mastery of English, but also an understanding of the diversity of New York City. By 16 she had arranged a research placement studying multiple sclerosis at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. She volunteered at New York Community Hospital, using her multilingual skills to comfort patients in their own languages. On a research fellowship, she shadowed a physician-scientist at Rockefeller University as he managed patients with end-stage metastatic cancers and searched for targeted treatments by mirroring their diseases with laboratory models. She intends to pursue dual M.D./Ph.D. degrees so that she can combine direct patient care with scientific inquiry. Navrazhina received a federally- funded 2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and is listed as an author on four scientific papers.



Krishan Sharma (Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, 2013)

Attending Harvard Medical School


Krishan Sharma, who graduated with a B.A. in chemistry, became intrigued with medicine and biology when visiting “Bodies: The Exhibition” at the South Street Seaport. As a freshman, he began three years of volunteering as a patient advocate in Bellevue Hospital’s emergency room, becoming “aware of how a physician’s role focuses on altruism and compassion, yet is grounded in biomedical science.” He began his research with Dr. Monica Guzman of Weill Cornell Medical College, seeking to alleviate the suffering of leukemia patients by developing targeted chemotherapy. As a physician, he intends to continue in cancer research and pharmacology. He also is interested in cancer stem cells and their role in disease relapse. Among his awards, he received a $4,000 grant from the American Society of Hematology for the best research grant proposal among trainees and clinical fellows.



Daniel Stablow (Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, 2014)

Attending University of Rochester Medical School


In an open field in Ethiopia, Daniel Stablow met children suffering from a range of diseases in a country where health professionals and equipment are sparse and worked with an inspiring physician who used low-cost approaches to perform life-saving surgery. Back home, he cared for his grandmother, who had been diagnosed with cerebellar dysfunction, which left her unable to feed herself or talk clearly. In college, he channeled the inspiration to becoming a medical practitioner by joining a neuroscience lab studying the cognitive effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs. He worked in a hospital emergency room, making patients comfortable. As a physician, he intends to research the way old and new neurons interact with respect to neurodegenerative diseases.


Christina Vicidomini ((Macaulay Honors College at College of Staten Island, 2013)

Attending New York Institute of Technology – College of Osteopathic Medicine


The first person in her family to pursue a higher education, Christina Vicidomini is a psychology major who intends to research neuroscience in her medical studies. She traces her curiosity in how the brain impacts the rest of the body to a six-year stint working in a Brooklyn pastry shop, noting the array of psychological traits among the customers. She honed her clinical skills as a medical assistant and volunteer in hospital and private office settings.


About The City University of New York:
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health.   The University serves more than 270,000 degree-credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. Nearly 3 million unique visitors and 10 million page views are served each month via, the University’s website.