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 scholarship and research on subjects including neuroscience, cancer, genetics and molecular biology.

The 2016 Salk Scholars hail from Hunter College, City College, Baruch College, and Queens College, as well as the Macaulay Honors Colleges at Hunter College, City College and Queens College. Scholars were accepted at the Harvard, Yale, New York Institute of Technology, Hofstra, SUNY Upstate and SUNY Downstate medical schools. The Salk Scholarships were awarded on May 10 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The 2016 Jonas E. Salk Scholars from left to right: Min Gyu Noh (City College); Alex Bonilla (Macaulay Honors College at City College); Joy Patel (City College); Muhddesa Lakhana (Macaulay Honors College at City College); Christos Mouzakitis (Macaulay Honors College at Queens College); Danielle Cohen (Macaulay Honors College at Queens College); and Allen Ko (Baruch College). Not pictured: Jennifer Zagelbaum (Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College).

The 2016 Jonas E. Salk Scholars from left to right: Min Gyu Noh (City College); Alex Bonilla (Macaulay Honors College at City College); Joy Patel (City College); Muhddesa Lakhana (Macaulay Honors College at City College); Christos Mouzakitis (Macaulay Honors College at Queens College); Danielle Cohen (Macaulay Honors College at Queens College); and Allen Ko (Baruch College).
Not pictured: Jennifer Zagelbaum (Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College).

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.

Salk, a 1934 City College graduate, developed the polio vaccine in 1955. He turned down a ticker-tape parade that was offered to honor 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 awards were presented by CUNY Trustee Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost Vita C. Rabinowitz and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Frank D. Sanchez.


The winners are:

Alex Bonilla

Macaulay Honors College at City College of New York, 2016

Harvard Medical School

Research: The Induction of the Cyclin D1 Promoter by UVB Radiation and Sodium-Arsenite in Human Keratinocytes

By the time he was 8 years old, Alex Bonilla was accompanying his Spanish-speaking mother on hospital visits to translate. He learned how those with language barriers and lack of adequate health insurance struggle to access the health care system and suffer more disease and psychosocial stress. To try to address these struggles, he volunteered as a Health Leads advocate in Harlem Hospital, and in Panama in a team-based comprehensive primary-care project with Global Health Brigades, while juggling rigorous academic work in biomedical engineering at City College. As a future physician and health advocate, he hopes to conduct research connecting his concerns about health disparities with the dynamic nature of clinical medicine.


Danielle Cohen

Macaulay Honors College at Queens College

Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine

Research: Assessing the Effect of Mood on Cognition Inhibition

Danielle Cohen’s interest in medicine grew out of her strong interest in science and volunteering at a hospital solidified her interest. Her research on cognitive neuroscience, using human subjects to study dysfunction caused by illness, fascinated her, and she looks forward to continuing such studies. She also works as a certified personal trainer and having seen how physical activity and proper nutrition can affect health is interested in exploring those issues further in a medical setting.


Min Gyu Noh

City College of New York

SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Research: Investigating the Structure and Function of Surface Protein P3a and P3c of Bacteriophage 12.


Min Gyu Noh, a chemistry major, was a tutor and peer mentor at City College as well as an admissions ambassador. Medicine, she says, is a lifetime commitment providing the opportunity to change lives. She says that while many people have doubts as to whether their work has any meaningful impact on the world, as long as she can practice medicine, Noh knows she will be able to do her part to help society.


Allen Ko

Baruch College

Eastern Virginia Medical School

Research: Synthesis and Analysis of Alkylated 1-Benzazepines for Use as Prospective Analogues for Targeted HIV-1 Drug Therapy

A biological sciences major and psychology minor, Allen Ko was helped by a physician in his efforts to lose excessive weight, leading him to understand that all aspects of his life were affected by his health. Pursuing his curiosity about the origins of illness, he volunteered in clinical settings and realized he wanted to become a physician. He views fitness and nutrition to be critical in correcting underlying illnesses. Through medicine he hopes to better understand body mechanics and physiological processes and their relation to the individual as a whole.


Muhddesa Lakhana

Macaulay Honors College at City College of New York

New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine

Research: Possible Elevated Plasma Triglycerides Cause Early Atherosclerotic Lesion Formation in Female LDLR-/-:apoD-/-Mice on a Western-type Diet

Muhddesa Lakhana was inspired by stories about her father’s experiences as a physician in Mumbai before he immigrated to America. Often running out of basic necessities, he and other physicians still managed to treat 60 to 70 patients a day.  Lakhana gained experience volunteering at Elmhurst Hospital’s pediatric emergency room, where she witnessed the doctors’ dedication, compassion and skills. In addition to internships, she worked as a Peer Health Exchange tutor, visiting Harlem high schools and teaching ninth graders about making healthier decisions about marijuana and alcohol. The experience reinforced her interest in patient education.


Christos Mouzakitis

Macaulay Honors College at Queens College

SUNY Upstate Medical University

Research: The Role of SGS1 and SAE2 in Interstrand Cross-Link Repair in Yeast DNA

A double major in neuroscience and biology and a double minor in chemistry and psychology, Christos Mouzakitis also studied anthropology to better understand cultural behaviors that influence health.  This interest was sparked by the stroke and open- heart surgery suffered by his father, a Greek immigrant with limited opportunities to follow a healthful diet. Mouzakitis’ research in molecular biology and biochemistry as part of a team in Dr. Wilma Safran’s lab aimed for a deeper understanding of cancer etiology. Along with his heavy academic load, Mouazkitis was president of the Biology Honor Society, a volunteer biology instructor, and a neurobiology teaching assistant.


Joy Patel

City College of New York

New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine

Research: Determination of Optimal Secondary Structure for In-Vitro Transcription of Circular Oligonucleotides by RNA Polymerase III

Joy Patel’s decision to pursue medicine was inspired by her late grandfather’s commitment to helping those in need. Although he only attended school through the eighth grade, he tirelessly toiled to lay the foundation for a nonprofit hospital in the village in India where he was born. Now open for two years, the hospital serves people from nearby villages, although he didn’t live to see it. Patel, a biochemistry major, says she is also inspired by Dr. Jonas Salk, who renounced personal profit for creating the polio vaccine, and by Dr. Hunter Adams, founder of the Gesundheit Institute, which practices medicine free of charge.


Jennifer Zagelbaum

Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Research: Real-time Analysis of RAG Complex Activity in V9D)J Recombination

At 10, Jennifer Zagelbaum found it fun to attend after-school help sessions taught by her high school chemistry teacher mother, and to decipher the chemistry words and symbols on the blackboard.  During summer vacations from high school, it was fun to work as a technician in her father’s ophthalmology practice.  The fun stopped when her mother was diagnosed with a breast carcinoma that required surgery and long-term hormonal therapy. After high school, Jennifer took a gap year to be near her mother during treatments. Anxious to demystify the mechanisms of the disease, she began to work in medical clinics, shadow physicians and conduct science research.  She now understands her mother’s cancer and the gene mutations and abnormal cell divisions that caused it, and hopes to use molecular biology techniques to create targeted therapies for cancer patients in a clinical setting.



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 Graduate School of Public Health. The University serves nearly 274,000 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.