CUNY’s Jonas E. Salk Scholars For 2018

CUNY has announced the nine recipients of its own prestigious award – the Jonas E. Salk Scholarships for the study of medicine and biomedical sciences, which honors CCNY alumnus who created the first polio vaccine. The award provides $8,000 to each student to defray the cost of their medical and graduate research studies. Below are the winners with their undergraduate CUNY colleges and the institutions where they will pursue their medical and research education.

  • Lisset A. Duran, Macaulay Honors College at John Jay College and Princeton University
  • Kevin Christian Gonzalez, City College and Columbia University
  • Elizabeth Gorodetsky, Hunter College and New York University School of Medicine
  • Jack Jnani, Hunter College and Stony Brook University School of Medicine
  • Anan Kazi, Macaulay Honors College at City College and SUNY Downstate College of Medicine
  • Marharyta Labkovich, Hunter College and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Daniela Mikhaylov, Macaulay HonorsCollege at Hunter College and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Lily Lee,  Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College and SUNY Downstate College of Medicine
  • Iqra Nadeem, Brooklyn College and SUNY Downstate College of Medicine

Experience In Two Cultures Shape an Interest in Medicine And Health Policy

Iqra Nadeem (Brooklyn College, 2018) is using her city-funded CUNY Salk Scholarship at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine for an M.D., but is concerned about health policy, as well. “I majored in political science on top of pre-med, so I’ve learned how policymaking affects communities,” she says. “Health care is increasingly regulated, and it almost always puts people at a disadvantage. As a physician, I want to advocate for the people I care about, and that means operating in public policy and the political sphere.”

She and her family emigrated from Pakistan in 2006, when she was 10; they became U.S. citizens in 2012. Having feet in both countries and cultures has shaped her views. Mental health services have figured prominently in her thinking since she volunteered as a health educator with Peer Health Exchange and as a NeighborNet coordinator with Young Muslim Sisters.
“Older community leaders mock the younger generation and assert that disorders like anxiety can go away by simply praying,” she writes in her Salk application. But anxiety is real. Female “high school and college students [are] juggling an inordinate amount of burden: societal/parental expectations, academic expectations.”

Brooklyn College helped her “become a more compassionate person.” Professors took a broad view of oppressed and indigenous people. She was active with the Student Union and Students for Justice in Palestine. She served the homeless through Muslims Giving Back. “People live complicated, layered lives, and making a diagnosis based on that should be part of everybody’s medical education.”

Iqra Nadeem, Salk Scholar from Brooklyn College

Iqra Nadeem
Brooklyn College and SUNY Downstate College of Medicine
Jonas E. Salk Scholarship

From Homelessness and Hardship To Exploring the Neural Circuits Of Learning and Memory

Kevin Gonzalez (City College, 2018) will use his CUNY Jonas E. Salk Scholarship to explore the neural circuits underlying learning and memory at Columbia University’s neurobiology and behavior doctoral program. “Memory plays a significant role in our everyday life, yet how memories are formed, stored and represented neurally remains unknown,” he says.

His mentor, biology professor Mark Emerson, writes that Gonzalez had a “tumultuous … path through life.” Born in New York to parents from El Salvador and Colombia, he faced “times of homelessness and financial hardship.” As part of Emerson’s National Science Foundation-funded outreach to middle school students, “Kevin spoke eloquently … about his realization that his path out of poverty would need to be education.”

Originally trained as an aircraft maintenance technician, Gonzalez credits his time at Aviation High School for building the analytical skills required to succeed in science. “Learning how systems function, how high-stress states cause them to fail, and how to troubleshoot were all valuable experiences,” he says.

That process applied to his research in Emerson’s lab, as well as to a 10-week National Institutes of Health honors program at Harvard last summer. At City, he studied how retinal cells differentiate; at Harvard, he investigated how they develop their unique shapes. Emerson writes that Gonzalez will be lead author on one upcoming paper and a middle author on at least one other.

Gonzalez hopes his experiences will position him to become a researcher in academia and to make a significant contribution to the scientific community.

Salk Scholar Kevin Christian Gonzalez, CCNY

Kevin Gonzalez
City College and Columbia University
Jonas E. Salk Scholarship