Columbia University Medical Center



Dear SPURS former, current and future supporters!

Despite the pandemic, the 20th year of the Columbia University’s biomedical research Summer Program for Undergraduate Rising Stars (SPURS),had another extremely successful program in 2021.
37 fellows: 20 females and 18 males; 20 African–American, 12 Hispanic-American, and 2 Asian-American. This year, we had 23 students attending schools in New York including: Columbia University, CUNY College of Staten Island, New York University, SUNY Binghamton University, SUNY Stony Brook University, Fordham University, and CUNY Hunter College. The remaining students attended schools from across the country including: Boston College, Brandeis University, Colby College, Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, North Carolina State University, Rice University, Rutgers University, University of Chicago, Wake Forest University, and Yale University.
zoom group
See below for a list of the students, their home institutions, the projects they worked on this past summer and their Columbia University faculty mentors. The SPURS students were once again highly motivated, incredibly impressive and passionate about learning science. Each was assigned to a faculty mentor at Columbia who guided their research. In addition there was a series of lectures and discussions about science and career options in biomedical research with a diverse array of role models (from Columbia and other universities) as well as the Columbia Virtual COVID-19 Symposia - a weekly Zoom event designed to connect research scientists at Columbia with researchers from all over the world to keep up with the ever-changing science and human impact of the novel coronavirus.
Most of the SPURS alumni go on to careers in biomedical research and medicine. For example, more than a dozen have matriculated to the MD or combined MD/PhD programs at Columbia. Others have gone to Harvard, Yale, UCSF, Stanford, Einstein and other top universities.
SPURS desperately needs your support to continue to offer underrepresented students the chance to further their careers in biomedical research.
The SPURS program is partially supported by an NIH grant but does not cover its costs completely. That’s where you come in. Your donation will support a summer of original biomedical research and invaluable career mentoring for a SPURS student. A donation of $5,000 supports a student’s summer stipend. A donation of $1,000 supports housing for a student on the Columbia campus. At the very least, if you could possibly give $100, it will support a student’s access to computing needs required for their research.
Click here for the giving online link:
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For more information about giving, please contact Castalia Sanchez, Columbia University Medical Center, 1150 St. Nicholas Avenue, Box 65, New York, NY 10032; phone 212 851-5340 or email
Andy Marks, Jeanine D'Armiento and Monica Goldklang
Contributions to the SPURS Program at Columbia University are tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Our Federal I.D. number is 13-5598093.
2021 SPURS students, home institutions, projects and mentors
Aneeza Asif
Cell and Molecular Biology at Barnard College
“Identifying key markers in the role of CD56 in NK cell migration“
Mentor: Dr. Emily Mace

Andy Cuzco
Natural Science at Fordham University
“Activation of Opsin-3 with Beta-Ionone Promotes Airway Smooth Muscle Relaxation“
Mentor: Dr. Charles Emala and Dr. Peter Yim

Alexis Fisher
Columbia University
Mentor: Dr. Monica Goldklang and Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento

Andre Meddar
Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University
“Cognitive Effects of Heart Failure Through the Lens of the Ryanodine Receptor“
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Marks

Carl Christopher Tchagou
Undeclared at Columbia University
"Examining the Role of Leaky Ryanodine Receptors in Alzheimer’s Disease"
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Marks

Carolyn Martinez
Medical Humanities and Concentration in Public Health at Columbia University
“Examining the role of Leaky Ryanodine Receptor in Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia (CPVT)"
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Marks

Connie Chen
Germanic Studies Major/Pre-med track at University of Chicago
“Effects of Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines on Tet2 Knockout Hematopoietic Stem and Progenitor Cells"
Mentor: Dr. Emmanuelle Passague and Dr. James Swann

Deana Moffat
Biomedical Engineering at SUNY Binghamton University
“Defining the role of CD56 (NCAM) in human lymphocyte migration on stroma"
Mentor: Dr. Emily Mace

Domenick Raphael
Biology/Chemistry at Brandeis University
“The Functional Role of Hepatic FTO in Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)"
Mentor: Dr. Utpal Paivani

Edmund Sagastume
Biology, Concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience at CUNY Hunter College
“Modulation of voltage-gated Potassium Channels using engineered di-valent nanobodies"
Mentor: Dr. Henry Colecraft

Emmanuel Worede-Kal
Biology at Rutgers University
“A novel behavioral assay for individual recognition in mice"
Mentor: Dr. Richard Axel

Franddy Rodiguez
Biology at CUNY College of Staten Island
“Host Metabolite Itaconate Drives K. pneumoniae Adaptation"
Mentor: Dr. Alice Prince

Gladwyn Gillis
Biology at SUNY Stony Brook University
“NW50 MSP Nanodisc Incorporation to Purify and Characterize Erythrocyte Band 3-Ankyrin Macro Complex"
Mentor: Dr. Oliver Clarke

Ikenna Okoro
Neuroscience and Behavior at Columbia University
“Disruption of AIF in Complex I Highlights its Role in Mitochondrial Functioning"
Mentor: Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah

Jessica Beltrani
Human Biology and Economics/
Sports Science at North Carolina State University
“Treatment of chylous effusion in patients with Lymphangioleiomyomatosis"
Mentor: Dr. Monica Goldklang

Joseph Delgado
Chemistry at Boston College
“Living Yeast Diagnostic for SARS-CoV-2“
Mentor: Dr. Virginia Cornish and
Dr. Qianna Wilson

Jp Woodham
English (Major) and Biology (Concentration) at Columbia University
“Characterization of LAM Tumor Cells: A Biochemical Analysis of NC Markers in Tissues“
Mentor: Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento

Julian Maldonado
Biology at Columbia University
“PRV and Peripheral Cold Shock Immunohistochemistry Link Locus Coeruleus to Regulation of Body Temperature“
Mentor: Dr. Alexander Nectow

Katherine Martinez
Major: Biology (concentration in neuroscience), Secondary Major: Science, Technology, and Society, Minor: Environmental Studies at Colby College
“Probing Sodium Channel Trafficking in Cardiac Physiology"
Mentor: Dr. Manu Ben-Johny

Khristina Cassanova
Nutritional Science/ Chemistry at Howard University
“Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Imatinib-Induced Renal Angiomyolipoma Cell Death"
Mentor: Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento

Leana Figueroa
Biochemistry, Minor: Sociology at CUNY Hunter College
“The Role of Lipocalin-2 in Acute Bacterial Infection: Examining the Mechanism of Immune Defense through Mutant Lipocalin-2"
Mentor: Dr. Stavroula Kousteni

Liana Dawson
Medical Humanities at Columbia University
“Examining C9orf72 Variants in Isogenic Lines of C9ALS iPSCs"
Mentor: Dr. Shawn Liu

Luke Elias
Chemistry/Sociology at Rutgers University
“The Role of MMP 13 in Alveolar Repair in Emphysema"
Mentor: Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento

Madison Smith
Chemistry at Columbia University
“Characterization of innate immune responses in a model of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy"
Mentor: Dr. Wesley Grueber

Matthew Cedarstrand
Biology at Rutgers University
“Symptoms experienced by patients 1 year Post-COVID-19 Hospitalization on supplemental oxygen"
Mentor: Dr. Christine Garcia

Matthew Neil
Major: Biology, Minor: Music at CUNY Hunter College
“Local and Systemic T Cell Responses in Pediatric Patients with Viral Respiratory Tract Infection"
Mentor: Dr. Thomas Connors

Miriam Cepeda
Medical Humanities at Columbia University
“The transcription factor CEBP/a regulates plasma lipids through Pcsk9"
Mentor: Dr. Robert Bauer

Mohab Idris
Biology Major and Chemistry Minor at CUNY Hunter College
“Developing a VLP System for SARS-CoV-2 and Assessing the Antiviral Potency of Peptides"
Mentor: Dr. Anne Moscona

Mohamed Doucoure
Biology at New York University
“SETD1A immunofluorescence in the Auditory Cortex of a schizophrenia mouse model"
Mentor: Dr. Emily Parker

Morohuntodun Oni
Chemistry, Economics at Wake Forest University
“Notch Inhibition with High-Dose Radiation Therapy Inhibits Tumor Growth and Decreases Immunosuppressive Responses in Tumor Microenvironment"
Mentor: Dr. Darrell Yamashiro

Ogechi Nwankwoala
Molecular and Cellular Biology, Minor: Psychology at Johns Hopkins University
“A MitoCarta Screen to Identify Novel Regulators of Complex I Assembly"
Mentor: Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah

Ray Rahim
Biology at CUNY Hunter College
“Increasing intestinal epithelial serotonin as a novel effective remedy for anxiety and depression a paradigm shift in novel treatment approaches for mood disorders"
Mentor: Dr. Kara Gross Margolis

Sabrina Anderson
Health Science at Howard
“Senescent adipocytes accumulate in the dermis of obese mice deficient in leptin signaling"
Mentor: Dr. Angela Christiano

Sarah Boyd
Neuroscience and Behavior
at Columbia University
“The Role of CA2 Inhibitory Parvalbumin Interneurons in Social Odor Discrimination"
Mentor: Dr. Steven Siegelbaum

Tigidankay Saccoh
Psychology/public health at Columbia University
“Correlation between fungi measured in home and IgG antibodies to fungi measured in serum"
Mentor: Dr. Matthew Perzanowski

Victoria Millette
Biomedical Engineering at University of Rochester
“The Role of Leaky Ryanodine Receptors in Diabetes"
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Marks

Ynez Kerley
Sociology/Medical Humanities at
Rice University
“Examining the Role of Leaky Ryanodine Receptors in Chemobrain"
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Marks

Zafirat Ndancky
Psychology - Neuroscience
Track at Yale University
“Testing the functionality of SNAPfast -tagged 5-HT5a receptors"
Mentor: Dr. Wesley Asher