[Photo: The Rutgers-RWJMS Postdoctoral Career Development Program included the Rutgers Annual Postdoc Appreciation Day/Research & Career Development Symposium held every September at Rutgers since 2009. Starting in 2011, the President of the Postdoctoral Association (PDA) had been an INSPIRE Fellow (Dr. Matthew Marcello: 2011 and 2012; Dr. Keith Feigenson: 2013; Dr. Krishna Tobon: 2014; Dr. Stephen Shannon: 2015). The PDA President works with the PDA Officers to organize all aspects of the event, from selecting the Keynote Speaker and other presenters, to choosing the location, generating publicity, and handling the web site and registration.]
Sofya Borinskaya, Ph.D
Department of Pathology
Sofya Borinskaya is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Martha Soto. Sofya holds B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Binghamton University, SUNY and Ph.D. in Biomedical Science with Cell Analysis and Modeling concentration from UConn Health, Farmington, CT. In graduate school, she worked on interdisciplinary projects about dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton. Sofya studied the role of the adaptor protein Nck in signaling from cell membrane to the actin cytoskeleton and regulation of actin dynamics by cofilin and capping proteins using detailed biochemical modeling. Her postdoctoral research projects will extend to investigating actin dynamics in C. elegans model organism. More specifically Sofya will investigate the role of WAVE in regulating cadherin/HMR-1 dynamics in adherens junctions. She also will explore the roles of different nucleation mechanisms in polarity establishment and cellular migration during epidermal and intestinal morphogenesis.
Sofya is an advocate of math education for life sciences and interested in a career of an educator researcher at primarily undergraduate institution. During her graduate career she took a variety of courses in teaching and instruction, computational biology education and earned the Certificate in College Teaching and Instruction. She also contributes to the development of the computational science teaching materials for undergraduate life science curriculum. Additionally Sofya is learning how to build creative and playful environment in classroom and how improvisation and performance enhance science education.
Harita Menon, Ph.D
Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience
The first experience Harita Menon had in research was during her Masters in India where she got the opportunity to study the immune stimulating effects of yeast beta-glucan on Indian prawn under the tutelage of Dr. Rosamma Philip. She then pursued her Ph.D. in Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts in the Department of Biology and Biotechnology under the guidance of Dr. Joseph Duffy. In the laboratory of Dr. Duffy, Harita studied the role of Kekkon5 (Kek5), a Drosophila LIG (Leucine Rich Repeat and Immunoglobulin domain) family member, in BMP signaling and cell adhesion. She found that these functions are governed by different extracellular and intracellular regions of Kek5. Although there are no vertebrate homologs of Kek5, dissecting out the functional relevance of the union of two evolutionarily conserved domains (leucine rich repeats and the Ig domain) in a simpler organism, could help better understand the role of LIG proteins in humans. After getting her doctorate degree Harita joined Dr. Bonnie Firestein's lab at Rutgers for her postdoctoral training. In Dr. Firestein's laboratory Harita studies the effects of small peptides on dendrite branching in rat hippocampal neurons. In addition to doing research, Harita has been involved in teaching, mentoring and community outreach, as she believes that they are vital contributors to her evolution as a science scholar.
Inna Nikonorova, Ph.D (INSPIRE Associate Fellow)
Department of Nutritional Sciences
Deregulation of liver protein synthesis is the major cause of many pathological metabolic conditions. Working with Prof. Tracy G. Anthony, Inna Nikonorova’s research aims to unravel mechanisms of proteins synthesis regulation in liver during amino acid insufficiency. She hopes that understanding the molecular events to precision can point out to new clinically relevant targets to reduce possibility of acute liver dysfunction by different therapeutic agents. Prior to joining the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers, Inna graduated with a PhD in Pharmacology from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (jointly with Rutgers), where her doctoral research with Prof. Alexey G. Ryazanov investigated translational regulation of TRPM7, an essential magnesium channel of higher eukaryotes. She earned her BS/MS in Biochemistry from the Lomonosov State University, Russia, working on studying substrate specificity of TRPM7 kinase domain and outcomes of its signaling cascade.
Ashley Pettit, Ph.D
Department of Nutritional Sciences
Ashley Pettit has been interested in the impact of environmental exposures on human and animal health since the beginning of her scientific career. As an undergraduate at The College of New Jersey, she investigated environmental impact of pollution on the fauna of aquatic environments. During her PhD training she shifted her focus towards clinical toxicology and studied the effects of particulate air pollution on the cardiovascular system of Type II diabetic humans under the guidance of Howard Kipen, MD, MPH. Combining in her interest of cardiometabolic diseases and impact of exposures on human health, Pettit joined the laboratory of Tracy Anthony, PhD at Rutgers University in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. In the Anthony laboratory, Pettit has investigated the beneficial metabolic changes associated with restricting dietary the essential sulfur amino acid methionine. Using genetically altered mice, she has explored the mechanistic aspects of how methionine restriction leads to beneficial physiological outcomes such as decreased body fat, increased insulin sensitivity and increased longevity. Specifically focusing on hepatic changes through the nutrient sensor General Nonderepressible 2 kinase(GCN2), her findings suggest that integrated stress response, lipid metabolism, and antioxidant response pathway responses are not fully GCN2 dependent, further elucidating the role of amino acid sensing and signaling pathways. Methionine restriction poses a potentially beneficial dietary alteration that could be used in treatment of patients with diseases such as diabetes and obesity. This research further clarifies the pathways involved and aids in furthering our understanding the effects of this type of nutrient stress on human health.
Suzanne Quartuccio, Ph.D
Department of Genetics
Suzanne Quartuccio received her B.S. in Chemistry and Masters in Teaching from the University of Virginia. After teaching high school Chemistry for Fairfax County Public Schools, she returned to school and earned her Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her dissertation work investigated the role of genetic manipulations on the initiation of high-grade serous ovarian cancer. She is currently conducting postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Karen Schindler at Rutgers University. She is interested in uncovering the specific functions of Aurora kinase C in meiotic cells to better understand the high rates of aneuploidy in oocytes during meiosis I and how aberrant expression in cancer cells is oncogenic.