2017 Travel awardee bios

Dr. Olachi Mezu-Ndubuisi is a neonatologist as well as a licensed optometrist. Her research area of focus is Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding eye disease of multi-factorial etiology affecting premature infants, characterized by abnormal retinal vascular development. Dr. Mezu-Ndubuisi’s use of live retinal imaging in anesthetized mice exposed to oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) led to the novel use of in-vivo phosphorescence lifetime imaging to measure retinal vascular oxygen tension and fluorescein angiography (FA) to depict retinal vascular abnormalities, use of in vivo spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) to correlate retinal thickness changes to abnormal vascularization, and recently the unique description of phenotypical characteristics of retinal arteries and veins in OIR mice during developmental maturity. Her in vivo research allows longitudinal study of structural and functional changes from hyperoxia that could lead to neuronal dysfunction. Dr. Mezu-Ndubuisi’s lab will be expanding investigations into the role of oxidative stress on developing tissues, the signaling mechanisms involved in these complex interactions, and therapeutic testing to prevent oxidative injury. Her research findings have been published in several peer-reviewed journals. Her other clinical interests include chronic lung disease in premature babies, and improving nutrition in very low birth weight babies in the NICU. Dr. Mezu-Ndubuisi is also actively involved in international global health activities.

Alena Rudkouskaya is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Albany Medical College in Albany, NY.  She received her Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the National Academy of Sciences in Belarus and post-doctoral training at the Department of Neuroscience and Neuropharmacology, Albany Medical College, and Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Western Ontario.  Dr. Rudkouskaya current research is focused on in vivo imaging of breast cancer xenografts using Fluorescence Lifetime FRET approach, as well as studying internalization and endocytic trafficking of antibodies targeting immune checkpoint inhibitors in cancer cells.  She has published 11 papers in peer-reviewed journals. Alena is a member of Histochemical Society since 2014.

Vashendriya Vindhya Vasini Hira received her MSc Biomedical Sciences from University of Amsterdam in Dr. Ron van Noorden’s laboratory, where she focused on understanding the similarities between leukemic stem cell niches and glioma stem-like cell niches. She is currently enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Amsterdam and performs her PhD research project in the Mehta and Sanai laboratories at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Vashendriya’s research project is entitled: 'No Place to Hide: Force Glioma Stem-Like Cells Out of Their Home, the Niche, Before Chemo-irradiation'. It involves work on glioma stem-like cell (GSLC) niches in human glioblastoma (GBM). This study is focused on identifying and targeting novel factors of the GSLC niche to make resistant GSLCs more sensitive to standard treatments. GSLCs in GSLC niches are therapy-resistant, they are held responsible for tumor recurrence and therefore, the interactions between GSLCs and their protective niches are important therapeutic targets. Disrupting the interactions between GSLCs and their niches may render GSLCs sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation. This may improve GBM treatment and ultimately enhance the outlook and quality of life of GBM patients.

I am Nadia Elisa Morán-García, I was born in Mexico City in 1987. I studied the carreer of Chemistry Pharmaceutics Biology in the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). I Am a PhD student in the laboratory of Dr. Teresa Estrada-García, in the department of Molecular Biomedicine of the CINVESTAV in Mexico City, where I also made my Master degree. In my master thesis I studied the effect of the vitamin A and zinc supplements in the prevalence of the Diarrheogenic E. coli (DEC) groups in children under 3 years. The most prevalent DEC in Mexico is Enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC), so for the PhD I am developing a mouse model of this bacteria in which we can study “in vivo” the interaction of EAEC with the intestinal epithelial cells. Thanks to the Histochemical Society I have the opportunity to present my work and participate in the Experimental Biology congress of this year.

MaRyka Smith, from Hoyt, Kansas, is a senior undergraduate student majoring in Animal Sciences and Industry: Pre-Veterinary Medicine Option at Kansas State University. She plans to attend veterinary school at Kansas State University this fall and focus on large animals and pathology. She has enjoyed the challenges of her research project and look forward to where it will take her next.


2017 ASIP/HCS Awardee Bios

Dr. Jianguo Wu is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut.  He received his Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Peking University. Currently, the direction of his research is hepatocyte metabolism and liver diseases. He is taking advantage of gene knockout mouse models and liver injury models to understand the regulatory roles of metabolism-related genes. Dr. Wu has focused on hepatocyte apoptosis and autophagy. He is also engaged in the identification and characterization of liver cancer-related genes, especially those fueling and expediting cancer metabolism. Besides, Dr. Wu is an expert in investigating protein post-translation modifications and is experienced in cell signaling pathway studies. His research findings have been published in several peer-reviewed journals. He also serves as a reviewer for several scientific journals.   

Hiba Alsaffar graduated high school from Baghdad, Iraq where I was born and raised. I left my hometown when I was 18 years old and moved to Amman, Jordan where I lived for two years. In 2008 I moved with my family to New York. Two months after I arrived to the US, I started my undergraduate studies at Albany College of at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences where I majored in Pharmaceutical Sciences.  In my second year of college, I started doing research and I tremendously enjoyed it.  My research project mostly involved in-vivo work where I focused on understanding thermoregulation of the body in response to inflammation. Because of my passion for research I decided to pursue my PhD in biomedical sciences. I am currently in my fourth year as a PhD student at Albany Medical College. The main aim of my thesis project is to understand the signaling mechanisms that regulate the endothelial barrier function downstream of the proinflammatory cytokine, IL6.  In my free time, I enjoy spending time with family and my fiancé. Although I live in Albany, NY, I spend most of my weekends in NYC with my fiancé because I enjoy being in a culturally diverse environment very much.


Kah Yong Goh was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He then received his B.Sc. in Biotechnology from St. Cloud State University. He is currently enrolled in PhD program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He works in the laboratory of Dr. Lufang Zhou, in the Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Disease. His research project focus on investigating the effect of antioxidant on cardiac function and pathophysiology in pressure overload- induced heart failure.


Roberto Mota, is married to wife Nahomi and father of 2 kids (Oliver and Robin). Born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico were he grew up and received a medical degree. Shortly after losing a very close relative to atherosclerosis, he decided to go into research so that his contribution to science could have a greater impact in how we diagnose, treat and specially prevent cardiovascular disease. After working as a physician and E.R. doctor for 2 years, he moved to Albuquerque, NM were he received a Masters Degree in Radiopharmaceutical Sciences at UNM. He worked in characterizing a novel in vivo diagnostic imaging tool for cardiovascular inflammation specifically in atherosclerotic disease. During time at UNM, he gained incredible experience and had amazing mentors along the way. Recently joining Dr. Monte Willis lab in the McAllister Heart Institute at UNC working in understanding the role of Atrogin-1, an E3 ligase in the ubiquitin proteosome pathway in cardiovascular and pulmonary disease models. He focuses all of his effort in pursuing a successful career in cardiovascular immunopathologic research and translational medicine.

Ms. Jillian Liu is a fifth-year MD/PhD student in the Ohio State University Medical Scientist Training Program in Columbus, Ohio. She attended Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa where she graduated with a BSS in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Psychology. She is currently a third-year graduate student in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, and her research focuses on fundamental respiratory biology in health and disease. She is currently studying autonomic defects in Central Congenital Hypoventilation Syndrome, and the associated perinatal respiratory dysfunction.  In 2017, Jillian will serve as president of the American Physician Scientists Association.