Inaugural Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows selected

By: Daniel Aloi,  Cornell Chronicle
February 15, 2018

Postdoctoral researcher Chih-chun Lin has an intense interest in host-microbe interactions and their impact on human health.

“A molecular understanding of interspecies interactions would not only enable us to address fundamental biological questions, but also will provide new insights into human diseases,” she said.

As one of the recently selected inaugural cohort of Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows, Lin will work in the laboratory of Andrew Clark, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Population Genetics in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, exploring the network of microbial interactions in the gut of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Her goal is “to understand the signaling cues that bacteria and viruses use to communicate with their host, and how these microbial dialogs influence the host’s health,” she said.

Clark, her faculty sponsor, said the work Lin is pursuing at Cornell “seems particularly likely to be open to new discoveries of mechanisms whereby the two-way host-microbe communication occurs.”

In conjunction with human microbiome research in his lab, “we will quickly be able to explore parallels between her model-organism work and human health,” he said.

Lin anticipates working with microbiome research faculty and scientists in the Cornell Institute for Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease on her project, as well as Cornell chemists, computational biologists and statisticians.

“Cornell offers a very valuable opportunity for me to lead this multidisciplinary research project,” she said.

The Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program was initiated in 2017 as a means to attract some of the world’s best young talent to Cornell. The program encompasses research-based disciplines across the Ithaca campus, at Cornell Tech in New York City and at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva.

Of the 10 new fellows selected, three each are in the humanities, life sciences and physical sciences and one in the social sciences. Their research ranges from hydrogels for 3-D bio-printing in tissue engineering to studying the formation and evolution of the universe to Japanese poetry across old and new media.

The fellows will arrive at Cornell between March 1 and early July. In addition to Lin, the appointees, their departments and faculty sponsors are:

  • Vivek Ashok, Government, with Peter Enns;
  • Andrew Campana, Asian Studies, with Brett de Bary;
  • Steve Choi, Astronomy, with Gordon Stacey;
  • Mackenzie Cooley ’12, History, with Peter Dear;
  • Jessica Cooper, Anthropology, with Annelise Riles;
  • Tyler Coverdale, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with Anurag Agrawal;
  • Grace Gu, Biomedical Engineering, with Lawrence Bonassar;
  • Erin Stache, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, with Geoffrey Coates and Brett Fors; and
  • Rong Ye, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, with Peng Chen.

“I’m delighted to welcome this group of distinguished scholars as our inaugural class of Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows,” said President Martha E. Pollack. “This opportunity will enrich their studies, and they will contribute much to Cornell as outstanding researchers and members of our community.”

A selection committee of 18 tenured faculty members representing multiple fields and colleges chose the fellows from a highly competitive pool of 196 applicants.

“We received an outstanding pool of exceptional candidates for the first Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows, and we had a yield of 10, which was higher than anticipated,” said Emmanuel Giannelis, vice provost for research and vice president for technology transfer, intellectual property and research policy, whose office administers the fellowship program. “The result is a first-year cadre of truly exceptional individuals who reflect Cornell’s pre-eminent academic and research stature.”

The postdoctoral fellowship appointments are for three years, subject to a positive annual evaluation of scholarly progress. Fellowships also may include a teaching component, depending on the participant’s interests and career goals.

A new cohort of fellows will be selected each year to join the program, which is funded by the Office of the Provost and the deans of participating Cornell schools and colleges.

Presidential postdoctoral fellows receive lifetime membership in the newly established Society of Cornell Fellows, joining participants in other prestigious Cornell postdoctoral programs including Atkinson, Kavli, Mong and Taylor fellows.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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