Science Diversity Leadership Awards

CZI partnered with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to launch the Science Diversity Leadership program, a funding opportunity that aims to recognize and further the leadership of excellent biomedical researchers who — through their outreach, mentoring, teaching, and leadership — have a record of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in their scientific fields. Read about the grantees below.

Ishmail Abdus-Saboor, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute

Columbia University

Uncovering Peripheral and Central Neural Circuits for Inflammatory Pain

The project aims to increase the fundamental understanding of inflammatory pain by mapping behavior, modifying peripheral genes, and constructing longitudinal brain-wide activity networks.

Brian Aguado, PhD

Assistant Professor, Bioengineering

University of California, San Diego

Addressing Sex and Ancestral Disparities in Aortic Valve Stenosis

This project will use advanced biomaterial-based tools to engineer sex-specific and ancestral-specific disease models of aortic valve stenosis and define precision drug treatments for diverse patients.

Olujimi Ajijola, MD, PhD

Associate Professor, Medicine-Cardiology and Neuroscience Interdepartmental Program

University of California, Los Angeles

Rethinking the Physician-Scientist Training Paradigm to Enhance Diversity

This project will diversify the physician scientist workforce through mentorship from the Principal Investigator (PI) and engaging stakeholders to develop or expand various entry points into the scientific training pipeline for physicians.

Matthew Anderson, PhD

Assistant Professor, Microbiology

The Ohio State University

Defining the Microbial Eukaryote Contributions to Rheumatoid Arthritis in American Indians

This project will identify microbial eukaryotes associated with elevated rheumatoid arthritis incidence in Northern Plains American Indian communities and test taxa for disease outcomes.

Alissa Armstrong, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

University of South Carolina

Diversifying Future Research Leaders: Studying Inter-organ Communication with Adipose Tissue in Drosophila

This project aims to understand how the adipose tissue communicates nutritional information to stem cell-supported organs using the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster.

Elham Azizi, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering and Irving Institute for Cancer Dynamics

Columbia University

Computational Modeling of Regulatory Mechanisms in the Spatial Breast Tumor Microenvironment

This project aims to develop novel machine learning tools to dissect underlying dysregulated mechanisms in the triple-negative breast tumor microenvironment through integrating spatial multi-omics data.

Muyinatu Bell, PhD

Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Johns Hopkins University

Handheld Photoacoustic Biopsy with Molecular Sensitivity to Breast Cancer

This project will develop a combined ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging biopsy approach that will provide structural, anatomical, and molecular sensitivity to detect the presence of breast cancer.

Kizzmekia Corbett, PhD

Assistant Professor, Immunology and Infectious Diseases

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The Antigenic Landscape of Endemic Coronaviruses and the Outreach Landscape of Health Inequities

This project will investigate the antigenic landscape of endemic human coronaviruses and bridge our science to communities through strategic communications and outreach.

Steven Damo, PhD

Chair, Assistant Professor, Life and Physical Sciences

Fisk University

Structure-Function Studies of Metal Efflux in Group B Strep

This project aims to characterize the molecular mechanisms of the zinc efflux protein CadD from S. agalactiae, a pathogen that is the leading cause of adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Lawrence David, PhD

Associate Professor, Molecular Genetics & Microbiology

Duke University

Sharing Open Source Software for Biomarker-Based Analysis of Diet

This project will distribute open source bioinformatic tools and resources for analyzing biomarkers of food intake, which in turn can be used to study the etiology and management of autoimmune, metabolic, and cardiovascular diseases.

Chantell Evans, PhD

Assistant Professor, Cell Biology

Duke University

Investigating the Role of Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Neurodegenerative Diseases

This project aims to mechanistically characterize the dynamics of neuronal mitophagy to provide insight into the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases.

Natalia Gomez-Ospina, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Pediatrics

Stanford University

Targeting Macrophage/Microglia Niches with Engineered Stem Cells to Treat Disease

This project aims to develop novel conditioning tools that support the safe, efficient, and rapid repopulation of macrophage/microglia niches by bone marrow-derived cells and use them to treat metabolic diseases.

Roy Hamilton, MD

Associate Professor, Neurology

University of Pennsylvania

Stimulating Brain Networks for Language and Building Networks in the Black Community to Fight Aphasia

This project will use network neuroscience tools to find targets for the treatment of post-stroke aphasia through transcranial magnetic stimulation and enhance research diversity by engaging the local Black community.

Antentor Hinton, Jr., PhD

Assistant Professor, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

Vanderbilt University

Increasing STEM Participation of Underrepresented Minorities by Utilizing Focused Ion Beam-Scanning Electron Microscopy to Look at Organelle-Organelle Contacts in Human Tissue Across Ethnicities

This project will leverage 3D microscopy to observe and delineate structural changes in mitochondria-organelle contacts in human tissue across ethnicities.

Sharonda LeBlanc, PhD

Assistant Professor, Physics

North Carolina State University

Time-resolved Molecular Mechanisms of Ribosome Assembly

This project will develop a molecular framework for connecting faulty ribosome assembly with diseases and cancer risk using time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy while broadening participation in STEM.

Monkol Lek, PhD

Assistant Professor, Genetics

Yale University

Improving the Genetic Diagnosis of Rare Disease Patients of Non-European Ancestry

This project will develop methods and approaches for improving the interpretation of rare variants that will benefit diverse ancestries with a focus on patients from minority groups.

Kathryn Milligan-McClellan, PhD

Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cell Biology

University of Connecticut

Identifying Life Events that Lead to Inflammation in the Host in a Multi-population, Longitudinal Study

This project will engage Alaska Native and historically excluded students in science to investigate why the microbiota, which affects inflammation in the host, is different over time and across populations.

Cassie Mitchell, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Georgia Institute of Technology

Data Science to Demystify Diversity, Disability, and Disparity in Biomedical Research

This project will develop novel, large-scale biomedical data integration and machine learning methods to identify diverse features that explain and improve health disparities.

Sonya Neal, PhD

Assistant Professor, Cell and Developmental Biology

University of California, San Diego

Discovery of Small Molecule Modulators Against the Rhomboid Superfamily

This project seeks to develop a chemical biology platform for the generation of small molecule tools aimed at modulating rhomboid protein function, which are implicated in numerous diseases.

Mercedes Paredes, MD, PhD

Associate Professor, Neurology

University of California, San Francisco

Evolution of Neural Stem Cells in the Human Hippocampal Neurogenic Niche in Development and Disease

This project explores how neural stem cells of the hippocampus develop, age, and contribute to cognitive change and epilepsy. Trainees from underrepresented backgrounds will learn basic neuroscience that has translational implications.

Steve Ramirez, PhD

Assistant Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences

Boston University

Neuroscience for All: Mapping and Manipulating Neural Memory Circuits in Mice

This project aims to transform the biomedical sciences by identifying and artificially manipulating memories therapeutically in animal models. This work will be led by the next generation of students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Gustavo Silva, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biology

Duke University

Deciphering the Functional Ubiquitinome in Health and Disease

This project aims to understand how unique ubiquitin signals are dynamically integrated to determine neuronal proteostasis and physiology.

Aaron Streets, PhD

Associate Professor

University of California, Berkeley

Precision Measurement of the Epigenome and Diversifying Leadership in Bioengineering

This project aims to develop tools for precision measurement of the human epigenome, and also to diversify bioengineering through mentoring interventions at the bachelor’s through postdoctoral level.

Christina Towers, PhD

Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cell Biology

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Deciphering Mechanisms of Resistance in Cancer while Training the Next Generation of Diverse Scientists

This project will determine how cells respond to metabolic blockade, and also will include summer programs for trainees from underrepresented backgrounds.

Kedra Wallace, PhD

Associate Professor, Pharmacology & Toxicology; Obstetrics & Gynecology

University of Mississippi Medical Center

Evaluation of Neurovascular Function and Hypertension Across a Selected Lifespan

This project will determine long-term effect of uremic toxins on cognition in women with renal injury. Trainees historically underrepresented in science will be brought in to work within all projects.