Departmental News

Sriram Sundaravel

Congratulations to Dr. Sriram Sundaravel, and his mentor Dr. Ulrich Steidl, on receipt of the Special Fellow award from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)

Sriram Sundaravel, a postdoctoral fellow in the Steidl lab has been honored with the Special Fellow award from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). The LLS is the largest nonprofit funder of cutting-edge blood cancer research. The Special Fellow award is a mechanism which supports postdocs and instructors who have clearly demonstrated success in their current postdoctoral/instructor position and who will be competitive for an independent position. This award will support Sriram’s research into developing innovative approaches to study leukemia stem cell heterogeneity. More information about this award can be found here.

Eric Liu

Congratulations to Eric Liu, and his mentor Hilda Ye, on receipt of a Best Poster Award at the 2024 HTLV conference!

PhD candidate Eric Liu received a Best Poster Award at the 21st Biennial International Conference on Human Retrovirology: HTLV and related viruses, which just concluded in London (June 2nd-5th, 2024). This is the first ever conference award given by the International Retrovirology Association (IRVA) to a study conducted at Einstein-Montefiore. Eric’s poster is entitled “North American adult T-Cell leukemia/lymphoma has frequent mutations in CCR4 and responds in vitro to a small molecule CCR4 antagonist”. In this study, the research team discovered that nearly half of the NA-ATLL cohort studied carried CCR4 mutations. CCL22 but not CCL17 induced strong chemotaxis in NA-ATLL, which can be potently inhibited by a small molecule CCR4 antagonist, suggesting a novel therapeutic opportunity for this devastating cancer.

Zijie Sun

We are excited to welcome to the Cell Biology department the entire Sun lab! Dr. Zijie (ZJ) Sun is an internationally renowned prostate cancer investigator. He came to us from City of Hope National Medical Center, where he was a Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology and Molecular Medicine. Prior to joining City of Hope, Dr. Sun had been a faculty member for 18 years at Stanford University. Dr. Sun’s research program focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying transcriptional control and cell signaling in development and tumorigenesis. Most recent studies from his lab demonstrate the roles of new stromal niches in prostate development and tumorigenesis. Ongoing projects in his lab are uncovering genomic and epigenetic alterations in controlling development, aging, and tumorigenesis. Dr. Sun joins us as a Professor in the Departments of Oncology and of Cell Biology, and the Director of Prostate Cancer Program at Montefiore Einstein Comprehensive Cancer Center. His laboratory is currently at Ullmann 211 but will soon move to their permanent home at Ullman 511.

Brandon Kim

Congratulations to Brandon Kim for being selected by the Society for Science as a top 300 Scholar in the 83rd Regeneron Science Talent Search - the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high school seniors. Brandon attends Great Neck South High School and is being mentored by his high school teacher Nicole Spinelli and Cell Biology faculty Lindsay LaFave. His project was selected from a pool of over 2000 applications across the country, underscoring his significant research achievements as a promising, young scientist. Congratulations, Brandon!

Michael Papanicolaou

Congratulations to Michael Papanicolaou, PhD, and his mentor Julio A. Aguirre Ghiso, on receipt of a Cancer Research Institute Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowship. This prestigious fellowship provides funding to qualified post-doctoral fellows at leading universities around the world who pursue research in fundamental immunology or cancer immunology. In this awarded project, co-mentored by Ross Levine (Sloan Kettering) and XingXing Zhang (Einstein), Michael will investigate how age-related clonal hematopoiesis influences breast cancer dormancy and metastasis. Congratulations, Michael!

Guo Ito

The Department of Cell Biology is celebrating the promotion of two of our faculty members to full Professorship with tenure. Congratulations to Dr. Wenjun Guo and Dr. Keisuke Ito! This is a highly deserved recognition that reflects their outstanding expertise and accomplishments in their fields of study as well as their significant contributions to the missions of our medical school.

Dr. Guo received his Bachelor of Science from Nankai University, followed by a Ph.D. from Weill Cornell Medical School / Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York. In 2005, he joined the laboratory of Dr. Robert A. Weinberg at the Whitehead Institute for his postdoctoral training. In 2011, Dr. Guo was recruited by the then newly established Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research and joined the Cell Biology faculty as an Assistant Professor. His research interests are in cellular plasticity in cancer progression and metastasis.

After earning both his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Keio University, Japan, Dr. Ito came to the United States in 2006 for his postdoctoral training at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In 2012, Dr. Ito was recruited to Einstein from Harvard Medical School, where he was an Instructor in Medicine, to join Cell Biology and the newly established Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Ito’s research program focuses on hematopoietic homeostasis, covering a variety of topics ranging from stem cell fate decisions to myelodysplastic syndrome, leukemia, and sickle cell disease pathogenesis.

Once again, the warmest congratulations to Drs. Guo and Ito! We truly appreciate your hard work and dedication to the department and the Einstein community.

Rama Kadamb

Postdoctoral fellow Dr. Rama Kadamb from the Aguirre-Ghiso lab gave an oral presentation at the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) held at Philadelphia (06th-09th Nov 2023). In her talk, she shared findings that NR2F1, a lineage commitment and dormancy regulator transcription factor, critically regulates disseminated cancer cell dormancy in spontaneous uveal melanoma (UM). Her study reveals that NR2F1 epigenetically opposes oncogenic Gq-YAP1 signaling, which drives progression of advanced metastatic disease in UM. These findings help elucidate the mechanism for the longstanding medical mystery surrounding late relapse in UM patients and hold promise for the development of anti-metastatic therapies.

Kira Gritsman

In a remarkable achievement that reflects her outstanding accomplishments as a physician scientist, Dr. Kira Gritsman, co-leader of the Montefiore Einstein Comprehensive Cancer Center Stem Cell & Cancer Biology Program and recently named Betty and Sheldon Feinberg Senior Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research, has been elected as an Active Member of The American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) for the year 2024. This news comes as part of the ASCI's announcement, where 100 Active and International members were elected to represent academic excellence across 50 different institutions. This recognition underscores Dr. Gritsman's significant contributions to academic medicine, making her a source of pride for Einstein's Cell Biology department. Dr. Gritsman will officially join this esteemed group at the ASCI Dinner and New Member Induction Ceremony on April 5, 2024, during the AAP/ASCI/APSA Joint Meeting at the Swissotel Chicago. ASCI, established in 1908, is one of the oldest and most respected medical honor societies in the United States. Congratulations, Dr. Gritsman!

New Students and Mentors

We are thrilled that 9 new graduate students recently declared a thesis lab in our department!! We eagerly welcome you and look forward to learning about your research projects, talent, and ambitions in various departmental forums. With so much to offer to our trainees, we encourage you to explore our diverse research programs, enjoy various departmental activities, and make new friends. We are confident that you will soon find Cell Biology a truly exciting place to pursue your graduate studies. Congratulations to our new students and their mentors!

  • Farzana Begum
    Mentors: Maria Marianovich & Ulrich Steidl

  • Sara Masavarpour
    Mentors: Roger Chang & Lindsay LaFave

  • Amber Buhagiar
    Mentor: Ulrich Steidl

  • Brendan Mullaley
    Mentor: Lindsay LaFave

  • Lionel Colon
    Mentor: Julio Aguirre-Ghiso

  • Ariel Raskin
    Mentor: Kristy Stengel

  • Eric Liu
    Mentor: Hilda Ye

  • Luis Valencia Salazar
    Mentor: Julio Aguirre-Ghiso

  • Noah Martin
    Mentor: Robert Singer

Lindsay LaFave

Congratulations to Dr. Lindsay LaFave for receiving 3 top awards in a row!

Since midsummer Dr. LaFave has been honored with a remarkable number of prestigious awards and grants: MECCC's Dempsey Scholar Award, AACR Career Development Award in Lung Cancer Research, and the V Foundation's 2023 V Scholar Program. Dr. LaFave's research program aims to elucidate the mechanisms of lung cancer progression by characterizing cellular diversity and plasticity based on the dynamic changes in the epigenetic landscape.

ISEH Group Photo

The Department of Cell Biology was well represented at the 52nd Annual Scientific Meeting of International Society of Experimental Hematology (ISEH), held in Brooklyn, New York, from 17-20 August 2023. This year, the conference featured oral presentations from internationally-renowned scientists, rising young investigators, and many trainees. It is a unique venue showcasing exciting science from around the world and offering networking opportunities for scientists at every career stage. More than 30 trainees and faculty from our department attended (including from the Bouhassira, Gritsman, Ito, Maryanovich, Nandakumar, Steidl, Stengel, Will, Ye laboratories), and many gave wonderful talks and/or well-received posters on their ongoing work. Dr. Samuel Taylor, a postdoctoral fellow in the Steidl lab received the prestigious Eugene Cronkite Award (1st Place Post-doc Award), and Dr. Daniel Lucas, an alumnus of our department and currently Associate Professor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, delivered the Paul S. Frenette Lecture. The meeting ended with a beautiful dinner river cruise around Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty on a gorgeous summer night. Dr. Ulrich Steidl, who served as the 2022-2023 president of ISEH, was one of the main organizers of the meeting. “It has been a great pleasure and honor! A big thank you to all attendees of ISEH2023, ISEH staff, new president Marella de Bruijn and the scientific program committee, and all the many additional volunteers for making this meeting so vibrant and memorable”, said Dr. Ulrich Steidl. “We will be forever grateful.”

Robert Coleman

Congratulations to Dr. Robert Coleman for a prestigious Chan Zuckerberg Initiative grant! This 2-year award will fund a team of Einstein researchers led by Dr. Rob Coleman that includes Dr. Louis Hodgson in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Dr. Vlad Verkhusha in the Department of Genetics. The Einstein team will be a part of an international consortium of research groups that will be examining Metabolism Across Different Scales. The Einstein team will develop optogenetic tools and metabolite biosensors that provide new insights into dynamic gene expression mechanisms controlling key cellular events, including circadian rhythm. More information about the award and other related funded projects can be found here.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 Dennis Shields Postdoctoral Research Prize:

Weihan Li

Weihan Li, Ph.D.
Department of Cell Biology
Laboratory of Dr. Robert H. Singer, Ph.D.

Peiqi Yin

Peiqi Yin, Ph.D.
Department of Cell Biology
Laboratory of Dr. Margaret Kielian, Ph.D.

Please join us for the award ceremony on Tuesday, October 24, 2023, at 10:00 am, in LeFrak Auditorium of the Price Center/Block Research Pavilion.

Lindsay Gurska

Lindsay Gurska, Ph.D. '23, who recently graduated from the Gritsman lab, was a recipient of the 2023 Julius Marmur Graduate Student Research Award. In her thesis project, Lindsay teamed up with her colleagues to show that crizotinib, a drug approved for non-small cell lung cancer, can suppress aberrant signaling in cells of patients with myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN), setting the framework for initiating clinical testing of crizotinib for MPN patients. Her work has led to several awards, including the American Society of Hematology Abstract Achievement Award, and she was first author on a paper published in Clinical Cancer Research. Congratulations Lindsay and Kira!

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Randall Carpenter

Dr. Randall Carpenter, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Maria Maryanovich, has received the prestigious Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Cancer Research Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conquering cancer through immunotherapies. In this 3 year project entitled “Regulation of innate and adaptive immune function in the leukemic microenvironment by sympathetic nerves and reactive oxygen species”. Dr. Carpenter will investigate how the sympathetic nerves regulate immune responses to leukemic within the bone marrow, where acute myeloid leukemia develops. The goal of this study is to harness the power of the neuro-immune communication to improve the ability of immune cells to seek out and destroy cancer. Additional information about Dr. Carpenter's fellowship can be found here. Congrats Randall!

Britta Will

Congratulations to Dr. Britta Will for being named one of this year's Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholars!

This highly prestigious award honors the innovative research Dr. Britta Will and her group conduct on hematopoietic stem cells and their role in driving two age-related and largely incurable blood cancers: acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes.

Founded in 1949, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting blood cancers worldwide. With its core mission to cure leukemia and lymphoma, LLS funds clinically impactful, cutting-edge research. It is also home to a substantial career development program that aims to accelerate the professional advancement of rising stars in the research community.

Our congratulations, Britta and members of the Will Lab!


Britta Will

Dr. Britta Will co-organized together with Dr. Alejandro Gutierrez (Boston Children's Hospital / Harvard Medical School) the 2023 Hematologic Malignancies Scientific Research Conference from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Since its launch in 1995, this highly interactive conference (held every two years) brings together researchers who work on all aspects of hematological malignancies including molecular pathogenesis of blood cancers, control of stem cell function and differentiation, chromatin biology, and new therapeutic strategies.

Britta was the first Einstein investigator elected to organize this prestigious meeting. The conference's 2023 iteration featured 53 oral presentations from internationally leading experts, early-stage investigators, and trainees as well as three lively poster sessions and workshops. The five-day conference drew 160 US-based and international participants and generated a lot of excitement. The program fostered engaged knowledge exchange and interdisciplinary collaborations. Junior investigators and trainees also enjoyed ample networking and career development opportunities. Several members of our own heme-focused groups attended and gave talks on their ongoing work, including Shira Glushakow-Smith (Ph.D. student in the Gritsman lab) and Drs. Marina Konopleva and Ulrich Steidl.

Weihan Li

Dr. Weihan Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Robert H. Singer, has received the prestigious NIH/NIGMS K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from NIH/NIGMS. This award will provide 2 years of support for Dr. Li's continued postdoctoral research at Einstein (K99 phase) followed by 3 years of independent funding after he transitions to a tenure-track faculty position (R00 phase). Dr. Li joined Albert Einstein College of Medicine as a postdoctoral fellow in November 2018 after completing his PhD in Biophysics at University of California, San Francisco. Since then, he has developed an improved RNA imaging system that has minimal perturbation to the RNA's stability (Li, W., Maekiniemi, A. et al. Nature Methods 2022), and was recognized with the American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr. Li's K99/R00 project is entitled "The Spatial Coordination Between Cytosolic and Mitochondrial Translation”. Congratulations Weihan on this first step to a successful future career!

Britta Will

Dr. Britta Will has been named as the new Diane and Arthur B. Belfer Scholar in Cancer Research. This endowed professorship was first established by the late long-time Einstein research supporters and Board members Mr. and Mrs. Belfer in 1998. It supports innovative basic and translational cancer research, and honors key contributions Britta and her team have been making to aid in understanding and targeting of leukemic stem cells in myeloid malignancies. Congratulations to Britta and the Will lab!

Ulrich Steidl

Congratulations to Dr. Ulrich Steidl on receiving the Edward P. Evans Endowed Professorship for Myelodysplastic Syndromes!

This highly prestigious testament of excellence honors Uli's vision for and most successful implementation of highly collaborative studies of myeloid malignancies at Einstein.

This is a new endowed professorship for Einstein and the eighth for faculty within our department. It was newly established here at Einstein by the Edward P. Evans Foundation, a philanthropic leader in supporting transformational and collaborative biomedical research in Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS).

In close collaboration with Dr. Amit Verma (DMB), Uli has created a highly unique and successful environment and fostered a growing team of basic and translational investigators conducting MDS or MDS-related research inside and outside of our department. This “MDS Team” includes Drs. Kristy Stengel, Britta Will, Keisuke Ito, Kira Gritsman, Satish Nandakumar, and Maria Maryanovich from our department of Cell Biology, as well as Teresa Bowman, Aditi Shastri (both DMB), and Marina Konopleva (MolPharm) – some of whom have been awardees of EvansMDS research funding. They are joined by an exceptional clinical team including Drs. Eric Feldman, Mendel Goldfinger, Ioannis Mantzaris, and others at Montefiore. Uli and Amit's efforts were internally recognized and honored by the creation of the Blood Cancer Institute at Montefiore Einstein in 2021.

We are deeply thankful to the Edward P. Evans Foundation for generously supporting Uli's vision and are beyond proud of this external recognition of his outstanding leadership in biomedical sciences. This is another great example of how highly impactful and rewarding team science reaches far beyond departmental borders at Einstein and Montefiore!

Congratulations, Uli - and keep going, MDS Team!!

Julia Aguirre-Ghiso, PhD

Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, Ph.D., is the new Rose C. Falkenstein Chair in Cancer Research. Julio is an international leader in cancer cell dormancy and metastasis and has helped lead a major shift in the cancer biology field by investigating how cancer cells hibernate, undetected, for long periods of time and what causes them to suddenly awaken to seed deadly, treatment-resistant metastases. His work is revealing ways to maintain residual cancer-cell dormancy, kill dormant cancer cells, and identify biomarkers for cancer recurrence. Julio is co-leader of the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program and founding director of the Cancer Dormancy and Tumor Microenvironment Institute at the Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center (MECC), as well as professor of cell biology, of oncology, and of medicine.

Matthew Scharff

Congratulations to Dr. Matthew Scharff on the occasion of his 90th Birthday Year!
The Department of Cell Biology is pleased to honor Dr. Scharff with this tribute video celebrating his outstanding career. It consists of contributions from some of Dr. Scharff's Einstein colleagues and former trainees. Please view the video here:

Dr. Scharff is a Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology and the Harry Eagle Professor of Cancer Research. He joined the faculty of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1963 and has served as Chair of the Department of Cell Biology and Director of the Albert Einstein Cancer Center. Dr. Scharff is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received many awards for his scientific accomplishments, his service to the scientific community, and his mentoring skills, including the 2015 Herzenberg Biolegend Award from the American Association of Immunologists. He has published more than 300 scientific papers and reviews and has trained 70 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows.

Jessie Larios-Valencia

The Department of Cell Biology would like to extend our warmest congratulations to Jessie Larios-Valencia, a MD/PhD predoctoral candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Wenjun Guo, who was recently awarded an NIH F31 Predoctoral Individual NRSA fellowship. He will be pursuing studies dissecting the role of dedifferentiation in basal-like breast cancer.


Emily Schwenger was awarded a Google Fellowship in the category of Health Research, which will directly support her graduate research in the Steidl Lab for 2-3 years. The award is granted to innovative research in areas relevant to computer science and related fields with the intention of supporting promising PhD candidates of all backgrounds who seek to influence the future of technology. Additional information on the fellowship can be found at Congratulations Emily!

On June 15, 2022, Drs. Uli Steidl and Amit Verma, longtime collaborators in the field of hematopoietic stem cells, myelodysplastic syndromes, and myeloid leukemias, presented the Montefiore Einstein Presidential Lectures. Established in 2017, this distinguished lecture series celebrates scientific excellence and the full spectrum of biomedical research at Einstein, and is normally presented by two faculty members working in the basic science and clinical investigation arena, respectively. Dr. Steidl's lecture is entitled “Understanding the Molecular and Cellular Pathogenesis of Myeloid Malignancies at the Stem Cell Level,” and Dr. Verma's lecture is entitled “Therapeutic Targeting of MDS and AML.”

More info on this award and Drs. Steidl and Verma's highly innovative work can be found at here.

Congratulations Uli and Amit!

Dr. Singer

Dr. Singer received the Lewis S. Rosenstiel award at Brandeis University on April 6th. More info on the award and the star-studded list of past awardees can be found at
His acceptance talk can be seen at

Maria Maryanovich

We are very happy to announce the newest addition to the Cell Biology faculty, Dr. Maria Maryanovich. Dr. Maryanovich received her Bachelor of Science from Ort Braude College of Engineering, followed by a Master of Science and a Ph.D. both from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. During her thesis study, she discovered a novel survival role for the pro-apoptotic protein BID in the context of HSC response to DNA damage and HSC maintenance. This work earned her the Elchanan E. Bondi Memorial Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. In 2014, Dr. Maryanovich joined the laboratory of late Dr. Paul S. Frenette at Einstein for postdoctoral training. Since then, she has been characterizing functional changes in the aging bone marrow, focusing on age-related remodeling of neural-niche interactions. In a very important and novel study, she demonstrated that systemic administration of sympathomimetics was sufficient to rejuvenate both niche and HSC functions in mice. Dr. Maryanovich has received several prestigious recognitions including the EMBO Long-Term Postdoctoral Fellowship, the NYSCF Druckenmiller Fellowship, and the Dennis Shields Postdoctoral Research Award from Einstein. In her independent lab, she will continue the current research theme and extend the work to age-related malignancies, such as AML. Her goal is to uncover new mechanisms underlying age-dependent stem cell dysfunction with the hope that such understanding may facilitate the development of stem cell rejuvenation therapies. Dr. Maryanovich's lab is in Price, Rm 113.

Yuhong Ma

Dr. Yuhong Ma, postdoctoral scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Britta Will, received one of the 2022 American Society of Hematology Scholar Awards! This prestigious and highly competitive three-year award program supports fellows and junior faculty dedicated to careers in hematology research as they transition from their training into careers as independent investigators. The award recognizes and supports Yuhong's exciting work on the role of chaperone-mediated autophagy in leukemic stem cell maintenance. Congratulations, Yuhong!