The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is committed to promoting diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research workforce. In keeping with this goal, NIAMS is establishing an annual cohort/network of diversity supplement scholars and mentors with the mission of providing support and resources aimed to foster the scholars’ career trajectory towards an independent research career. This program aims to increase engagement as well as to help address scholars' needs throughout the evolution of the award.

During the award and beyond, we will provide scholars with information on Resources, Career Development and Funding Opportunities, as well as a Scholars’ Profiles page in an effort to increase collaboration and networking opportunities.

Resources

  • The NIAMS Coalition is an independent consortium of professional and voluntary organizations that is national in scope. These organizations raise awareness about NIAMS research into the basic understanding, causes, incidence, treatment, and prevention of diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, and skin.
  • Each year, the Office of Extramural Research (OER) sponsors the NIH Regional Seminars on Program Funding and Grants Administration. These seminars are intended to help demystify the application and review process, clarify Federal regulations and policies, and highlight current areas of special interest or concern. The seminars serve the NIH mission of providing education and training for the next generation of biomedical and behavioral scientist. NIH policy, grants management, review and program staff provide a broad array of expertise and encourage personal interaction between themselves and seminar participants. The seminars are appropriate for grants administrators, researchers new to NIH, and graduate students.

    Fall 2020 Virtual Seminar presentations

Career Development and Funding Opportunities

Scholars' Profiles

Alessandro A. Bailetti

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Alessandro A. Bailetti

Institution: Stanford University
Career Level: Postdoctoral
Brief Research Summary:Genetics and Genomics are two sides of the same coin and understanding these processes is essential to elucidate the complex mechanisms of differentiation. After studying the roles of genes in hematopoiesis and JAK/STAT signaling in Drosophila at NYU,  I am now at the Oro lab in Stanford University working on understanding the genomics of skin differentiation, cancer and abnormalities. In the Oro lab, my lab mates and I are using bioinformatic and gene editing techniques to understand the role of the genomic architecture in skin differentiation in vitro and in vivo. My current project is involved in studying the long range enhancers that might be associated to cleft lip and clef palate, which affect tens of thousands of children in the US and much more frequent around the world, every year.

Ilva Cabrera

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Ilva Cabrera Meleika

Institution: University of California, San Diego
Career Level: Postdoctoral
Brief Research Summary: T-tubules are extensive invaginations of the sarcolemma within the muscle fiber important for power of contraction. Perturbations of the T-tubule network are observed in both human skeletal and heart myopathies. My research is focused on understanding the cellular mechanisms that organize the T-tubule membrane network in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, by leveraging a powerful combination of genetics and microscopy imaging in intact muscle. I am addressing specific membrane trafficking roles for T-tubule dynamics during muscle remodeling. Understanding the T-tubule organization in muscle will help identify key regulators, with the hope of providing future insight of myopathy disease treatment.


Carlos Cruz

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Carlos Cruz

Institution: University of Florida (Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering)
Career Level: Predoctoral
Brief Research Summary: My Ph.D. research is centered around how the osteoarthritic joint and nervous system communicate with one another. Specifically, an attempt is underway to better understand the immune implications that result from such nervous system-joint interactions in osteoarthritis. In addition, an interest exists in evaluating novel techniques — such as the application of bioelectronic medicine — in order to more effectively mitigate the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. 


Sabrina Dumas

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Sabrina Dumas

Institution:Imbed Biosciences, Inc
Career Level: Investigator
Brief Research Summary: Existing solutions for wound infections include topical antimicrobials, systemic antibiotics, and cover dressings, which are insufficient, cause pain and toxic side effects, and add significant healthcare costs. Microlyte Ag-Ga is based on our flagship product Microlyte Ag, which is an advanced therapy for the treatment of burns, chronic ulcers, gastro-intestinal defects, and soft-tissue repair, that presents metallic and ionic silver on tissue surfaces to combat infection and pain, while also accelerating cell migration. Microlyte Ag-Ga includes gallium which breaks up biofilm where bacteria and fungi hide, thereby allowing the microbicidal effects of silver. My role is to act as assistant research manager on both murine and porcine wound healing studies using Microlyte Ag-Ga to accelerate wound healing.

Xavier Ferrer

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Xavier Ferrer

Institution: Columbia University; Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons
Career Level: Predoctoral
Brief Research Summary: I work in the Thomopoulos lab in the Columbia University Orthopedics Department studying rotator cuff disease which is the most common cause of shoulder pain in patients. We utilize a rodent model of rotator cuff injury and repair to learn more about how to improve outcomes in rotator cuff repair surgery. Our current project is investigating the utility of a novel drug that targets a pathway important for mineralization at the tendon insertion site. To do this, we sever the supraspinatus tendon at the insertion site, apply the novel drug, and repair the tendon. We then analyze CT scan and histology images, biomechanics data, and gene expression data to determine the drug's effect.  


Andre Francisco Gutierrez Marty

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Andres Marty

Institution: Boston University
Career Level: Predoctoral
Brief Research Summary: Modeling and understanding the inelastic behavior of cancellous bone to predict vertebral fracture on a patient-specific basis. My research aims to improve diagnosis and treatment of vertebral fractures by studying the mechanical behavior of osteoporotic and healthy bone. Cancellous bone found in vertebrae is prone to fracture and damage when exposed to high loads and large deformations. In these load regimes, the mechanical behavior of cancellous bone is poorly characterized, which limits our ability to make accurate computational predictions of subject-specific vertebral strength and stiffness to inform clinical decisions. My project will evaluate subject-specific candidate models of the mechanical behavior of cancellous bone in predicting the stress state for human vertebrae. The model predictions will be compared to experimental measurements obtained by high-resolution imaging of spinal segments mechanically tested in compression.


Jean L. Fry

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Jean Fry

Institution: University of Kentucky
Career Level: Postdoctoral / Investigator
Brief Research Summary: I am a clinical nutritionist with a background in exercise physiology and metabolism, and my overarching career goal is to become an independent scientist with a focus on optimizing nutrition for rehabilitation of common orthopedic injuries. My diversity supplement research project investigates how vitamin D status and vitamin D receptor expression in skeletal muscle affects recovery following an ACL tear and reconstruction surgery.


Astia Innis

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Astia Innis

Institution: Columbia University Medical Center
Career Level: Post-Baccalaureate
Brief Research Summary: I received a Bachelor of Arts in June 2020 and am planning on attending medical school in fall 2021. My current research project involves investigating the immunomodulatory properties of adipose derived stem cells (ASCs) in tendon healing. Prior research indicates that a robust inflammatory response is detrimental to tendon healing. In addition, it is shown that ASCs promote an anti-inflammatory response by polarization of macrophages at the injury site. Thus, we seek to determine the mechanism and clinically relevant efficacy of ASCs in modulating the early inflammatory phase of tendon healing. 


Carolina Leite

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Carolina Leite

Institution: AGelity Biomechanics
Career Level: Postdoctoral
Brief Research Summary: I have a Ph.D. in chemical engineering where the focus of my Ph.D. research was the optimization of batch size scale-up of styrene block copolymers polymerization and synthesis via nitroxide-mediated radical polymerization in a tubular reactor. I am currently working at AGelity Biomechanics as a Process Engineer through a Diversity Supplement to their SBIR Phase II grant. My work at AGelity includes the optimization of the manufacturing process and working with regulatory consultants to understand the next steps in bringing the AGelity Biomechanics implant to market. The challenges I face in this project and the interactions with my colleagues have greatly contributed to my personal and career growth.


Eunice Lozada-Delgado

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Eunice

Institution: Yale University
Career Level: Postdoctoral
Brief Research Summary: My studies involve the cell interactions between dermal adipocytes and melanoma cells and the molecular mechanisms driving those interactions in the skin. This is important since it has been previously shown by others that fatty acids released by adipocytes are taken up by adjacent melanoma cells promoting their growth. To understand these mechanisms, I use genetic mouse models as well as in vitro cell line models and single-cell sequencing data. 


Ernesto Morfin Montes de Oca

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Emmedo

Institution: University of Washington School of Medicine (Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine)
Career Level: Post-Baccalaureate
Brief Research Summary: I am interested in using zebrafish to understand the biological mechanisms underlying genetic risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis has a strong genetic component, however the mechanisms by which genetic variation influences osteoporosis risk are mostly unknown. My research focuses on understanding how genetic variants at a particular genomic region called 7q31.31 (also known as the CPED1-WNT16 locus) influence lifelong bone mineral density (BMD). Zebrafish are a useful model for my study due to their external development, optical transparency, and amenability to rapid-throughput approaches.

Jessica Pierce

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Jessica Pierce

Institution: Emory University
Career Level: Postdoctoral
Brief Research Summary: Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) is a rare, heritable, and currently untreatable disease of the musculoskeletal system characterized by uncontrolled endochondral heterotopic ossification (EHO) in soft tissues following injury or infection. FOP is caused by mutations in the Type 1 BMP receptor ACVR1/ALK2 and modulated by inflammation and innate immune cells—such as macrophages—that contribute to “flares” and EHO. Commensal gut micro- and macrobiota have been shown to regulate inflammatory tone and immune cell recruitment to injury sites, leading us to hypothesize that ablation of the gut microbiome would reduce EHO in FOP mice via reduced inflammation. We utilize various genetic models, stem cell transplantation techniques, flow cytometry, sequencing, and histological analyses to determine whether controlling micro- and macrobiota or their metabolites via nutrition, probiotics, or pharmaceuticals holds the potential to reduce disease severity in FOP.


Sara Grace Radecki

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Sara Radecki

Institution: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences 
Career Level: Predoctoral
Brief Research Summary: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease of unknown etiology that involves the influx of immune cells into synovium of inflamed, painful joints. This influx is critical in the development and progression of RA, but the specific populations and contributions of antigen-presenting cells such as macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs) still needs to be elucidated. Thus, using advanced technologies such as flow cytometry and single cell sequencing, my ongoing studies aim to examine transcriptional profiles of infiltrating DCs in the synovium and blood vessels surrounding the joints to characterize each DC population present in RA and determine DC-specific contributions to the disease. I believe this work will be highly relevant in unraveling the complex nature of rheumatic disease pathogenesis and hopefully lead to the identification of novel mechanisms that can be targeted for treating rheumatology patients in the future.


Gina Sanchez

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Gina Sanchez

Institution: Rutgers University
Career Level: Predoctoral
Brief Research Summary: Aberrantly regulated B cells produce autoantibodies that contribute to the development of systemic autoimmune diseases, such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. My work focuses on a subset of these B cells known as germinal center (GC) B cells. GC B cells are a unique subset of mature B cells that, upon receiving signals from CD4 T cells within a germinal center, mature into antigen-specific antibody-secreting cells. We found that in lupus-prone mice, GC B cells develop prior to onset of clinical disease, but as lupus progresses, they develop a change in their transcriptional landscape associated with increased autoantibodies. Our work aims to understand the dysregulation of B cells that occurs within the germinal center and how this correlates with development of autoimmunity.


Jaime Santillan

Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Career Level: Postdoctoral
Brief Research Summary:  I received a degree in Physics from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. I continued graduate education under the mentorship of Dr. Eduardo Nicolau, where I prepared polymeric scaffolds and evaluated the direct implications of physical cues in bone cells. Finally, I received my Ph.D. in Chemical-Physics in July 2020 and have just begun my postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Lou Soslowsky at the University of Pennsylvania. I am currently investigating new strategies to perform isolation and preserve collagen fibrils (roles of collagen XI and V) obtained from the mouse model before and after injury. I also study the mechanical and morphological properties of collagen fibrils using AFM. 

Brett Steineman

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Brett Steineman

Institution: Hospital for Special Surgery, Department of Biomechanics
Career Level: Postdoctoral
Brief Research Summary: Meniscal root tears are debilitating injuries that effectively eliminate the ability of menisci to transmit compressive loads into hoop stresses and to protect the articular cartilage of the knee. Differences in tear location, quality of meniscal tissue, and other factors create a challenge for determining the optimal surgical strategy. While many agree that the reduction of the meniscus to the native ‘anatomic’ position is required to restore function, this can be technically challenging to implement. As a result, meniscal root repairs are often reduced in various nonanatomic locations on the tibia, the functional consequences of which are poorly understood. I will be conducting simulations of level walking in cadavers and supplementing these experiments with computational models to quantify changes in contact mechanics and kinematics after anatomic and nonanatomic repairs. By combining the data generated from our approach, we aim to develop new clinical guidelines for the ideal position of meniscal root repairs to restore joint function.


Kayla Seymore

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Kayla Seymore

Institution: University of Delaware
Career Level: Predoctoral
Brief Research Summary: In patients with Achilles tendinopathy, it is currently unknown if patient symptoms, tendon morphology, mechanical properties, and calf muscle function relate to how someone loads their Achilles tendon while performing functional activities. Additionally, 40% of patients with Achilles tendinopathy develop pain and symptoms on the contralateral side and the reason for this has not previously been investigated. My doctoral research will address the effects of Achilles tendon injury on lower limb biomechanics. Currently, I'm utilizing ultrasound imaging and motion capture techniques to investigate the relationship between lower limb biomechanics and injury severity, as well as loading patterns associated with injury occurrence on the healthy contralateral limb of patients with Achilles tendinopathy. My long-term research focus is on lower limb soft tissue biomechanics and sport injury, with specific interest in using in vivo medical imaging technology to determine how architectural and material properties of muscle and tendon can be modulated with exercise to reduce musculoskeletal injury risk and/or improve quality of life for both healthy and pathological populations.


Alyssa Torres

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Alyssa Torres

Institution: University of California San Diego
Career Level: Post-Baccalaureate
Brief Research Summary: My research consists of the metabolism of fibroblast-like synoviocytes in rheumatoid arthritis. In this disease, fibroblast-like synoviocytes express aggressive phenotypes and invade cartilage, proliferate, and migrate in the synovium. We are looking for potential metabolic targets to manipulate and reduce this aggressive phenotype and thus help reduce symptoms of inflammation and pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. 


Donyell Williams

Institution: UConn School of Medicine
Career Level: Predoctoral
Brief Research Summary: The research project that I am currently working on involves the role of Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 (FGF2) in the development of enthesopathy using a mouse model. The enthesis is a specialized tissue that allows for a gradual transition between soft tissue and bone, ultimately dissipating the high stress levels found between two dissimilar materials. In this context enthesopathy refers to excessive mineralization, inflammation, or general disorganization of the enthesis.

 

 

Last Updated: July 2021