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Current Award and Grant Recipients

Below are brief biographies for American Skin Association's 2021 grantees. Among the information included is the title of the grant, the name of the sponsoring institution and the focus of the grant recipient's research.

  • Elena Piskounova, PhD

    Elena Piskounova, PhD
    2021 ASA Daneen & Charles Stiefel Investigative Scientist Award for Melanoma Research
    Weill Cornell Medicine
    Topic: The Role and Regulation of Nucleotide Metabolism in Metastatic Melanoma

    Elena Piskounova, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Cell Biology in Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Piskounova received her PhD from Harvard Medical School in Biological and Biomedical Sciences focusing on post-transcriptional regulation of let-7 microRNAs by RNA-binding proteins Lin28A and B in the context of cancer. After graduate school, Dr. Piskounova went on to do her postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Sean Morrison at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. There she focused on establishing a model of melanoma metastasis using patient-derived tumors and showed that oxidative stress is a major barrier for the survival of metastasizing melanoma cells in the blood and visceral organs. Since establishing her own laboratory at the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine in 2017, Dr. Piskounova has been focused on identifying novel mechanisms of stress resistance that enable melanoma metastasis, which can be harnessed as therapeutic targets specific to metastatic disease.

  • Andrew Ji, MD

    Andrew Ji, MD
    2021 ASA Milstein Research Scholar Award Melanoma/Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
    Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
    Topic: Tumor Subpopulation-Driven Stromal Remodeling in SCC

    Andrew Ji, MD is an incoming Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Prior to joining Mount Sinai, he was a Clinical Instructor at Stanford University and a postdoctoral fellow in the Lab of Dr. Paul Khavari. He received his S.B. in biological engineering from MIT, his MD from Weill Cornell Medical College, and completed dermatology residency training at Stanford. During medical school, Dr. Ji completed an HHMI Fellowship in the Lab of Dr. Joan Massagué at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Dr. Ji’s laboratory focuses on understanding how intercellular communication in the skin cancer tumor microenvironment contributes to intratumoral heterogeneity and treatment resistance leveraging single-cell and multi-omic approaches. He maintains a weekly clinic where he sees general dermatology patients.

  • Ester Del Duca, MD

    Ester Del Duca, MD
    2021 ASA Milstein Research Scholar Award Atopic Dermatitis
    Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
    Topic: Skin and Blood Characterization of the African and African American AD Molecular Phenotype

    Ester Del Duca, MD is a Dermatologist post-doctoral fellow in the Center for Excellence in Eczema, and the Laboratory of Inflammatory Skin Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York. She earned her MD from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Campus Bio-Medico in Rome, Italy, and her Residency board certification from Tor Vergata University in Rome, Italy. After her Italian Board certification in dermatology, Dr. Del Duca moved to the U.S. to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at Mount Sinai School of Medicine under Dr. Emma Guttman-Yassky’s mentorship and she is currently working on inflammatory skin diseases. Her major focus is atopic dermatitis (AD). Dr. Del Duca is contributing to the paradigm-shifting discoveries on the immunologic basis of AD in different phenotypes in humans, enriching the understanding of the pathophysiology of this disease. Recently she has extended her research interest to tape stripping method as a minimally invasive method of skin sampling to study inflammatory skin diseases. Dr. Del Duca is currently a member of several national and international dermatology societies.

  • Nuria Martinez Gutierrez, PhD

    Nuria Martinez Gutierrez, PhD
    2021 ASA Calder Research Scholar Award Vitiligo/Pigment Cell Disorders
    University of Massachusetts Medical School
    Topic: Targeting the Arginine Pathway in Cytotoxic CD8+ T Cells to Treat Vitiligo

    Nuria Martinez, PhD, is an Instructor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS). She received her PhD in Biology at the University of Barcelona in 2008 and she joined the UMMS as a post-doctoral fellow to study the association between metabolic disorders, autoimmunity, and infections. In recent years, Dr. Martinez’s research interests shifted to the metabolism of T cells and how it is involved in their function and fate. Dr. Martinez started working in the laboratory of Dr. Harris in 2019, she found that CD8 T cells from vitiligo patients have a characteristic metabolic profile, where the uptake and metabolism of amino acids play an important role in their cytokilling activity. Her goal is to find a metabolic pathway that can be targeted in CD8 T cells and design a drug to prevent or reverse depigmentation in vitiligo patients.

  • Ivan Jozic, PhD

    Ivan Jozic, PhD
    2021 ASA Novartis Research Scholar Award Psoriasis/Inflammatory Skin Disease
    University of Miami
    Topic: Elucidating the Role of Caveolin-1 in Pathophysiology of Psoriasis

    Ivan Jozic, PhD is a Research Assistant Professor in the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where he has been a faculty member since 2018. Dr. Jozic’s research focuses on the role of specialized membrane microdomains (caveolae) in cutaneous physiology and pathophysiology. His current research centers on elucidating the role that caveolins (structural components of caveolae) have in psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions. Dr. Jozic is also interested in the mechanism of cellular migration and wound re-epithelialization. He is currently developing hydrogels that target caveolae for the treatment of diabetic foot and venous leg ulcers, proteomic and lipidomic approaches to dermatology research, and proteomic and lipidomic biomarkers of skin diseases. He is a member of the Wound Healing Society, American Society for Cell Biology, and is a reviewer for NIH ZRG1 SBIB Study Section.

  • Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD

    Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD
    2021 ASA Pfizer Research Scholar Award Atopic Dermatitis
    Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
    Topic: Uncovering Cerebral Biomarkers of Itch in Atopic Dermatitis Towards Drug Discovery

    Dr. Chovatiya received his MD and PhD from Yale University where he trained in the Department of Immunobiology. He completed his internal medicine internship at Yale, followed by his dermatology residency at Northwestern University. In addition to serving as Chief Resident, Dr. Chovatiya pursued additional translational research training to better characterize the burden of itch in atopic dermatitis as a postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Chovatiya’s area of clinical focus in dermatology is chronic inflammatory skin diseases, with a special focus on atopic dermatitis, eczema, and chronic itch, in addition to psoriasis, hidradenitis, and other immune-mediated conditions. Dr. Chovatiya’s research interests include patient-reported outcomes, health services research, epidemiology, implementation science, and the development of novel therapeutics. Currently, he is studying cerebral mechanisms of itch signaling in AD, leveraging neuroimaging to uncover new biomarkers of chronic itch. This grant will enable more accurate phenotyping of AD patients and ultimately, the development of new, mechanistically driven, targeted therapies for AD itch.

  • Nicholas Theodosakis, MD, PhD

    Nicholas Theodosakis, MD, PhD
    2021 Mulvaney Family Foundation Research Grant Vitiligo/Pigment Cell Disorders
    Massachusetts General Hospital
    Topic: Exploring Neurodegenerative Synucleinopathies as a Model for Chronic Hyperpigmentation

    Nicholas Theodosakis, MD, PhD, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia in 2008 before spending a year in Tokyo, Japan performing esophageal cancer research at Juntendo University. Dr. Theodosakis then went on to pursue his MD and PhD at the Yale School of Medicine, where he completed his graduate work in the lab of Dr. Marcus Bosenberg studying the metabolomic effects of targeted therapy in melanoma. Before graduating, Dr. Theodosakis also completed a one-year postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Keith Choate studying the genetic underpinnings of blaschkolinear inflammatory disorders. After medical school, Dr. Theodosakis completed his residency training with the Harvard Combined Dermatology Residency Program, where he developed both a clinical and scientific interest in skin of color, pigmentary disorders, and melanocyte biology. To continue his work in these fields, Dr. Theodosakis chose to pursue his postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Dr. David Fisher at The Massachusetts General Hospital.

  • Joel Sunshine, MD, PhD

    Joel Sunshine, MD, PhD
    2021 ASA Castle Biosciences Research Grant Melanoma
    Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
    Topic: mRNA Nanoparticle Vaccination for Melanoma Immunotherapy

    Joel Sunshine, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Dermatopathology, and Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Sunshine completed his MD and PhD at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Biomedical Engineering and went on to pursue a residency in Dermatology and fellowship in Dermatopathology at Northwestern University. Dr. Sunshine’s clinical interest focuses on taking care of patients with melanoma and other skin cancers and his research is centered on new approaches to better understand and modulate the immunologic response to their cancers. Using multiplex immunofluorescence (mIF), spatial profiling, and digital pathology, Dr. Sunshine is developing novel biomarkers of response and resistance to immunotherapy. Additionally, his lab is creating new methods to modulate the anti-tumor immunologic response using novel non-viral nucleic acid-based therapeutics to boost the antitumor immune response and mitigate initial and acquired resistance to treatment with immunotherapies.

  • Vivian Hua

    Vivian Hua
    2021 ASA David Lyons Medical Student Grant Targeting Melanoma and Skin Cancer
    Stanford University School of Medicine
    Topic: Characterizing Novel Variants in Individuals with Frequent Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC)

    Vivian Hua is a fourth-year medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine. She graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Neurobiology and a secondary in English. Her current research in the Sarin lab uses whole-genome sequencing to identify rare genetic variants in patients who develop frequent basal cell carcinomas.

  • Sabrina Ghalili

    Sabrina Ghalili
    2021 ASA Milstein Medical Student Grant for Research in Inflammatory Skin Disease at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
    Downstate School of Medicine
    Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
    Topic: COVID-19 and Inflammatory Skin Diseases

    Sabrina Ghalili is a rising fourth-year medical student at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine. Sabrina has a strong interest in research, with a focus on Dermatology, and has had papers featured in JAMA Dermatology and Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Sabrina is highly involved in medical education and curriculum development. Before attending medical school, Sabrina was an Investment Banker with the Healthcare group at Goldman Sachs and received her B.S. in Finance from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

  • Amanda Zhou

    Amanda Zhou
    2021 ASA Medical Student Grant Targeting Melanoma and Skin Cancer
    Yale University
    Topic: Discovery and Application of Natural Products for the Prevention of Skin Cancer

    Amanda Zhou is a fourth-year medical student at Yale School of Medicine working in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Girardi. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a degree in Human Biology and a minor in Musical Studies. She previously completed a fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center working on a community-based participatory research project aiming to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors and increase rates of cancer screening. Her current research in the Girardi laboratory at the intersection of photobiology, photochemistry, and nanotechnology focuses on the development of novel technologies for photoprotection to enhance current skin cancer prevention strategies.

  • Michael Chang

    Michael Chang
    2021 ASA Medical Student Grant Targeting Melanoma and Skin Cancer
    Brigham and Women’s Hospital
    Topic: Tumoral and Clinical Risk Factors for Cutaneous Adverse Events in Melanoma Patients on Immunotherapy

    Michael S. Chang is a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School. He is pursuing a clinical research year focusing on melanoma and dermatoepidemiology with Dr. Rebecca Hartman at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the VA Boston Healthcare System. He is passionate about pursuing a future career focused on oncodermatology and health disparities. Prior to medical school, Michael graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, with a degree in Molecular Biology. As an undergraduate, he completed a senior thesis on malaria and hepatitis B under Dr. Alexander Ploss at Princeton, as well as an additional thesis in structural biology at the University of Oxford.

Recipients list by year: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

Complete List of Research Grant & Award Recipients