Each year, the Postdoctoral Awards for Research Excellence are given in recognition of the research promise demonstrated by individual postdoctoral scholars. The awards are open to postdoctoral scholars in all disciplines and are designed to assist postdoctoral scholars in their continued professional development by supporting the recipients in conference travel, purchasing books, lab materials, or engaging in other scholarly activities that directly enhance the individual’s professional growth. Each recipient receives a monetary award of a $1,000 along with a plaque.


2018 PARE Awards Presentation

2018 Award Recipient Bios:


 Hongwei Du, PhD completed his research in Dr. Xiaochen Wang’s laboratory at the National Institute of Biological Sciences (NIBS), Beijing, China, and received his PhD degree in January 2013. In January 2014, he joined in the Houston Methodist Hospital Research Institute as a postdoc, and worked on cancer immunology, in particularly, investigating the role of Treg in shaping the immunosuppressive microenvironment in solid tumors, and cloning NY-ESO-1 specific TCR from tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. In June 2015, he joined in Dr. Dotti’s lab at UNC, and worked on developing new chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells for treating solid tumors, and designing novel strategies to improve the functionality of CAR-Ts in preclinical models. After three years of hard work in Dr. Dotti’s lab, he has successfully developed a CAR-T for targeting pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and ovarian cancer. These data are now ready for publication, which was submitted to Cancer Cell and are under revision, and generated a recently filed provisional patent. He is dedicated to exploring novel targetable antigens for solid tumor CAR-T therapy, and developing new strategies to enhance the CAR-Ts’ infiltration into solid tumors, overcome the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment and prolong the CAR-Ts persistent and proliferation. His professional goal is to contribute to cancer immunotherapy and eventually help cancer patients.

Kathryn Harper, PhD is a postdoctoral research associate in the lab of Dr. George Breese in the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. After earning her PhD in neuroscience from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Harper developed a research program with the goal of identifying novel therapies for the treatment of stress and alcohol associated disorders. In particular, she investigates modifications in the neuroimmune system induced by alcohol and stress, and how such changes may underlie certain maladaptative behaviors associated with neuropsychiatric disorders.

Wentao Li, PhD is a postdoctoral research associate in Dr. Aziz Sancar’s laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the School of Medicine. He completed his PhD from the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at Louisiana State University in 2014. Dr. Li’s longstanding interest is to understand the mechanisms of DNA damage and repair induced by environmental carcinogens. His current research has focused on genome-wide mapping and analysis of environmental carcinogen-induced DNA damage formation and repair in the hope of improving the strategies for human cancer treatment.

Laura Raffield, PhD is a genetic epidemiologist focused on analysis of hematology and hemostasis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes related traits, particularly in underrepresented African American and Hispanic/Latino populations. Her postdoctoral work at UNC has focused on analysis of whole genome sequencing data from NHLBI’s Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine initiative.

Michael Sidorov, PhD earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience at MIT in 2014. He is broadly interested in understanding how experience modifies synapses, cells, and circuits, and how these processes are disrupted in mouse models of human disease. He currently focuses on how experience modifies synapses and circuits in mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders, using in vivo and in vitro methods.

Cassandra Spracklen, PhD is a postdoctoral research fellow in Karen Mohlke’s lab in the Department of Genetics. Dr. Spracklen earned both her master’s and PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Iowa. The overarching theme of her research is to discover how genetic variants influence cardiometabolic traits and the mechanisms through which they act. The goal of her research is to combine epidemiologic, genetic, and bioinformatic methodologies together to tease apart results from genome-wide association studies and identify which DNA variants are ultimately responsible for a given cardiometabolic trait.

Marie Stoner, PhD is a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Carolina Population Center. She is social and infectious disease epidemiologist who is interested in the social and structural determinants of reproductive and sexual health outcomes among adolescent girls and young women. Specifically, she seeks to understand 1) pathways by which factors like education and poverty influence sexual health behavior and risk of HIV; and 2) how to intervene on multilevel risk and protective factors to create more effective combined biomedical, behavioral and structural intervention approaches to reduce risk of HIV in girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ludovic Troian-Gautier, PhD received his B.S. (2008), M.S (2010) and Ph.D. in chemistry (2014) from the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB – Belgium) under the supervision of Prof. C. Moucheron and guidance of Prof. A. Kirsch-De Mesmaeker. His research focused on the development of novel transition metal complexes for opto-electronic applications. He then undertook post-doctoral research at X4C, a new start-up, under the supervision of Prof. I. Jabin and Dr. A. Mattiuzzi where he worked on surface modification using calix[4]arene derivatives. End of 2015, he received the Belgian American Educational Foundation (BAEF) fellowship and the Bourse d’Excellence WBI.World (2016-2018) to undertake postdoctoral research with Prof. Gerald J. Meyer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). In April 2017, he joined the UNC Energy Frontier Research Center, the Alliance for Molecular PhotoElectrode Design for Solar Fuels (AMPED EFRC), directed by Pr. Gerald J. Meyer. His research interests at UNC are centered around solar energy. More specifically, he focuses on the development of novel molecular photocatalysts and their use in the development of novel photoelectrodes that in turn can generate so-called “solar fuels”.

Song Zhang, PhD earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Nankai University in 2012. He is interested in bridge the gap between adaptive immunology and innate immunology to ultimately lead to the cure of autoimmune disease. He currently focuses on innate immunology field, and fully equipped with T cell experiences. The innate signaling in adaptive immunity would be of great interest for understanding the autoimmune machinery, and also would be beneficial for drug development.

Yang Zhou, PhD is a postdoctoral researcher at the McAllister Heart Institute & Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. She completed her PhD from the Chinese Academy of Sciences at Shanghai, China in 2014. Dr. Zhou’s interests have long been focused on understanding cellular and molecular basis of direct cardiac reprogramming, which converts a somatic non-myocyte directly into an induced cardiomyocyte, and applying the knowledge to improve clinical applicability and efficiently of this novel approach. Her recent research focus and past achievements in this broad area include: single-cell transcriptomics of cardiac reprogramming, comparative analysis of cardiac reprogramming, epigenetic regulation of direct cardiac reprogramming, and microRNA and stem cell differentiation. Combining her interests in regenerative medicine, epigenetics, and gene regulation with her rigorous training in stem cell biology and cardiovascular biology, she looks forward to developing her independent research contributing to comprehensive understanding of genetic and epigenetic regulation for cell fate determination, which will ultimately aid in the achievement of regenerative therapy and personalized medicine in the future.


Past Recipients


  • Lauren Gaydosh, Sociology
  • Zhe Ma, LCCC
  • Rajendra Mitra, Ophthalmogoly
  • Ciara O’Flanagan, Nutrition
  • Renato Sampaio, UNC Energy Frontier Research Center


  • Aadra Bhatt, Chemistry
  • Sarah Davies, Marine Sciences
  • Dan Dickenson, Biology
  • Tory Eiselohr-Moul, Psychiatry
  • Lori Hoggard, Center for Health Equity Research
  • Gabriel Lazaro, Center for Genomics and Society
  • Catherine Marcinkiewcz, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies
  • Saray Shai, Mathematics
  • Aussie Suzuki, Biology
  • Amanda Van Swearingen, LCCC


  • Kemi Doll, Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Byron Farnum, Chemistry
  • Adam Gracz, Gastroenterology and Hematology
  • Jinchuan Hu, Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Amy Johnson, Nutrition
  • Lavar Munroe, Art
  • Anya Prince, Social Medicine
  • Jeremy Rotty, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Dane Taylor, Mathematics
  • Jason Yi, Pharmacology


  • Yosuf Aachoui, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
  • Yacine Boulaftali, McAllister Heart Institute
  • Marci Cottingham, Department of Social Medicine
  • Shannon Crowley, Department of Psychiatry
  • Anne Justice, Department of Epidemiology
  • Peng Kang, Department of Chemistry
  • Anthony Lau, Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Vineet Menachery, Department of Epidemiology
  • Mika Mustonen, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • William Sturkey, Department of History


  • J. Mauro Calabrese, Department of Genetics
  • Shobhan Gaddameedhi, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Matteo Giletta, Department of Psychology
  • Jennifer Kane, Carolina Population Center
  • Portia Kunz McCoy, Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology
  • Jennifer Prairie, Departments of Mathematics and Marine Sciences
  • Scott Rothbart, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Sara Trace, Department of Psychiatry/Eating Disorders Program
  • Daisuke Urano, Department of Biology
  • Aaron Vannucci, Department of Chemistry


  • Sandra Albrecht, Carolina Population Center
  • Jessica Baker, Department of Psychiatry/Eating Disorders Program
  • Vivian Gama, Department of Neuroscience Center
  • Hsien-Sung Huang, Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology
  • Mosi Ifatunji, Department of Sociology/Carolina Population Center (Carolina Postdoc for Faculty Diversity)
  • Kathryn Muessig, School of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease
  • Tadashi Nakagawa, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Dileep Varma, Department of Biology
  • Haitao Wen, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Jason Wolff, Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities


  • Karla Ausderau, Allied Health Sciences
  • Silvia Bezer, Department of Chemistry
  • Karl D. Castillo, Department of Marine Sciences
  • Zuofeng Chen, Department of Chemistry
  • Tae-Yeon Eom, Neuroscience Center
  • Nuri Ozturk, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Kimberly Powers, Departments of Epidemiology and Medicine
  • Laura Widman, HIV/STD Infectious Disease Center
  • Nathalie Williams, Carolina Population Center
  • Pengcheng Xun, Department of Nutrition


  • Cendra Agulhon, Department of Pharmacology
  • Christy Avery, Department of Epidemiology
  • Janne Boone-Heinonen, Interdisciplinary Obesity Training/Carolina Population Center
  • Jacquelyn Bower, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Charles Davis, Department of Art History (Carolina Postdoc for Faculty Diversity)
  • Jun Li, Molecular Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy
  • Paul Reiter, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Courtney Thaxton, Department of Cell & Molecular Physiology
  • Yang Wang, Department of Pharmacology
  • Angela Wendel, Department of Nutrition


  • Irving Coy Allen, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Sergio Chavez, Carolina Population Center
  • Joyee Ghosh, Department of Biostatistics
  • Tae-Hong Kang, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Conggang Li, Department of Chemistry
  • Liqing Ma, Department of Chemistry
  • Aaron Neumann, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Nasser Rusan, Biology Department
  • Mindy Steiniger, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Kai Ziervogel, Department of Marine Sciences


  • Guohua Cao, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Javier Concepcion, Department of Chemistry
  • Molly De Marco, Sheps Center for Health Services Research
  • Paul Hoertz, Department of Chemistry
  • Xiaoyang Hua, Pulmonary Division of the Department of Medicine & Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology
  • Ajit Joglekar, Department of Biology
  • Alexey Savelyev, Department of Chemistry
  • Naomi Spence, Carolina Population Center
  • Jill Weimer, Neuroscience Research Center
  • Shuangye Yin, Department of Biochemistry


  • James Patrick Cronin, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Mathew Dupre, Carolina Population Center
  • Matthew Frieman, Hooker Research Center, School of Public Health
  • Hegui Gong, Department of Chemistry
  • Laura Halperin, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • Heidi M. Mansour, Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy
  • Dan Marston, Department of Biology
  • Joanna Poblete-Cross, Department of History
  • Rachael Rigby, Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology
  • Leslie Sombers, Department of Chemistry


  • Zhongying Chen, Department of Biology
  • Shannon Davis, Carolina Population Center
  • Nora Franceschini, Department of Epidemiology
  • Andrea (Nackley) Neely, School of Dentistry’s Center for Neurosensory Disorders
  • Thomas Parsons, Department of Neurology
  • David Singleton, Department of ESE
  • Anthony Yannarell, Institute of Marine Sciences


  • Melanie Bishop, Institue of Marine Sciences
  • Jennifer DeLuca, Department of Biology
  • Feng Ding, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics
  • Jay Garcia, Carolina Postdoc for Faculty Diversity
  • Steven Hitlin, Carolina Population Center
  • Karen Kim, Department of Health Behavior & Health Education
  • Craig Lee, Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics
  • Kristopher Preacher, Department of Psychology
  • Eric Wagner, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics


  • J. Scott Brown, Carolina Population Center
  • David Carr, Carolina Population Center
  • Daniela Cimini, Department of Biology
  • Raymond Coakley, Cystic Fibrosis/Pulmonary Research and Treatment Center
  • Timothy Donaldson, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Heidi Gazelle, Center for Developmental Science
  • Aiguo Hu, Department of Chemistry
  • Robert Maile, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
  • Hengbin Wang, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Francis Willard, Department of Pharmacology