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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.


2019 PARE Award Recipients

Portrait of Karen BoschenKaren Boschen, PhD is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Scott Parnell in the Center for Alcohol Studies. Dr. Boschen earned her PhD in behavioral neuroscience at the University of Delaware in 2016. Her current research seeks to understand molecular events related to the pathogenesis of prenatal alcohol exposure. Specifically, her projects investigate the impact of alcohol on morphogenic signaling pathways that regulate face and brain development, as well as genetic factors that mediate risk and resiliency to prenatal alcohol exposure.

Portrait of Tao CheTao Che, PhD, is currently a postdoctoral research associate in the lab of Dr. Bryan Roth in the Department of Pharmacology. He received his PhD from the Department of Biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University, where his research aimed to figure out why some infectious pathogens are highly resistant to clinically available antibiotics. His postdoctoral work at UNC is interested in how drugs interact with their targets and then elicit both desirable and undesirable effects. In particular, he focuses on the opiate drugs and opioid receptors,  aimed at understanding the molecular mechanism of opioid receptor signaling and using this information to help develop safer, non-addictive pain medications.

Portrait of Lauren HillLauren Hill, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. Dr. Hill earned her PhD in Health Behavior from UNC Chapel Hill in 2017. She is behavioral scientist committed to addressing multilevel determinants of HIV/AIDS risk and treatment outcomes globally and domestically. Her research focuses on developing and evaluating interventions to promote women’s access and adherence to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Portrait of Chantel MartinChantel Martin, PhD is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Epidemiology and at the Carolina Population Center.  Dr. Martin earned her PhD in Epidemiology from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a social epidemiologist, her interdisciplinary research examines the extent to which exposure to adverse social (i.e. neighborhood disadvantage, socioeconomic adversity, and traumatic experiences) and physical (i.e. air pollution) environments during sensitive periods of development impact disparities in chronic disease risk across the life course, and investigates the biological mechanisms through which the social and environmental exposures produce health disparities. Dr. Martin currently conducting research funded by a career development award (K99/R00) through the NIMHD to explore the epigenetic mechanisms of prenatal environmental stressors and disparities in offspring obesity risk.

Portrait of Yu MiYu Mi, PhD, is a postdoctoral research associate in the lab of Dr. Andrew Wang. Dr. Mi earned his B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Tsinghua University and his Ph.D. degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the National University of Singapore. Then he continued his research in Houston Methodist Research Institute. Since 2015, he joined UNC-Chapel Hill and worked on the development, evaluation, and clinical translation of nanomaterials for biomedical applications. His current research is focused on precise spatiotemporal codelivery of immunomodulators for enhanced T-cell activation, and engineering highly effective neoantigen nanovaccines for personalized immunotherapy. His research is also related to preventing postsurgical adhesion through nano approaches and understanding the key factors of nanotherapeutics’ hepatotoxicity. His research in UNC has resulted in several high-profile papers, patents and a UNC start-up company. His career goal is to combine his expertise in materials science and cancer biology to address clinical issues and provide potential insights for the treatment of cancer patients.

Portrait of Lisa SpeesLisa Spees, PhD, is a post-doctoral researcher in the Cancer Care Quality Training Program at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is a health services researcher interested in examining and reducing health disparities among cancer populations. In particular, she focuses on improving cancer care quality and access among rural populations. To date, her research in this area has focused on identifying patient, provider, and organizational differences between urban and rural cancer populations across the cancer care continuum, such as rural patient preferences for cervical cancer screening and barriers to genomic testing encountered by rural providers. Additionally, she received a $50,000 Developmental Research Award from UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center to examine whether distance to care differentially influences urban and rural cancer patients’ access to guideline-concordant treatment.

Portrait of Aaron TeatorAaron Teator, PhD, is a postdoctoral research associate in the lab of Prof. Frank Leibfarth in the Department of Chemistry. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin under the mentorship of Prof. Christopher Bielawski, where his dissertation research centered on the development of externally switchable chemical reactivity through the design of photoswitchable N-heterocyclic carbene scaffolds. During his postdoc, Aaron has been primarily focused on addressing a long-standing challenge in polymer science: the synthesis of polar, semi-crystalline thermoplastics for next-generation engineering applications.

Portrait of Xiao YangXiao Yang, PhD, graduated from University of Science and Technology of China in 2009 majoring Geophysics. After finishing his Master degree in geophysics from The University of Hong Kong, he came to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study under the late Dr. Jose Rial in the Department of Geological Sciences, investigating teleconnections in abrupt climate changes occurred during the most recent ice age. After successfully defending his PhD in December 2016, he joined Dr. Tamlin Pavelsky’s Global Hydrology Lab at UNC working as a Postdoc Research Associate. Dr. Xiao Yang’s current research focuses on quantifying the status of and the change occurring to rivers and lakes around the world, projecting the changes into the future, and assessing the ecological, hydrological, and biogeochemical responses to the changes. The outcome of his research extends our understanding of the critical and valuable freshwater systems worldwide, at the same time supports NASA’s upcoming Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite mission, under which most of Dr. Yang’s current work has been funded.

Portrait of Yanyan YangYanyan Yang, PhD, A postdoctoral research associate in Aziz Sancar’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Dr. Yang earned her PhD from Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Her long-term goal is to understand the role of circadian clock in cisplatin-induced DNA damage repair on the cancer treatment. Her current research interests are: 1) How is the circadian clock control the DNA damage repair and how is the DNA damage repair effect the oscillation genes in circadian knockout mice; 2) How to improve the efficacy of cancer treatment by modulation of the time of chemotherapy treatments in patient derived xenograft mice.

Portrait of Yue ZhangYue Zhang, PhD received his doctoral degree from Harvard University in 2015. Upon graduation, he was awarded the NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship, through which he has been working with Professor Jason D. Surratt in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health while collaborating with Professor Barbara J. Turpin’s lab. He has led and worked on multiple research collaborations with Aerodyne Research, Boston College, MIT, Purdue University, UC Berkeley, and Stonybrook University. Dr. Zhang is also a National Institute of Health (NIH) training grant awardee. His research focuses on how atmospheric nanoparticles form, evolve, and impact climate and human health. To date, his work received multiple recognitions, including selection to the Atmospheric Chemistry Colloquium for Emerging Senior Scientists (ACCESS), the excellent presentation award at the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting, and best paper of 2018 by the Environmental Science and Technology Letters Journal by ACS.

Past Recipients


  • Hongwei Du, LCCC
  • Kathryn Harper, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies
  • Laura Raffield, Genetics
  • Wentao Li, Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Michael Sidorov, Cell Biology and Physiology
  • Cassandra Spracklen, Genetics
  • Marie Stoner, Carolina Population Center
  • Ludovic Troian-Gautier, Chemistry
  • Song Zhang, LCCC
  • Yang Zhou, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine


  • 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