MI3 Directory

Vanessa Bellat Laboratory

Vanessa Bellat
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Vanessa Bellat, Ph.D.
  • Instructor of Chemistry

By developing smart nanomedicines, Dr. Vanessa Bellat aims to achieve more specific and effective cancer treatment drug delivery. One of her main objectives is improving the safety and efficacy of chemotherapeutic treatments by designing on-demand nanocarriers that display organ-specific targeting and/or retention properties.

 

Sarah M. Cheal Laboratory

Sarah M. Cheal
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Sarah M. Cheal, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry

Dr. Sarah Cheal is originally from Santa Rosa, California. She received her B.S. in Biochemistry from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of California, Davis, in the Claude F. Meares group. She spent two years working with Gary Griffiths at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Imaging Probe Development Center core facility and did her postdoc at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the laboratory of Steven M. Larson. She enjoys visiting the national parks and exploring NYC/Long Island with her husband (Tony) and two children (Dominick and Lucia).

Brett A. Vaughn
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Brett A. Vaughn, Ph.D.
  • Ph.D.

Brett Vaughn received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Stony Brook University in 2021 for his work on the development of theranostic bifunctional chelators in the Eszter Boros group. He was a postdoc in the Steven Larson lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2021 working on pre-targeted radiotherapy. Currently, he is continuing that pre-targeting work as a post-doc in the Sarah Cheal lab at Weill Cornell School of Medicine. He received his B.S. in chemistry from Kansas State University in 2010 where he worked on gallium-doped quantum dots. Brett is from Denver, Colorado, and he enjoys cooking, movies, and bicycling.

Daniela Burnes Vargas
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Daniela Burnes Vargas
  • Research Specialist

Daniela Burnes Vargas is originally from Monterrey, Mexico, and moved to the U.S. in 2015. She obtained a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in biosystems and biosignals from the University of Rochester in 2018 and is currently pursuing an M.S. in pharmaceutical chemistry from the University of Florida. She is experienced working with radioactivity and conducting animal and cell-based experiments.

Moustafa Gabr Laboratory

Moustafa Gabr
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Moustafa Gabr, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Gabr completed his undergraduate studies in pharmaceutical sciences at Mansoura University. As an undergraduate student, he pursued research internships at the Complutense University of Madrid and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. After earning his master’s degree in medicinal chemistry and drug design in a joint program between Georgia State University and Mansoura University, he earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Iowa. His Ph.D. work focused on developing fluorescence-based theranostics for cancer and neurological disorders. Dr. Gabr completed his postdoctoral studies in the Gambhir lab at Stanford University where his work focused on developing small molecule immunomodulators as well as carbohydrate-based positron emission tomography (PET) tracer for molecular imaging of early bacterial infections.

Moonsoo Jin Laboratory

Moonsoo Jin
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Moonsoo Jin, Ph.D.
  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Moonsoo Jin is director of the Molecular Imaging Innovations Institute (MI3), and associate professor of biomedical engineering in radiology and surgery. He received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Seoul National University, and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in mechanical engineering. He conducted postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School, and joined the biomedical engineering department at Cornell University as a faculty member and principal investigator. In 2013, he moved his primary appointment to radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, and joined the newly established Molecular Imaging Innovations Institute (MI3). Since then, his research group has worked on a new technology for cancer immunotherapy, leveraging its expertise in antibody and cell engineering, and imaging techniques. In particular, the group has developed chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells specific to tumor cells overexpressing ICAM-1 and other tumor antigens, and a new imaging technique for imaging CAR T cells in patients. Dr. Jin received a New Investigator Recognition Award from the Orthopedic Research Society; a Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association; a National Institutes of Health Transformative Research Award; and a Distinguished Investigator Award from The Academy for Radiology and Biomedical Imaging Research.  

Yanping Yang
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Yanping Yang, Ph.D.
  • Instructor of Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Yang’s graduate training was in radiopharmaceutical chemistry. Her postdoctoral training was in molecular and cellular engineering. Her interests include developing next-generation chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, and combinatorial therapy for cancer.  

Yago Alcaina
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Yago Alcaina, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Associate

Yago Alcaina, Ph.D., is a cellular biologist specializing in animal tumor models for translational research. He is a postdoctoral associate in Dr. Moonsoo Jin’s laboratory in the Molecular Imaging Innovations Institute, a research group in the radiology department at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM). He graduated from Autonoma University in Madrid in 2013, and has had previous postdoctoral experiences in Dr. Gerald Schatten’s laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, and Dr. Benedict Law’s laboratory at WCM. Currently, Dr. Alcaina is working on the development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies for the treatment of several cancers. 

Irene Min
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Irene Min, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology Research

Irene M. Min, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of molecular biology research in the surgery department at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Min received her B.S. in biology from Sogang University, and her M.Phil. from the department of physiology, Cambridge University. She earned her Ph.D. in genetics from Tufts University School of Medicine. She trained with a leader in stem cell biology at Harvard Medical School, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University, where she was awarded an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellowship for two years. Dr. Min’s research has been broadly concerned with the recognition of tumor-associated antigens by antibodies and T lymphocytes.  She has been working on a new technology in immuno-oncology, leveraging her expertise in gene expression analysis and genetic engineering. Currently, her team is developing a technology, and a protocol, to increase the therapeutic efficacy of adoptive T cell therapy  in endocrine  cancers. She has authored many publications in high-impact, peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Min has been supported by the Emerson Cancer Research Foundation, New York State Stem Cell Science, the American Thyroid Association, and the North American Neuroendocrine Tumor Society. 

Yogindra Vedvyas
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Yogindra Vedvyas, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Associate

Yogindra Vedvyas received his Ph.D. from Cornell University. His research focuses on molecular imaging with nanobodies.  

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Maria Cristina Riascos
  • Fellow in Surgery

Maria Cristina Riascos is an M.D. and aspiring pathology resident originally from Venezuela. She graduated from Venezuela’s Central University in 2018 and relocated to the US to pursue further training. She became a U.S.-licensed M.D. and then developed special interest in clinical, translational and basic science research. As a member of both the Radiology (Jin Lab) and Surgery (Fahey Lab) research teams at Weill Cornell, Dr. Riascos continues to expand her knowledge on pathology and genomic profiling of Papillary and Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer and is currently working on the design of animal tumor models for the development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies for various cancer types.

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Mark Stasiak
  • Research Technician II

Mark is a biomedical engineer specializing in medical device design and novel design solutions for research projects. He graduated from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center in 2016, after completing his dissertation on mechanical stimulation during tendon to bone healing in Dr. Scott Rodeo’s laboratory at the Hospital for Special Surgery, along with postdoctoral work under Dr. Peter Torzilli. He is currently working on devices facilitating chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy.

Thomas Jeitner Laboratory

Tom Jeitner
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Thomas Jeitner, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Research

Tom Jeitner, who holds a doctorate in experimental pathology from the University of Sydney, is broadly trained in that field. Consequently, he contributes the biological aspects of developing and validating the positron emission tomography (PET) tracers under investigation in the James Kelly Laboratory. Additionally, Dr. Jeitner investigates two novel entities formed by transglutaminase actions that may be important in neurodegeneration and its detection by PET.  

Nikolaos Karakatsanis Laboratory

Nikolaos (Nicolas) A. Karakatsanis
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Nikolaos A. Karakatsanis, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Nikolaos (Nicolas) A. Karakatsanis has been an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and a nuclear medicine physicist in the radiology department at Weill Cornell Medicine since 2017. He previously held research scientist positions in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital (2015-2017), University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland (2014-2015) and Johns Hopkins University Hospital (2011-2013). Dr. Karakatsanis received his masters’ degree, and his Ph.D., in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2005 and 2010 respectively from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece.

James Kelly Laboratory

James Kelly
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James Kelly, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Radiopharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. James Kelly received a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Cambridge in 2011. His thesis work, supervised by Dr. Finian Leeper, focused on the development of conformationally restrained analogues of porphobilinogen as inhibitors of porphobilinogen deaminase. Upon completion of his doctoral work, Dr. Kelly spent one year as an Alfonso Casanava Research Fellow at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, supervised by Dr. Miguel Ángel Pozo, before transitioning to a two-year industrial research fellowship carried out at Instituto Tecnológico PET, Madrid. Dr. Kelly’s work in Spain focused on radiofluorination of small molecules for brain imaging and automation, and validation of radiosynthesis procedures on automated synthesis units. Dr. Kelly moved to the Molecular Imaging Innovations Institute (MI3) at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) in 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. John Babich. He was promoted to instructor in 2017, and assistant professor of radiopharmaceutical sciences in radiology in 2020. He is currently chief of radiopharmaceutical sciences at WCM. 

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Juan Azcona, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Associate

Juan Azcona is a postdoctoral associate in the Kelly lab. He acquired an M.S. and a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from New York Medical College. His research interests and specialties are in enzymology, metabolism and vascular biology. 

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Shuvra Debnath, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Associate

Shuvra Debnath was born and raised in Bangladesh. He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Upon completing his master’s in 2015, he joined the research and development division of Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd. in Bangladesh to gain research experience in the pharmaceutical industry. He moved to the University of Illinois in Chicago in fall 2016 to pursue his Ph.D. During his Ph.D., he gained research experience in synthesizing precursor molecules and developing a novel methodology for 18 fluorodeoxyglucose (F)-fluorination of drugs and bioactive molecules. He brings this experience to the Kelly Lab, joining in March 2022. Shuvra is a highly motivated researcher, and he would like to contribute to improving the health of human beings through our developed science. He plays chess and cricket, reads novels and watches movies in his spare time.

Tom Jeitner
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Thomas Jeitner, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Research

Tom Jeitner, who holds a doctorate in experimental pathology from the University of Sydney, is broadly trained in that field. Consequently, he contributes the biological aspects of developing and validating the positron emission tomography (PET) tracers under investigation in the James Kelly Laboratory. Additionally, Dr. Jeitner investigates two novel entities formed by transglutaminase actions that may be important in neurodegeneration and its detection by PET.

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Chul-Hee Lee, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Associate

Chul-Hee Lee, a postdoctoral fellow in the Kelly Lab, is from South Korea. He is studying metabolic positron emission tomography (PET) imaging in prostate cancer, as well as the evaluation of PET biomarkers in cardiotoxic models. He is enjoying life in New York City while actively conducting research.

Pradeep Singh
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Pradeep Singh, Ph.D.
  • Research Associate

After completing his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Dr. Singh came to Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) for his postdoctoral studies, investigating the ubiquitine-proteasome system for cancer therapy. In August 2021, he joined James Kelly’s lab, where he works on radiolabeling methodology for the development of  novel radiotracers for theranostic applications.

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Anja Wacker, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Associate

Anja Wacker is a postdoctoral associate, who joined Dr. Kelly’s lab in the Weill Cornell Medicine Department of Radiology on March 14, 2022. She has a strong background in chemistry and biochemistry due to her M.Sc. and B.Sc. studies at the Technical University of Munich, and holds a Ph.D. in pharmacy from the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg. Anja’s research interests focus on the design, synthesis and preclinical evaluation of innovative tracers for positron emission tomography (PET) imaging as well as the development of peptide-based compounds for targeted radiotherapy. She is inspired by the idea that advances in molecular imaging techniques can deepen our way of understanding biological functions, metabolic pathways and the evolution of pathological conditions, ultimately leading to improved personalized patient care.

Gene Kim Laboratory

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Gene Kim, Ph.D.
  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Gene Kim is a professor of biomedical engineering in radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine. He received his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Southern California and completed his postdoctoral fellowship in cancer imaging at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the development of quantitative dynamic contrast-enhanced and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging methods for early detection of cancer and assessment of treatment response, particularly in breast cancer and head and neck cancer. Dr. Kim’s laboratory has been funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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Ayesha Das
  • Research Technician II

Ayesha Das received her Bachelor in Psychology from New York University. During her undergraduate training, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Wendy Suzuki in the Center for Neuroscience on the physiological changes in sedentary, middle-aged adults who underwent a three-month exercise intervention. She received a Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund grant to further investigate changes in electroencephalograms (EEG) and behavior in response to exercise intervention. She also worked in the laboratory of Dr. Keith Woerpel in the Department of Chemistry on synthesizing a diastereoselective cyclic acetal and received another Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund grant to pursue this synthesis. In the Gene Kim lab, Ayesha is interested in synthesizing multimodal contrast agents in order to improve the reproducibility and confidence of the arterial input function as measured through dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 

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Jin Zhang, Ph.D.
  • Instructor of Electric and Computer Engineering

Dr. Jin Zhang is an instructor in the radiology department of Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM). Before joining WCM, he was an associate research scientist at the New York University Langone Medical Center. He has focused on dynamic contrast enhanced (DCE)-magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research for a decade. He specializes in skills related to DCE-MRI using mouse models, including tumor implantation, animal handling, DCE-MRI scanning, image reconstruction, pharmacokinetic model analysis, data processing, and visualization. One contribution: the development of active contrast encoding (ACE)-MRI, which measures multiple parameters in a shortened DCE-MRI scan time and eliminates the need for image registration in traditional DCE-MRI. His research interests are focused on shortening clinical scan time and improving image quality and resolution. With collaborators, he developed another innovative technique for DCE-MRI, 3D ultra-short echo time with golden-angle radial sparse parallel MRI (3D-UTE-GRASP), which extended the GRASP technique from volumetric coverage to 3D isotropic high-resolution coverage in DCE-MRI. These techniques can be directly implemented to clinical scans, greatly improving DCE-MRI quantitative analysis, and benefitting the diagnosis and treatment of various cancers.

Eddy Solomon
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Eddy Solomon, Ph.D.
  • Instructor of Chemical Physics

Eddy Solomon’s research combines diverse aspects of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), including pulse sequence programming, advanced image reconstruction, and pre-clinical and clinical patient studies. He received his Ph.D. from the department of chemical physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, where he developed novel MR methods, based on spatiotemporal encoding (SPEN) principles. He is now a Weill Cornell Medicine faculty instructor of chemical physics in the radiology department. He works on head and neck cancer using diffusion and dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) approaches. His aim is to advance body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods in humans, to improve both basic knowledge and patient care.

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Jonghyun Bae, M.S.
  • Visiting Graduate Assistant

Jonghyun Bae received his bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Rutgers University and his master’s degree in electrical engineering from New York University (NYU) Tandon School of Engineering. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in biomedical imaging and technology at Vilcek Institute of Biomedical Graduate study (NYU School of Medicine). His research focuses on detecting subtle blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruptions in Alzheimer’s disease and aging using dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) magnetic resonance imaging. Jonghyun has also been interested in developing deep learning-based tools to aid the DCE analysis tailored to detect the subtle changes in BBB. 

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Karl Kiser

Karl Kiser received his bachelor’s degree in biophysics from Pitzer College, a Claremont College. During his undergraduate studies, Karl developed his interest in medical imaging while working under Dr. Adam Landsberg, investigating network properties of the human brain connectome from diffusion tensor imaging and fiber tractography. In the Gene Kim Lab, Karl’s focus is on developing methods for characterizing the tissue microenvironment of cancer, particularly cellular water exchange, through the kinetic modeling of dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging. 

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Sawwal Qayyum
  • Research Technician II

Sawwal Qayyum received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Ramapo College of New Jersey. During his undergraduate training, he spent his seminar year looking at embryogenesis-lethal genes in C. elegans using RNA interference (RNAi) and  clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 to visualize protein localization via green fluorescent (GFP) recombinant vectors. He previously worked at the New York University Langone Medical Center as a senior animal care technician, attaining there his laboratory animal technologist certification. He spent two years interning at the Preclinical Imaging Core headed by Dr. Wadghiri. There he became familiar with different modalities of optical imaging, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and tumor pH probe design. In the Gene Kim lab, Sawwal is studying the effect of metronomic chemotherapy on the tumor vasculature and angiogenesis of orthotopic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and glioma mouse models using dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE)-MRI.

Benedict Law Laboratory

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Benedict Law, Ph.D.
  • Associate Professor

Dr. Benedict Law is an associate professor of pharmacology in radiology, Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM). He was trained as a hospital pharmacist in the United Kingdom prior to obtaining his Ph.D. at the University of Manchester. After he completed his postdoctoral training at Massachusetts General  Hospital, he was recruited as a faculty member at North Dakota State University. In 2013, he joined the Molecular Imaging Innovations Institute (MI3) at WCM 

Seung Koo Lee Laboratory

Seung Koo Lee
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Seung Koo Lee, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Cell Biology Research

Dr. Seung Koo Lee is an assistant professor of cell biology research in the Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) Department of Radiology. His research focuses on the development of, (1) innovative multi-functional molecular imaging probes for various disease states including cancers and, (2) drug delivery systems for diagnostic, therapeutic and clinical applications. He earned his Ph.D. in immunology from Seoul National University, where he studied the signaling mechanisms of vitamin C that control tumor proliferation, and apoptosis in colon cancer and melanoma. He then completed postdoctoral training at the Houston Methodist Research Institute under the guidance of Dr. Ching Tung, where he invented a layer-by-layer nanoplatform (LbLN) that delivers a short interfering RNA (siRNA) and imaging probe to various cancers. 

Sadek Nehmeh Laboratory

Sadek Nehmeh
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Sadek Nehmeh, Ph.D.
  • Associate Professor of Medical Physics

Dr. Sadek Nehmeh is an associate professor of medical physics in radiology, and the section chief of positron emission tomography (PET) and nuclear physics, in the Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) Department of Radiology. In 2000, Dr. Nehmeh began his career as a postdoc and resident fellow in medical physics at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). In 2003, while at MSKCC, he was appointed to assistant physicist; the following year, he was promoted to assistant attending; and in 2009, he was promoted to associate attending. In 2017, Dr. Nehmeh joined the WCM Department of Radiology.

Ching H. Tung Laboratory

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Ching H. Tung, Ph.D.
  • Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Ching H. Tung’s lab develops novel multifunctional molecules for imaging, diagnostic, therapeutic and biotechnological applications, especially environmentally sensitive molecules that respond to biological and chemical changes during disease progression. By developing molecular imaging probes and drugs, the Tung lab manages various diseases, including cancer, inflammation, infection, arthritis and cardiovascular diseases.