MIT Biology Catalyst Symposium 2023


In 2022, the department, with leadership from the Faculty DEI Committee and DEI Officer, launched the MIT Biology Catalyst Symposium.  This symposium is part of a new effort to bring outstanding postdocs from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in science to engage with members of our community. Aimed specifically at postdocs pursuing academic careers, the three-day symposium provides a venue for participants to share their research, discuss exciting new directions, and make new professional connections. We will welcome eight Catalyst Fellows to campus for the first symposium in May of 2023.

MIT Biology Catalyst Symposium
May 2-4, 2023
Cambridge, MA

Post Doc Catalyst Fellows:

  • Begüm Aydin, The Rockefeller University
  • Shan Meltzer, Harvard Medical School
  • Krishna Mudumbi, Yale School of Medicine
  • Sofia Quinodoz, Princeton University
  • José Reyes, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Andre Toussaint, Columbia University
  • Junior West, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Coral Yishan Zhou, UC Berkeley

Begüm Aydin (she/her)

 “Cellular Plasticity in the Enteric Nervous System” Begüm Aydin is a postdoctoral researcher at the Rockefeller University, with a Ph.D. from New York University and a B.S. from Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey. Her research focuses on the role of gut microbiota on enteric nervous system development and maintenance upon microbial insults. Aydin was awarded a Simons Junior Fellowship in 2020 and was selected as HHMI Hanna Gray Fellow in 2022.

Shan Meltzer (she/her)

“Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Touch Circuit Formation” Shan received her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco, working with Dr. Yuh Nung Jan. She used in vivo imaging, genetics, and biochemical assays in Drosophila somatosensory neurons to decipher how extrinsic and intrinsic cues precisely control dendrite development, a process that is perturbed in neurodevelopmental disorders. As an HHMI Hanna H. Gray fellow in the laboratory of Dr. David Ginty in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, Shan established a niche investigating mammalian touch circuit formation. Among our basic senses, touch is the first sense to develop, but it is the least understood at the molecular and developmental levels. Her postdoctoral work has revealed patterning and developmental principles of touch sensory neurons and uncovered compartmentalized signaling pathways that regulate the assembly and function of touch circuits. Her independent research program will build on this framework to further investigate the molecular and cellular regulation of somatosensory circuit assembly, which can reveal targets to treat nerve injuries and sensory dysfunctions in neurological disorders.

Krishna Mudumbi (he/him)

“Probing the kinetics of EGFR signaling: Why timing is important” Krishna Mudumbi is an NCI Outstanding Early Stage K99 Fellow in the lab of Mark Lemmon at the Yale Cancer Biology Institute. He uses his expertise with single-molecule microscopy and advanced imaging techniques to study the kinetics of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling and how it is controlled in living cells. In particular, he is focused on quantitatively understanding how receptor activation kinetics and downstream protein recruitment dynamics determine cellular response. Krishna plans to continue his work on deciphering the dynamics and kinetic underpinnings of EGFR – as well as other cell surface receptor – signaling specificity.

Sofia Quinodoz (she/her)

“Probing nuclear organization and functions of condensates at genome-wide scale” Sofia Quinodoz is an HHMI Hanna H. Gray fellow in Cliff Brangwynne’s lab at Princeton University. She received her Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology, where she worked in Mitch Guttman’s lab developing the SPRITE tool to map genome organization and was the recipient of the Harold M. Weintraub award.

José Reyes (he/him)

“Catching p53 in the act of tumor suppression” José Reyes was born and raised in México. He conducted his undergraduate training in Genomic Sciences in the National University of Mexico (UNAM). He then moved to Harvard University’s Systems Biology PhD program. Together with Galit Lahav, he investigated how and why individual mammalian cells differ in their ability to maintain a cell cycle arrest program upon DNA damage. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, under the mentorship of Scott Lowe and Dana Pe’er. In his current research, he aims to understand what makes individual cells special in their ability to develop into a malignant tumor, and how do these outlier cells emerge in the course of tumor progression.

Andre Toussaint (he/him)

“Neurobiology of addiction and tactile sensation” Andre B. Toussaint is a first-year Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Mind, Brain, Behavior Institute, working under the guidance of Dr. Ishmail Abdus-Saboor. Additionally, he is junior fellow at the prestigious Simons Foundation located in New York City.

Prior to his arrival at Columbia, Andre earned his Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience at Temple University, where he was mentored by Dr. Mathieu Wimmer. During his doctoral research, Andre employed a rodent model to investigate the intergenerational effects of paternal morphine exposure on pain and addiction phenotypes in male and female offspring. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) T32 training grant, a diversity supplement, and five highly competitive travel awards.

Currently, in his capacity as a postdoc, Andre’s research is focused on the integration of multiple topics, including mouse genetics, addiction vulnerability, tactile sensitivity, and pleasure circuits in the brain.

Junior West (he/him)

“Claudin 7 restricts cancer invasion and metastasis by suppressing smooth muscle actin networks” Junior West completed his PhD at the University of Toronto in the department of Cell and Systems Biology where he studied regulation of cell-cell adhesion and the associated actin cytoskeleton in the lab of Prof. Tony Harris. He is currently a postdoc at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the department of Cell Biology, where he is studying how loss of cell-cell adhesion contributes to cancer cell invasion and metastasis in the lab of Prof. Andrew Ewald.

Coral Yishan Zhou (she/her)

“Mechanisms of mitotic chromosome scaling in Xenopus Dr. Coral Zhou works at the interface of biochemistry, biophysics and cell biology to understand how chromatin structure and function are coordinated across the cell cycle and during development. Dr. Zhou was an HHMI Undergraduate Research Fellow in the lab of Dr. Steven Rokita at the University of Maryland, College Park. As a Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Fellow in the lab of Dr. Geeta Narlikar at UCSF, she discovered new pathways that regulate the biochemical activities of the ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complex INO80. As a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Rebecca Heald’s lab at UC-Berkeley, Dr. Zhou used the vertebrate model Xenopus laevis to discover fundamental mechanisms of how mitotic chromosomes scale to decreasing cell size during the rapid cell division events of early embryogenesis. Currently, Dr. Zhou is developing a multi-dimensional, integrative framework to study the functions of genome scaling during development, disease and evolution.


May 2nd

6:00 pm:                   Dinner with Catalyst Fellows and faculty hosts

May 3rd 

All talks on May 3rd will take place in the KI Luria Auditorium in Building 76.

9:00-9:15 am            Welcome/opening remarks

9:15-9:40 am             Catalyst Fellow talk 1: Krishna Mudumbi

9:40-10:05 am          Catalyst Fellow talk 2: Coral Yishan Zhou

10:05-10:30 am        Catalyst Fellow talk 3: Andre Toussaint

10:30-10:50 am         Break

10:50-11:15 am          Catalyst Fellow talk 4: Sofia Quinodoz

11:15-11:40 am           Catalyst Fellow talk 5: Junior West

11:40-12:05 pm         Catalyst Fellow talk 6: Shan Meltzer

12:05-1:00 pm           Lunch with post-docs, trainees, and faculty

1:00-1:25 pm             Catalyst Fellow talk 7: José Reyes

1:25-1:50 pm             Catalyst Fellow talk 8: Begüm Aydin

1:50-2:00 pm            Break

2:00-5:00 pm           1:1 Meetings with Catalyst Fellows and faculty,

5:00-6:00 pm           Break

6:00 pm-9:00 pm    Dinner

May 4th

9:30am-10:30am      Panel for Catalyst Fellows on Faculty Search Processes

10:30-10:45am          Break

10:45-11:45am           Panel for Catalyst Fellows on Junior Faculty Experience

11:45-12:45pm           Lunch

Symposium concludes