Simons Society of Fellows: Junior Fellows

Junior Fellows are outstanding young scientists, no more than two years after Ph.D. at the time of the appointment start date, who receive support from the foundation for three years to conduct independent research at an institution of higher learning in the New York City area. A Junior Fellow receives a stipend each year, funds for fringe benefits, as well as a research allowance. Junior Fellows have no teaching obligations and are expected to be in residence in the New York City area during the academic year. Junior Fellows attend weekly dinners, regular lectures, and conferences organized by the foundation.

To be a Junior Fellow, one must be engaged in research in one of the following areas of science: Life Sciences, including genetics, cellular and organismic biology, neurosciences and basic aspects of biomedical research, Physical and Engineering Sciences including Astronomy, Chemistry, basic aspects of Engineering, Earth Sciences, Physics and related disciplines, and Pure and Applied Mathematics and Computer and Information Science.

Junior Fellows by year

The Simons Foundation is pleased to announce the Junior Fellows appointed in 2017.

Arkarup Bandyopadhyay

Arkarup Bandyopadhyay is a postdoctoral fellow in the Neuroscience Institute at the New York University Langone Medical Center. He received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Delhi. Subsequently, he joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai for his master’s degree, working with Sudipta Maiti on developing nonlinear microscopy techniques to image unlabeled dopamine in live neurons. He did his Ph.D. as a Lindsay-Goldberg fellow at the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the lab of Dr. Florin Albeanu, where he studied computations and neural circuits involved in olfactory sensory processing and was also involved in building a microscope for simultaneous two-photon imaging and photo-stimulation.

Bandyopadhyay is interested in understanding neural circuit mechanisms that underlie ethologically relevant behaviors. As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Michael Long’s lab, he is working with an exotic rodent species from Central American rainforests, Scotinomys teguina, colloquially called the ‘singing mouse.’ As the name suggests, these animals vocalize, alone as well as socially, even in the lab setting. This offers an exciting opportunity to study the neural dynamics and circuitry that enable a motor behavior to be used flexibly for social communication. Additionally, Bandyopadhyay is passionate about science teaching and outreach, for which he has received several awards.

Shana Caro

Shana Caro is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology at Columbia University, working with Dr. Dustin Rubenstein. She received her A.B. in human evolutionary biology from Harvard University and her D.Phil. in zoology from the University of Oxford, supervised by Professors Ashleigh Griffin and Stu West. She next worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Caro is interested in the evolution of social behavior, particularly in how signaling systems evolve when there are evolutionary conflicts of interest between actors. Using parent-offspring signaling in birds as a framework, she has shown that variation in signaling systems can be explained by a combination of ecology and life history traits, and she has proposed a novel function for signals. At Columbia, she will integrate physiological, genetic, comparative and behavioral data to explore how environmental and social factors shift how starlings communicate and illuminate the mechanisms underlying these shifts.

Sylvain Carpentier

Sylvain Carpentier will be joining the Department of Mathematics at Columbia. He completed his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked with Victor Kac. Sylvain received his M.A. in mathematics from the Université Paris-Sud and was a student of École normale supérieure, Paris.

His research focuses on integrable systems of partial differential equations (PDEs). These equations have a large group of symmetries and an infinite set of conservation laws. They appear in various physics domains, such as nonlinear optics or fluid mechanics. In his thesis, he showed how all attributes of integrable systems of PDEs can be constructed from a pair of differential operators. 

Eric Castillo

Eric Castillo is an incoming postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Anthropology at Hunter College. He received his A.B. in anthropology from Washington University in Saint Louis and his A.M. and Ph.D. in human evolutionary biology from Harvard University, where he worked with Professor Daniel Lieberman to study the evolutionary biomechanics of the human lumbar spine. During his graduate studies, Castillo was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and he received several teaching distinctions in addition to an award from the American Association of Anatomists for his thesis research.

Castillo studies the evolution of human anatomy and physiology to understand the competing selection pressures that have shaped our biology in the context of modern health. His thesis work combined biomechanical modeling, controlled lab experiments, evidence from the fossil record and field studies of humans around the world to explore the origins and functional consequences of variations in spinal posture. His future research aims to study how recent changes in human behavior, such as increased sedentism, may affect global variations in, causes of and potential treatments for various musculoskeletal disorders.

Sara Fenstermacher

Sara Fenstermacher is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Jessell at Columbia University. She received her B.A. from Bucknell University and Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University. Working with Dr. Rosalind Segal, she studied how neurotrophins promote axon viability through regulation of mRNA localization and translation in axons. This work has provided valuable insight into the molecular mechanisms that support the long-term health and survival of axons, which is essential for the maintenance of functional neural circuits.

A former dancer, Fenstermacher has a long-standing interest in how the nervous system generates movement. Neural circuits throughout the brain and spinal cord work in concert to produce precise, coordinated activation of muscles, which enables our vast repertoire of motor behavior. Her current research seeks to understand how neuromodulatory systems influence spinal circuits and produce changes in motor output.

Bianca Jones Marlin

Bianca Jones Marlin is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Axel in the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University. She holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from New York University School of Medicine and dual bachelor’s degrees in biology and adolescent education from Saint John’s University.

As a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Froemke, Marlin examined the neural mechanisms underlying maternal behavior. Her research focused on the role of the neuromodulator oxytocin in auditory cortical plasticity during the transition to motherhood. Currently, in the laboratory of Dr. Axel, she investigates the epigenetic inheritance of physiological and behavioral traits in offspring resulting from traumatic experiences in parents. Marlin was the recipient of the 2016 Donald B. Lindsley Prize in Behavioral Neuroscience for outstanding Ph.D. thesis.

Takashi Onikubo

Takashi Onikubo is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Roeder at the Rockefeller University. He received his Ph.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he joined the laboratory of Dr. David Shechter to study how post-translational modifications alter the function of a histone chaperone during Xenopus laevis development. Prior to his graduate studies, Onikubo received his B.A. from Hunter College/CUNY.

His scientific interest is in chromatin and how its structure/topology is modified during biological events (e.g., gene transcription) and in disease. For his postdoctoral studies, he is combining biochemical and cell-based analyses to study enhancer-promoter interactions during transcription. In particular, he is focusing on the role of the cohesin protein complex in the topological linking of distal enhancers to cognate promoters and the associated recruitment of the mediator coactivator complex to the enhancer and translocation to its cognate promoter for the assembly/activation of the RNA polymerase II complex.

Ilya Razenshteyn

Ilya Razenshteyn is a postdoctoral research scientist at the Computer Science Department of Columbia University. He received his B.S. in mathematics from Moscow State University, and Ph.D. in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the supervision of Piotr Indyk.

Razenshteyn is interested in the theoretical aspects of algorithms for massive and/or high-dimensional datasets with the goal of understanding the inherent trade-off between computational efficiency and accuracy of the solution. Many of such algorithms proceed through the so-called efficient representations of data: randomized hashing, sketching (succinct summarization), dimensionality reduction, metric embeddings and others. One of the goals is to study these and related algorithmic primitives systematically and to find new applications for them.

Carlotta Ronda

Carlotta Ronda is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Systems Biology at Columbia University in Harris Wang’s lab. She obtained a master’s in medical biotechnology at Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, completing her thesis on antibiotic resistance with Professor Søren Molin. She received her Ph.D. in genetic and metabolic engineering from the Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, where she worked with Professor Alex Toftgaard Nielsen on designing new genetic-engineering tools to accelerate the development of biosustainable cell factories.

Ronda’s research interests center on developing new genome-engineering tools for modifying human-associated microbiota, such as the gut microbiome. Her approach relies on applying synthetic and systems biology to design and build new capabilities to genetically program non-model microbes, leveraging both engineering and evolutionary principles. Specifically, she seeks to develop methods to modify gut microbes that are otherwise genetically intractable or difficult to culture, using a variety of functional genomic and high-throughput strategies in both ex vivo and in situ mouse models.

Eliran Subag

Eliran Subag is an incoming postdoctoral researcher at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. He completed his Ph.D. in mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel under the supervision of Ofer Zeitouni, with the support of the Adams Fellowship. Prior to that, he received a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, where he worked with Robert Adler.

His research interests are in probability theory, in particular the theory of Gaussian fields and their geometry. His doctoral work focused on spherical spin glasses — models of smooth random functions on the high-dimensional sphere, arising in the mean field theory of disordered magnetic media. Combining tools from the theory of Gaussian fields, large deviations and random matrices, he studied the distribution of the critical points and asymptotic geometric structure of the Gibbs measure of spherical spin glass models, as the dimension tends to infinity.

Xin Sun

Xin Sun will join he Department of Mathematics at Columbia University as a postdoctoral researcher. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under the direction of Professor Scott Sheffield. Prior to MIT, he received a B.S. in mathematics from Peking University.

Sun is interested in probability theory and mathematical physics. His recent work focuses on understanding the large-scale behavior of two-dimensional discrete objects ​such as​​​​ percolation, spanning tree and planar maps​,​​ through universal ​continuum objects ​such as Schramm-Loewner evolution, Gaussian free field and Liouville quantum gravity​.​

Michael Waskom

Michael Waskom is a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Neural Science at New York University. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University, where he was a trainee in the Center for Mind, Brain and Computation. Before graduate school, he worked as a research assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied philosophy and neuroscience at Amherst College.

Dr. Waskom is broadly interested in the computational and neural mechanisms that coordinate information processing in the human brain. His graduate research characterized the organization and function of cortical systems that enable context-dependent decision-making. Building on this work, his postdoctoral research in the lab of Roozbeh Kiani is developing new approaches for integrating computational models of decision-making with noninvasive measurements of human brain activity. He aims to use these methods to better understand how perception, cognition and action are linked together in the production of intelligent behavior.