2017 Cohn Fellowship Award Winners

March 27, 2017

The Cohn family foundation has provided $100,000 in grant support that was distributed equally to five junior faculty at Rush who act as mentees in Rush University’s Research Mentoring Program. The funding allows mentees to gather preliminary data for research proposals and for their continued engagement in research activities.

Cohn fellows are selected through a competitive process. The 2017 recipients are as follows:

Nelia Jain, MD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Medicine. Her research interests include the development and evaluation of innovative palliative care curriculum to disseminate primary palliative education in pain and symptom management and communication skills across disciplines. In her master’s thesis, she utilized ethnographic, historical and narrative analyses to explore the challenges in pain expression and management for patients with chronic pain within the constructs of the current biomedical model.

Jain’s Cohn Fellowship research will focus on the use of simulation-based interprofessional curricula to assess participants’ growth in the cognitive and affective domains of primary palliative care core competencies.

Amanda Persons, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Rush Medical College and in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies in the College of Health Sciences. She conducts preclinical research on substance abuse, Parkinson’s disease and HIV.  Her current work focuses on identifying brain-gut pathology that is common in methamphetamine abuse and Parkinson’s disease, as those who abuse methamphetamine are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease later in life.  Her Cohn Fellowship aims to determine if stimulant drugs in adolescent rodents, specifically those used to treat ADHD, also produce Parkinson’s disease-like pathology in adults.

Antonia Zaferiou, PhD, has joined Rush University Medical Center as an instructor and the director of Motion Analysis for the Division of Sports Medicine in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. Her research uses mechanical principles to study human control and dynamics used during activities of daily living and athletic maneuvers. Zaferiou is interested in understanding human motion in order to develop technology and interventions that improve movement mechanics and reduce the risk of injury. Her Cohn fellowship focuses on developing better ways to measure the shoulder’s movement and control during activities of daily living in healthy and arthritic shoulders.

Sandra Gomez-Perez, PhD, RD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition in the College of Health Sciences. Her research interests focus on understanding the relationships between race-ethnicity, the gut microbiome, body composition and risk of obesity — and related cancers, particularly colorectal cancer.

Her Cohn Fellowship research involves characterizing the body composition phenotypes (abdominal adipose tissue and skeletal muscle distribution) quantified using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and ultrasound in African-American and non-Hispanic white adults with and without colorectal adenomas. Specifically, she will explore how a body composition phenotype of low skeletal muscle mass and high visceral adipose tissue relates to the gut microbiome and risk of colorectal adenomas.

Tieshi Li, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics. His postdoctoral work at the University of North Carolina has included the development of hydrophobically modified glycol chitosan nanoparticle as a valuable protein-delivery system in developmental biology, and Tgfbr2 expressing cells as joint progenitors during joint development and osteoarthritis development. His current studies on Tgfbr2/IL36α axis in joint homeostasis and osteoarthritis progression have made significant contributions to this field. His Cohn Fellowship research will continually study the role of IL36α in synovium during post-traumatic osteoarthritis and spontaneous osteoarthritis progression.