2018 Duke Postdoctoral Professional Development Award Winners

The Duke Office of Postdoctoral Services, along with the Vice Provost for Research and the Vice Dean for Basic Science, is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Postdoctoral Awards for Professional Development. These awards are designed to support postdocs' professional development needs by providing reimbursement for activities that directly enhance the individual's professional growth.


  Alessandro De Simone, PhD, Cell Biology

Alessandro De Simone’s interests revolve around understanding how multi-cellular tissues are organized in time and space using imaging-based quantitative methods. Alessandro received a PhD in Cell Biology from the Swiss Institute of Technology of Lausanne. Alessandro is currently a Postdoctoral Associate in the laboratory of Dr. Stefano Di Talia in the Department of Cell Biology.

Dr. De Simone will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the 2018 Physiology Course at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA. The Physiology Course is a 7-week-long intensive laboratory experience that offers a training environment at the interface between physics, computer science and biology.


  Robert Fitak, PhD, Genetics

Robert (Bob) Fitak received his PhD in Genetics from the University of Arizona in 2013. He has been a Postdoctoral Associate in Duke’s Department of Biology since May 2015, under the mentorship of Dr. Sönke Johnsen. Bob’s research utilizes various genetic and statistical techniques to understand how organisms like trout and sea turtles sense Earth's magnetic field and use it to navigate.

Dr. Fitak will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the 4th Annual Summer Institute in Statistics for Big Data workshop at the University of Washington for specific training in "Supervised Methods for Statistical Machine Learning".


  Sairam Jabba, PhD, Pharmacology

Sairam Jabba earned his PhD in Pharmacology at Creighton University. He is a Postdoctoral Associate at Duke Neurobiology (Jorg Grandl lab) and Duke Anesthesiology (Sven-Eric Jordt lab). His research involves investigating the addictive and toxicological effects of novel tobacco products and understanding the role of sensory ion-channels (like TRP-ion channels) in mediating these effects.

Dr. Jabba will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the Duke Science Policy Summer Institute.


  Melissa Kay, PhD, Nutrition

Melissa Kay is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Duke Center for Childhood Obesity Research and at the Duke Global Digital Health Science Center. Her research focuses on the implementation and dissemination of innovative digital health interventions to prevent early life obesity prevention. Melissa received her PhD in Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her MPH/MS at Tufts University.

Dr. Kay will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the Pediatric Academic Societies conference in Toronto, where she will present her work titled “Toddler dietary intake: Results from a multi-site study of low-income families.”


  Rosa Li, PhD, Psychology and Neuroscience

Rosa Li received her PhD in Psychology and Neuroscience from Duke University in 2017, after which she became a Postdoctoral Associate in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. Her research investigates whether and how decision-making changes across development from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, and she also teaches courses for Duke's undergraduate certificate in decision sciences.

Dr. Li will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the Neurohackademy Summer School in Neuroimaging and Data Science at the University of Washington's eScience Institute.

The Office of Postdoctoral Services thanks the 2018 Awards Committee: Dr. Melissa Bostrom, Dr. Hugh Crumley, Dr Cameron Prigge, Dr. Jory Weintraub, and Ms. Molly Starback.