Meet our awardees

2019 Zhu Family Center Award for Excellence in Cancer Risk Prevention and
Early Detection Research

Jason Y.H. Chang, PhD is currently a postdoctoral research associate in Prof. Darrell Irvine’s lab at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. His research is focused on the development of nanotechnologies for HIV vaccine and the detection of cell-free miRNA in cancer models. Prior to MIT, he obtained his PhD in Bioengineering from Imperial College London where his doctoral research focused on ocular biomechanics and drug delivery platforms for glaucoma. After completing his PhD in 2016, he joined Dr. Sylvain Ladame’s group to help develop different platform technologies for prostate cancer diagnosis based on sensing of circulating miRNA biomarkers from liquid biopsies using engineered oligonucleotide-templated reactions. He is currently developing minimally-invasive technologies to detect cell-free miRNA from skin interstitial fluid extracted from cancer patients, through a collaborative project between the Irvine and Ladame labs.

Michael Dykstra earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Grand Valley State University in 2015 and now is a 4th year medical student at Harvard interested in improving cancer care in low and middle-income countries with an emphasis on early diagnosis. He spent the 2018-2019 academic year living and working in Botswana, where he investigated the outcomes for a community-based clinical breast exam screening program. He found that one week of community screening annually for 4 years detected 11 cancer among 2362 women over age 40 screened, with a trend toward smaller tumors compared to Botswana as a whole. In countries like Botswana where triple modality therapy is available for all citizens, this strategy has potential to reduce breast cancer morbidity and mortality with relatively low healthcare system utilization. Michael plans to do residency in radiation oncology following his graduation from medical school in 2020.

Yue Liu, MD is a postdoctoral research fellow in cancer epidemiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston. She got her MD degree from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. Her primary research has focused on cancer prevention and cancer survivorship. Her major interest includes examining cancer risk factors and determinants of cancer patient outcomes on the population level, by using the databases of the Harvard cohorts (the Nurses’ Health Studies and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study). She is also interested in elucidating the biological mechanisms of lifestyle-environment interaction and cancer. In addition, Dr. Yue Liu’s experience in clinical training has inspired her to share perspective on how to strengthen the healthcare workforce, and how to improve access to healthcare for the developing countries at large. She has authored over 15 manuscripts published in journals including BMJ, The Lancet, and JAMA Oncology. In 2019, her poster entitled “Plant-based and animal-based low-carbohydrate diets and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma among US men and women” was selected as a winner of The Zhu Family Center Award for Excellence in Cancer Risk Prevention and Early Detection Research.

2019 Zhu Family Trainee Travel Award

Andres Ardisson Korat is a Research Fellow at the Channing Division of Network Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Andres recently completed a Doctoral degree in Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His current research focuses on understanding dietary and lifestyle risk factors of lymphoid malignancies where he is specifically examining the association between fruit and vegetable intake and risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study. This study was selected for a travel award from the Zhu Family Center for Global Cancer Prevention to enable the presentation of the results at the American Society of Hematology 61st Annual Meeting & Exposition.

Stella Lee, MA, PhD focuses her research on designing strategic health communication messages for tobacco prevention/cessation and countering the effects of tobacco-related misinformation. Dr. Lee graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Seoul National University, and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research examines whether viewing vaping cues (vapor and hand-to-mouth motion with vaping product) in e-cigarette ads affect normative perceptions about combustible cigarettes among young adult dual users of cigarettes and e-cigarettes. Young adult dual users were randomly assigned to one out of three conditions: 1) Vapor cue; 2) No vapor cue; 3) Control (beverage ads). We found that participants in the Vapor cue condition perceived that less people smoke cigarettes and more people disapprove of cigarettes compared to those in the No vapor cue condition. Results have implications for the regulation of e-cigarette ads.

Jill Roncarati, PhD is on a mission to improve the care of vulnerable populations through innovative research and health care delivery. Jill is a physician assistant and received her doctor of science from Harvard Chan; she is a clinician researcher whose research has focused on cancer and other health and social outcomes for the homeless population, especially the unsheltered adult homeless subpopulation, or rough sleepers. Key findings from Jill’s work include mortality rates from cancer that are five times higher among rough sleepers than the general population of Massachusetts and almost three times higher than sheltered homeless adults in Boston. Dr. Roncarati is currently working on several studies, including a qualitative HPV study to better understand screening knowledge and preferences among homeless women in Boston, a 14-year prospective cohort study of housing outcomes for unsheltered adults, and a study closely examining the cost and utilization patterns for unsheltered and sheltered patients at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.