ITALIAN SCIENTISTS & SCHOLARS IN NORTH AMERICA FOUNDATION
Connecting, Empowering, Celebrating the Italian Intellectual Diaspora
FRANCO STRAZZABOSCO AWARD FOR RESEARCH IN ENGINEERING - Ex Equo
Marzia Parisi graduated in 2015 from Sapienza University of Rome, with a PhD in Aeronautical and Space Technology in the field of Radio Science. At the Radio Science Laboratory, led by Prof. Luciano Iess, she was introduced to the field of Orbit Determination and Gravity Science, a remote sensing technique for the study of planetary and satellite interiors by means of precise Doppler tracking of interplanetary spacecraft. Subtle variations in radio carrier frequencies bear information about equally subtle perturbations of the probe velocity, which are sensitive to the gravity field of the body and its interior structure and dynamics. Dr. Parisi started her career by carrying out precise numerical simulations of ESA’s JUICE radiometric measurements, which will launch in 2022. The objective of the onboard gravity experiment is the detection of subsurface oceans on Jupiter’s Galilean moons, with particular focus on Ganymede, the largest satellite in the Solar System. In her PhD thesis, Dr. Parisi successfully proved the possibility of detecting hidden liquid water reservoir on Ganymede, by means of precise tidal measurements. In addition, she developed techniques for the precise reconstruction of the spacecraft trajectory (multi-arc and batch sequential filters), in the challenging Jovian environment. Her work on the search for liquid water in the Solar System continued with the analysis of NASA’s Cassini mission gravity data, collected at the numerous and variegated icy moons of Saturn (e.g. Enceladus, Rhea, Titan).
For Enceladus, Dr. Parisi was responsible for the data analysis that led to the discovery of a regional water ocean at its south pole. This discovery fueled renewed interest in the small icy moon, which quickly became one of the targets for future astrobiology missions. In late 2014, Dr. Parisi accepted a Postdoctoral Fellow position at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where she was awarded the Dean’s Fellowship. Here, she established her first connection with NASA’s Juno mission at Jupiter, which continues to this day. She explored the multiple and diverse interconnections between radiometric measurements of gravitational fields, and atmospheric dynamics of gas giants. She developed the concept of determining the depth of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot with multiple Juno overflights, measurements that were completed in 2019. In parallel, she was introduced to the discipline of radio occultations, with applications to the Jovian system, both for the neutral atmosphere and the electrically charged regions of Jupiter and its moons. In 2016 Dr. Parisi joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Caltech), as a Postdoctoral Fellow first, and as a Research Scientist a year later in the Planetary Radar and Radio Sciences group. Ever since, she has been working on the Juno gravity science experiment and became an integral part of its science team. Among her accomplishments (shared with the Juno team), we find the first detection ever of a hemispherically asymmetric gravity field of a gas giant (Jupiter), related to the depth of the visible powerful zonal jets. Since 2017, she is also a member of the Juno Gravity Science operation team, responsible for the acquisition, processing and analysis of the radiometric data. For her work on the Juno mission, Dr. Parisi was awarded the individual JPL’s Charles Elachi Award for Outstanding Early Career Achievement (2018) and NASA’s Early Career Achievement Medal (2019), in addition to several group awards
FRANCO STRAZZABOSCO AWARD FOR RESEARCH IN ENGINEERING - Ex Equo
Marco Bernardi is assistant professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at Caltech. Prior to moving to the U.S.for graduate school, Marco obtained his BS from University of Rome La Sapienza and MS from University of Rome Tor Vergata, and spent a yearin Australia as an Endeavour Fellow carrying out research toward his MS thesis. Marco received his Ph.D. in Materials Science from MIT, where he worked with Prof. Jeff Grossman on novel materials and physical processes for solar energy conversion. He was a postdoc in the Physics Department at UC Berkeley, where, workingwith Profs. Steve Louie and Jeff Neaton, he developed new theoretical approaches for investigating excited electrons in materials. Marco’s group at Caltech develops quantum mechanical calculations aimed at understanding the dynamics of electrons in materials, with applications to electronics, optoelectronics, energy, quantum technologies and ultrafast science. Marco has given seminal contributions in this field, for which he received the 2015 Psi-K Volker Heine Young Investigator Award, awarded every five years to recognize an individual for outstanding work in electronic structure calculations, as well as the AFOSR Young Investigator Award in 2017 and the NSF CAREER Award in 2018. His work favors quantitative analysis and accurate computational approaches to understand the physics and potential applications of novel materials, charting new directions in materials theory.
MARIO GERLA AWARD FOR RESEARCH IN COMPUTER SCIENCE
Stefano Ermon is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science in the CS Department at Stanford University, where he is affiliated with the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and a fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment. His research is centered on techniques for probabilistic modeling of data and is motivated by applications in the emerging field of computational sustainability. He has won several awards, including four Best Paper Awards (AAAI, UAI and CP), a NSF Career Award, ONR and AFOSR Young Investigator Awards, a Sony Faculty Innovation Award, a Hellman Faculty Fellowship, Microsoft Research Fellowship, Sloan Fellowship, and the IJCAI Computers and Thought Award. Stefano earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Cornell University in 2015.
EMBASSY OF ITALY AWARD FOR COVID-19 RESEARCH
Throughout her career, Angela Grifoni’s main interest has been to study the immune response to viral infections and how it is shaped by HLA-molecules. A native of Rome, Italy, she has earned her PhD in Immunology from the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” in 2014 in the laboratory of Vittorio Colizzi. During the second half of her PhD and the following two years, she worked at Proxagen Ltd. (Sofia, Bulgaria) with Massimo Amicosante applying immune informatics approaches to predict T and B cell epitopes in the context of several viral infections such as HIV, ZIKV, Ebola and HBV. That naturally brought her to the Sette laboratory at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology as a postdoc in 2016, where she is now instructor/research faculty since 2020. In the viral team she works closely with Daniela Weiskopf and Alessandro Sette, combining experimental approaches and computational predictions to investigate T cell responses against several viral infections such as DENV, ZIKV, VZV and CHIKV and most recently against SARS-CoV-2. Her recent efforts in the COVID-19 field sheds new light on the T cell reactivity against SARS-CoV-2 leading to several already highly cited publications in journals such as Cell and Science. Her Cell paper published in June 2020 had one of the highest social media impacts in the history of the journal (altmeric score of over 8800) and has been the point of discussion in a congressional hearing in Washington D.C. being described by the director of the NIAID, Dr. Fauci, as “work we really need to pursue”. Overall, Dr. Grifoni has co-authored 50 peer-reviewed publications during her scientific career, 22 of those as first or last author with more than 1536 citations, an h-index of 15 and i-10-index of 27.
PAOLA CAMPESE AWARD FOR RESEARCH IN LEUKEMIA
I am a physician-scientist focusing on the biology and therapeutic targeting of B-cell lymphoma. I am currently an Advanced Oncology Fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) entering the second and final year of sub-specialization in lymphoid malignancies. My clinical training and five years of postdoctoral research fellowship at MSKCC and Weill CornellMedical College have provided me with a unique set of skills and extensive expertise in B-cell lymphomas. The direct experience with patients has increased my curiosity to answer clinically relevant questions that are significant for improving the treatment of lymphoma. As a physician, I treat oncologic patients using standard and experimental therapies. As a scientist, I translate basic mechanisms into biomedically impactful findings. My fondness for both clinical and basic science has solidified my decision to pursue a career as a translational oncologist who is able to bring discoveries from the bench to the bedside.I trained in Medical Oncology at the University of Messina in Italy and was certified as an oncologist with the highest honors. Given my interest in the molecular mechanisms underlying cancer development, I decided to enroll in a PhD program in Cellular Biology and Experimental Medicine that I developed at MSKCC under the mentorship of Dr. Anas Younes, a leading translational researcher in the experimental lymphoma field. In Dr.Younes’ lab I have worked for three years on the development of novel targeted therapies aimed at disrupting well-defined oncogenic signaling pathways, including PI3K, BCL2 and NF-kB. My first work on CUDC-907, a dual PI3K and HDAC inhibitor (Mondello et al, Oncotarget 2017), helped provide data for FDA approval for the treatment of relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). I had the opportunity to give an oral presentation based on this work at the 2016 ASH Annual meeting and earned the 2016 ASH Abstract Achievement Award. I also discovered that histone deacetylase inhibition could downregulate expression of a mutated form of MYD88, a signaling adaptor that is frequently mutated in patients with B-cell lymphoma. I showed that this effect was dependent on transcriptional regulation of MYD88 through STAT3 and could enhance ibrutinib efficacy in MYD88 mutant cells (Mondello et al, JCI Insight 2017). This and two subsequent works (Liu Y* and Mondello P*, PNAS 2018; Derenzini E, Mondello P, et al, Cell Reports 2018) provided the mechanistic rationale for the development of ongoing clinical trials at MSKCC (NCT03939182, NCT01742988).To further build on my interest in lymphoma epigenetics, I pursued postdoctoral studies at Weill Cornell Medical College in the laboratory of Dr. Ari Melnick, a world-renowned expert in transcription and epigenetics. The focus of my postdoctoral research was aberrant epigenetic programming and development of precision guided therapies in B-cell lymphoma. Specifically, I explored the role of selective HDAC3 inhibitors in restoring antigen presentation molecules in lymphoma cells, enabling T-cells to recognize and kill them, especially in the presence of CREBBP mutations. This work led to a first-author paper in Cancer Discovery, and set the stage for the clinical development of this small molecule. Iwas also awarded the NIH/NCI Hemsley scholarship following this publication.I then enhanced my research skills related to cancer immunotherapy while studying the role of tumor-immune interactions as a research fellow at Mayo Clinic in the laboratory andclinic of Dr. Stephen Ansell, relevant investigator of immunotherapy and immune surveillance. I discovered that the expression of intrafollicular memory CD4+ T-cells is an independent predictor of outcome in follicular lymphoma (FL) and established a new risk model, termed BioFLIPI, that incorporates biological and clinical features to improve risk stratification for these patients. This work was selected as oral presentation at the 2019 ASH Annual meeting and recognized with the 2019 ASH Abstract Achievement Award and the 2020 ASCO Merit Award.
More recently, I have returned to MSKCC for further clinical training as an Advanced Oncology Fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Zelenetz, an internationally recognized leader in the lymphoid malignancies. Having spent the last year treating patients with Dr. Younes and Dr. Zelenetz, I have quickly honed my expertise in the treatment of B-cell lymphomas. I designed a clinical trial investigating the combination of HDAC3 inhibitors and venetoclax (a BCL2 inhibitor) in patients with FL and DLBCL based on my own preclinical data. I have had the unique opportunity to spearhead a multicenter study comparing the efficacy of R-CHOP vs R-Bendamustine in FL patients with high SUV at the baseline PET. Additionally, I have been awarded the NIH/NCI MSK Lymphoma SPORE Career Enhancement Award and led a major research effort between the MSK and Mayo Clinic Lymphoma SPOREs. This project will characterize the genetic landscape and microenvironment of the largely unknown FL3B, and ultimately lead to novel rationally designed clinical trials for patients with this aggressive lymphoma subset, helping to address an unmet medical need. Moreover, I was recently awarded the NIH/NCI K30 Clinical Research Methodology Curriculum Award andhave pursued additional funding opportunities including the ASCO Young Investigator Award and the Lymphoma Scientific Research Mentoring Program by Lymphoma Research Foundation.My career goal is to become an independent investigator in a leading academicresearch institution in the US where I can run an independent laboratory and maintain clinical activities as a medical oncologist. My prior experience and current training will provide me with a solid foundation to reach my purpose of accelerating the translation of my scientific discoveries into novel treatment strategies to improve the cure rate of patients with B-cell lymphomas.
PAOLA CAMPESE AWARD FOR RESEARCH IN LEUKEMIA
I am an Instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. I obtained a degree in Biotechnology at the Università di Milano-Bicocca, Italy in 2010, and a PhD in Molecular Biology at the CNB-CSIC in Madrid, Spain in 2014. During my PhD, I focused on non-coding DNA regulatory sequences of pigmentation genes, and generated mice carrying deletions of selected enhancers. Analysis of these mice highlighted the relevance of non-coding elements in regulating patterns of gene expression. In 2015 I joined the laboratory of Dr. Stuart Orkin at Boston Children’s Hospital, where I trained in hematology, stem cell biology and genomics. In Boston, I used genome editing to explore the role of epigenetic factors in the context of mouse embryonic stem cells, and generated a series of mouse models to study how chromatin modifiers control hematopoiesis, erythropoiesis and the expression of globin genes. My current research is focused on the role of chromatin modifiers and cis-regulatory sequences in pediatric malignancies, supported by grants from Pedals for Pediatrics and the WES Foundation. After receiving a Starting Grant from the ERC, in 2021 I will open my laboratory at the St. Anna Children’s Cancer Research Institute (CCRI) in Vienna, Austria.
I am a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in Michael Kharas’s laboratory, focusing on translational laboratory-based research of hemato-oncology, with a particular emphasis on acute leukemia. I have experience in basic cancer biology as well as in translational research.
Prior to this position, I started my education in Italy where I obtained my bachelor degree in Industrial Biotechnology at University of Bari during which I spent a year in an analytical chemistry lab studying drug controlled-release devices under the supervision of Prof. Elvira De Giglio. Then I moved to Milano where I earned my Master Degree at University of Milano-Bicocca in Genomic Biotechnology and my master thesis was developed in the R&D department of a pharmaceutical company (Lofarma S.P.A), leader in production of vaccines for allergies in Italy. This time spent in the company made me experience a different reality compared to the academia and meet some patient and disease-oriented needs in a more concrete way. After that, I worked in the same company as Quality Control Technician before I started my PhD in translational medicine at Fondazione Tettamanti, a research center closely collaborating with University of Milano-Bicocca and leader for diagnosis and monitoring of genetic abnormalities in childhood leukemia for all Italy. As graduate student, I focused on novel therapeutic strategies to target CRLF2/JAK2 driven malignancies (Leukemia 2017). Importantly, in this work the HADAC inhibitor givinostat selectively killed the malignant cells in CRLF2/JAK2-driven ALL potentiating the effect of current chemotherapy and overcoming the well know effect of JAK-inhibition resistance. Most importantly, I learned critical thinking skill and how to ask salient research questions that have potential to make great impacts on the field. I got my PhD in 2015. Soon after I moved to Tel Aviv to Professor Shai Izraeli’s laboratory in Sheba Medical Center focusing on studying the pathogenesis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with signaling pathway alterations, mainly focusing on CRLF2/JAK2 driven ALLs. I contributed to characterize the USP9X loss in Down Syndrome JAK driven leukemia (published as a co-first author in May 2017 in PNAS). I made the discovery that JAK signaling requires buffering for survival of leukemic cells. Importantly, I discovered that Ruxolitinib, in the dose given in the clinic, may paradoxically promote the survival of JAK mutated lymphoid leukemic cells. Furthermore, I contributed to creating a mouse model for IL7/CRLF2/JAK driven lymphoid leukemia with the intention of dissecting an instructive role for IL7RA in the development of human B-cell precursor leukemia (under review in Nature Communications).
In the last part of my first post doc, I developed a growing interest towards metabolic adaptation of leukemic cells, especially to extramedullary sites. Motivated by this type of cancer research, I’ve spent last two years of my first post doc and the first year of my second, modeling and studying the pathogenesis of CNS (central nervous system) leukemia using in vitro and in vivo models of CNS-prone human xenografts. This study unraveled the dependency of this leukemia on de novo lipid synthesis and pointed out Steroyl CoA-desaturase (SCD) as a new metabolic driver of CNS lymphoid leukemia. This manuscript has been published in Nature Cancer (2020).
DESCRIPTION OF MY CURRENT WORK
Since 2019 the main focus of my research has been to determine the metabolic vulnerabilities of leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in relation to RNA Binding Proteins, specifically MSI2, with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic strategies that selectively target malignant cells in leukemia patients. To date, I have been actively involved in targeting metabolic adaptation of acute myeloid leukemia cells to alternative nutrients in a context of disease-induced stress. In the Bone Marrow (BM), high proliferative leukemic cells need to sustain rapid cell division and enhanced energetic demand, increasing the acquisition of nutrients from the environment and reprogramming their intermediary metabolism to produce more biomass. As consequence, these cells modify the local environment making the primary BM niche nutrient-scarce and hypoxic, forcing the cells to re-program their metabolism to sustain their enhanced fitness. My work have provided the mechanistic evidence that metabolic adaptation of leukemic cells to utilize fructose in conditions of glucose deprivation can be inhibited by targeting phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH), a key enzyme of Serine Synthesis Pathway (SSP) leading to a new potent therapeutic strategy to eradicate the disease.
EMBASSY OF ITALY AWARD FOR COVID-19 RESEARCH
I was born in Naples in 1990, and since childhood I was passionate about biology and science. In 2014, I obtained a Master’s Degree in Medical Biotechnology summa cum laude at University of Naples "Federico II". In 2018, I got my PhD in Translational Medicine at University of Salerno, with a research project focused on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and multimorbidities; my passion for cardiovascular diseases and the underlying molecular mechanisms stems from these studies. During my PhD and Postdoctoral training, I built my experience in studying vascular biology with particular attention to endothelial dysfunction, focusing on the role of calcium signaling, microRNA, and mitochondrial biology as implicated molecular mechanisms in several contexts of cardiovascular diseases. My assiduous work and my enthusiasm gave me the opportunity to participate in several international conferences receiving awards including Young Investigator Award in Basic and Translational Science, Heart Failure (ESC-2019), Scholarships for young scientists, (EAACI 2018 in Munich and 2019 in Lisbon). Moreover, I grew my passion and scientific knowledge by meeting and interacting with important exponents of the field; for instance, in 2018, I was selected as one of the promising young scientists for participation into the “Nobel Prize Laureate week” at Lindau, Germany, one week of formation and inspiration with 30 Nobel Laureates in Medicine and Physiology, one of the best experience in my life. In 2020, I won a prestigious Postdoctoral Fellow from the American Heart Association (AHA) to study the role of vascular tone in heart failure in the Lab of Prof. Gaetano Santulli, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. During the pandemic outbreak, we focused our research on the mechanistic role of endothelial dysfunction in COVID-19, as most clinical manifestations can be attributable to endothelial damage (thromboembolism, kidney failure, diabetes exacerbation, neurological disorders). We were the first group worldwide to show endothelial involvement in SARS-CoV-2 infection, highlighting a new aspect of COVID-19 useful for patients management and treatment. We are currently working on examining the molecular mechanisms underlying the endothelial involvement in COVID-19, and our data are encouraging and promising.
I was born in San Dona’ di Piave, province of Venice, on July 31, 1984. I attended the Liceo Scientifico in my city and then continued my studies in Padua where I obtained a Master's Degree in Biotechnology. In Padua I obtained also my PhD in Bioscience and Biotechnology and from there my love for Biochemistry and the characterization of protein complexes was born. I am passionate about studying proteins starting from their cloning, the expression in heterologous systems to purification, using always different tools and cutting-edge techniques. My postdoc in Padua at Professor Zanotti's Laboratory gave me the opportunity to use my biochemical knowledge for structural purposes by making me specialize in Structural Biology in the field of X-ray crystallography. Initially my target of interest were Helicobacter Pylori proteins linked to the onset of stomach cancer, I have indeed solved and published numerous protein structures from this organism. My interest then shifted to membrane proteins linked in particular to the transport of ions, opening up to numerous collaborations in Italy and abroad that immediately made me understand the importance of a broad international breath of science especially linked to collaborations between different institutes. In particular I have been involved in the study of the complex of proteins that regulate the MCU channel and the PMCA, the plasma membrane calcium ATPase involved in the calcium homeostasis inside cells. The growing interest in the use of CryoEM for structural purposes, a type of transmission electron microscopy technique in which the sample is studied at cryogenic temperatures, led me to move to New York at Columbia University, one of the top center for electron microscopy where it operates and works also Joachim Frank, 2017 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his contribution in the field of CryoEM. Here I work in the laboratory of Oliver Clarke, a young professor with experience in structural analysis in of membrane proteins. I arrived in New York only a few months before the beginning of the pandemic which practically blocked all ongoing projects but gave me the opportunity to pool my knowledge to try to make a contribution in the fight against this virus. I started this project focused on the structural characterization of the E-protein, one of the most important SARS-CoV-2 proteins linked to its replication and virulence. During the months of lockdown I was also involved in the development of an ELISA test for the screening of CoVid antibodies to be used at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in order to quickly check the positivity of medical personnel and patients, then continuing in the following months to test department staff and people potentially exposed to the virus. This work allowed me to feel useful in the difficult months of the pandemic in which I was worried about my loved ones in Italy and I was in a city that was in a very difficult moment. In addition to the academic aspect, I am a very active person in the social field, for more than 25 years I was a member of the Scout group of my city, leaving my position as group leader only last year due to the transfer to the US. I was also a volunteer of Emergency. I love adventures and the mountains, I take great walks and I have completed 5 marathons, the next one will be the one in New York when conditions will allow it.
And last, but no least, I love my peeculeenow, that is good, capable and gentle, as I am.
MARIO GERLA AWARD FOR RESEARCH IN COMPUTER SCIENCE
Ferdinando Fioretto is an assistant professor at the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, Syracuse University. Prior to this, he was a postdoctoral research associate at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a research fellow at the University of Michigan. Ferdinando received his PhDs in Computer Science from the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at University of Udine and the Department of Computer Science at New Mexico State University. His research focuses on artificial intelligence, data privacy, optimization, and multi-agent systems. He particularly focuses on research threads: “Learning to optimize”, whose goal is to develop techniques that leverage deep learning to aid the resolution of constrained optimization problems and, in particular, optimization problems with hard physical and engineering constraints, and “Privacy-preserving AI”, whose goal is the protection of sensitive users' data for large-scale optimization and machine learning models while preserving the salient features of the application of interest.
Ferdinando is the author of over 40 articles published in artificial intelligence journals and conferences proceedings. He is the co-organizer of OptLearnMAS, since 2018, an AAMAS workshop that focuses on optimization and learning in multi-agent systems, and PPAI, since 2019, an AAAI workshop that focuses on privacy preserving artificial intelligence. He has given tutorials at AAAI and AAMAS and served the program committee of various artificial intelligence and machine learning conferences, including AAAI and CP, as senior program committee, IJCAI as area chair, and AAMAS, ECML, and NeurIPS. He is the recipient of a best student paper award (CMSB, 2013), a most visionary paper award (AAMAS workshop series, 2017), and a best AI dissertation award (AI*IA, 2017).
FRANCO STRAZZABOSCO AWARD FOR RESEARCH IN ENGINEERING
Emilio Nanni received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Physics from Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2007. After graduating he worked for the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center developing non-destructive evaluation techniques for applications related to the US space program. He completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2013 where he worked on high-frequency high-power THz sources and the development of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometers using Dynamic Nuclear Polarization. His thesis was on the first photonic-band-gap gyrotron travelling wave amplifier which demonstrated record power and gain levels in the THz frequency band. He completed his postdoc at MIT with a joint appointment in the Nuclear Reactor Lab and the Research Laboratory for Electronics at MIT where he demonstrated the first acceleration of electrons with optically generated THz pulses. He joined the Technology Innovation Directorate at SLAC in August of 2015 where he continues his work on high power, high-frequency vacuum electron devices; optical THz amplifiers; electron-beam dynamics; and advanced accelerator concepts.