Two from Hopkins BME recognized at Young Investigators’ Day
May 6, 2020
Young Investigators’ Day at Johns Hopkins University was established in 1978 to recognize the outstanding research contributions made by our trainees: medical and graduate students, postdoctoral and clinical fellows and residents. The annual celebration includes brief presentations by the awardees, a poster presentation and reception. Awardees each receive a cash prize as well as recognition during convocation ceremonies. Many Young Investigators’ Day winners have gone on to very successful careers in biomedical research.
Each award carries a distinct honor and specific history to the legacy of biomedical research here at Johns Hopkins, and a number of named awards were established and are generously supported by friends and family in memory of past students or faculty members.
Award winners affiliated with Hopkins BME include:
Chen Zhao – The Bao Gyo Jung Research Award (2008)
Mentor: Aleksander S. Popel
Macrophages are a class of innate immune cells that play essential roles in the progression of a variety of major human diseases. My research project is to build multiscale computational models to mechanistically simulate and investigate the role of macrophages, especially their phenotypic polarization, in the regulation of blood vessel formation, inflammation and immune response in disease settings such as cancer and peripheral arterial disease. These data-driven computational platforms that I built were used to identify and evaluate novel therapeutic strategies, with the potential to improve disease outcomes in patients. My research adviser is Aleksander S. Popel, Ph.D., in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
Scott Albert – The Matte Strand Research Award (1998)
Mentor: Reza Shadmehr
Every movement begins and ends in a period of stillness. In the Laboratory for Computational Motor Control (the Shadmehr Lab), we study how the brain controls these different periods of motor activity. While decades of research have demonstrated that one area of the brain, the primary motor cortex, is critical for the execution of a movement, we know comparatively little about how the brain holds the arm still in a desired posture. In our recent work, we wondered if the brain holds the arm still using a strategy similar to that of the eye. For the eye, there are some neurons that produce a “moving” signal that corresponds to the velocity of the eye. However, there is a separate set of neurons that produce a “holding” signal that corresponds to the position of the eye. Much like the formula “distance equals rate multiplied by time,” the holding neurons calculate the “holding” signal by mathematically integrating the “moving” signal over time. Through a sequence of experiments involving over 200 healthy humans, 14 stroke patients, and four non-human primates, we discovered that a very similar integration process is used to hold the arm still. Critically, because reach integration was unimpaired in patients who suffered from cortical strokes, our work suggests that there are separate areas of the brain that move the arm and hold the arm still, as for the eye. These findings may help us understand why some neurological conditions can lead to impairment in movements and abnormal postures.