The Votes are In
Seed Grants awarded to four SBU Postdocs

For the first time ever at Stony Brook University, Postdocs were given the opportunity to submit seed grant proposals in a highly competitive bid for funds to support their research and the chance to act as an independent principal investigator. Of the 26 applications received, four were awarded in the amount of $10K each to Postdocs in Applied Math and Statistics, Pharmacological Sciences, the Turkana Basin Institute, and the Department of Medicine.

The money for the postdoctoral seed grants was generously donated by the Stony Brook Research Office, formerly known as the OVPR, through a 2-year commitment to the administrative support of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Every application was independently reviewed by two faculty members with a third level of review undertaken by committee for those proposals that were closely ranked within the fundable range or that received disparate scores.

And the winners are …

“I was very honored to learn that I was awarded the SBU Postdoc seed grant; I believe it will be invaluable in helping me to gather important experimental results related to my research, and in helping me to procure future funding." – William Allen

Dr. William J. Allen currently works with Professor Robert Rizzo in the Applied Math & Statistics Department, and his was the only proposal to receive a review with a perfect score. As the reviewer wrote, “This is an outstanding application from a highly qualified candidate to conduct research in an important area. The application is well developed and justified from all points of view.”

Dr. Allen describes his work: “Our laboratory is interested in developing new small-molecule drug leads that target the HIV fusion protein gp41. We use computational techniques that are rooted in principles of chemistry, physics, and mathematics to predict and characterize interactions between small organic compounds and a biological target.” Having completed his PhD degree at Virginia Tech, his long-term goal is to “make a positive impact on global health … through a career of teaching and research in the life sciences. … I plan to seek a faculty position at a primarily undergraduate institution where I can establish and drive a research program in computer-aided drug design.”


Dr. Dino Martins is an entomologist studying the mosquito vector breeding sites at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya who completed his PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Having recently suffered a bout of malaria himself, he is painfully aware of “the importance of controlling and understanding the biology of the malaria vectors in the areas where malaria is endemic.” His work centers on “… discovering new species, incredible diversity and striking adaptations to heat, drought and other factors in the insect world of Turkana.”

Among his many awards and fellowships are the Derek Bok Teaching Award and the Ashford Fellowship in the Natural Sciences from Harvard University. In 2004, he received a Smithsonian Institution Fellowship, and in 2002 & 2003, the  Peter Jenkins Award for Excellence in African Environmental Journalism. In 2009 he won the Whitley Award for Conservation and in 2011 was selected as one of National Geographic’s ‘Emerging Explorers’.

“To be taken seriously as a scientist in Africa one needs to link basic research to real change, and this is what I humbly seek to do as an entomologist: to uncover the many ways in which the lives of humans and insects are entwined. This grant will enable me to take the first steps towards accomplishing these goals.” - Dino Martins







Dr. Ka-Wing Cheng’s research focuses on developing novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of cancer with the more specific goal of developing treatment modalities that will cure skin malignancies in patients suffering from non-melanoma skin cancer.

He received his PhD from the University of Hong Kong and, as his mentor and PI Professor Basil Rigas writes in his letter of support, Ka-Wing’s publication record, “… is astonishing for someone just two years into his postdoctoral training: 40 peer reviewed research articles, 4 review articles and 3 book chapters, with 720 overall citations.”

Dr. Cheng’s career goals are to become an independent investigator in cancer research and lead a research team that is highly productive, competitive and collaborative in an academic research institution. 

“Being awarded the seed grant has been one of the most exciting moments during my postdoctoral training. As the Principal Investigator of the seed grant, I will be able to take a leading role in my research project, which is definitely an important step towards achieving my career goal as an independent investigator.” – Ka-Wing Cheng




“... When I was notified that I was one of four recipients of the grant I was ecstatic.  This funding will promote my advancement in the molecular neurobiology field by enabling me to have the resources and exposure to a variety of techniques that will facilitate my research as a post doctoral fellow and strengthen my scientific foundation for a future career as an independent investigator.” – Jaime Emmetsberger


Dr. Jaime Emmetsberger received both her BS and PhD degrees from Stony Brook University. She works with Professor David Talmage in Pharmacological Sciences, “…  studying two schizophrenic risk factors, ErbB4 and, its signaling partner, Type III neuregulin-1. Specifically I want to address how these signaling proteins regulate neurogenesis in the fetal and adult brain. I am using transgenic mice to study alterations in proliferation, migration and maturation of neural precursors and how this is linked to developmental changes that cause cognitive impairment and psychosis.”

Of his postdoc, Professor Talmage writes, “Jaime is a great lab citizen, a valued new colleague and an excellent communicator. I am confident that she will provide value information on brain development relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders and that she will join the community of scientists dedicated to understanding and eliminating these diseases.”







2012 Postdoctoral Research Symposium Highlights Communicating Science

Article by Ansa Varughese and Samantha Olson


STEM Visa Reform Bill would Exclude Biosciences

AAAS article by Jeffrey Mervis, September 26, 2012


This year’s Postdoctoral Achievement Award goes to Ho-Ung Yee and Mario Kieburg

The Postdoctoral Achievement Award is decided upon by a committee and is given annually to a Postdoc in theoretical physics for groundbreaking work initiated at Stony Brook. The level of competition this year was so intense that the committee had trouble choosing only one winner and decided to split the award between two deserving Postdocs.

Dr. Yee


Dr. Ho-Ung Yee accepts his award from 
Professor Verbaarschot on May 1

Ho-Ung Yee completed his undergraduate degree in Physics at Seoul National University and his PhD in Theoretical Physics at Yale before coming to Stony Brook 2 years ago as a Postdoctoral Associate. His research at SBU is in theoretical nuclear and particle physics. “I applied to many places for my Postdoc, but when I was accepted here I was very happy because Stony Brook is very prestigious in the field of nuclear physics.  I was hired as a group Postdoc so I work with a lot of different people in a very friendly environment, which I enjoy and which I feel has made me very productive.”

This sentiment is echoed by one of the professors in Yee’s group, Ismail Zahed, “Dr. Ho-Ung Yee is a bright young physicist with genuine insights to a variety of physical problems. He has this important ability to truly focus first on the physics and then on describing it in the most concise way. He is very collegial and generous with his time with students and colleagues alike. It was a pleasure to have him in our group the past two years.”

Ho-Ung Yee received his award "for groundbreaking work on QCD at high temperature.” QCD (Quantum Chromodynamics) is a theory meant to help solve the questions surrounding the inner workings of atomic nuclei; to compute their mass; how they form; how they interact, etc. According to Professor Dmitri Kharzeev, another professor who works with Ho-Ung, “Dr. Yee's work on quantum anomalies in hydrodynamics is ground-breaking, and has broad implications for the physics of plasma, condensed matter systems, and even cosmology of the Early Universe.”  

Upon learning of his award, Ho-Ung commented, “When I received the email, I was very surprised and really honored. There are other well-qualified Postdocs in my department who are working very hard so I look at this award not as a reward but as encouragement for my future research.”

Ho-Ung will be leaving for the windy city in August to undertake a tenure-track Assistant Professor position at the University of Illinois at Chicago. For the first five years of his new assignment he will hold a joint appointment with UIC and RIKEN-BNL Research Center at Brookhaven National Laboratory, splitting his time between the East Coast and Chicago. “I have a family with two small daughters. My wife will have to be independent without me for some of the time, but we visited Chicago recently and really liked the city.”


Dr. Kieburg

Dr. Mario Kieburg receives his award from
Professor Verbaarschot on May 1 

The second winner of the Postdoctoral Achievement Award is Dr. Mario Kieburg. He received an undergraduate Physics degree from the Technical University of Berlin and a Physics graduate degree from the University of Duisburg-Essen. He met his mentor and PI Professor Jacobus Verbaarschot by way of a 2009 conference in Mexico. “I heard Jac speak and he heard me. The conference was for experts in the field of Random Matrix Theory.” After the conference, Mario, with Jac’s help, applied for and was awarded a Fedor-Lynen Fellowship. He came to work with Jac in the Department of Physics in March 2011.

“It has been a real pleasure to work with Mario,” said Professor Verbaarschot, “and the results he has obtained are truly amazing. I have worked with many excellent Postdocs, but I have never met anyone with a similar capacity to solve difficult problems.  His analytical thinking to dissect problems is unequaled, and above all he drives the problem into new and completely unanticipated directions.”

Mario received his award “for groundbreaking work on the mathematical structure of random matrix theories with the symmetries of QCD.” Jac said of Mario’s work, “He solved a random matrix theory for QCD at nonzero lattice spacing and developed the necessary mathematical methods. His results are important for the analysis of large-scale numerical simulations and are already used by several groups.”

About receiving the award, Mario said, “I was very surprised and very happy. I didn’t even know I was nominated.” His future plans are to return to Germany and find a position as a Junior Research Group leader.

This year’s prize consisted of $500 each, which was presented to the winners during the Department of Physics’ annual awards colloquium on May 1st. The Postdocs considered for this award are from the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics and the Nuclear Theory Institute. 




NPA POSTDOCket Newsletter

npaTo see current and past issues of the National Postdoctoral Association's quarterly newsletter The POSTDOCket, click here. Access to the NPA's newsletter is for members only. Because our office is a sustaining member of the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA), all postdoctoral scholars may apply for a free affiliate membership. If you are interested in becoming a member, please email




From the National Postdoctoral Association - April 27, 2011

The National Institutes of Health has increased the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Stipends by 2 percent for 2011. The Tuition and Fees, Training Related Expenses for trainees, and the Institutional Allowance for individual fellows remain unchanged.

"Given that the NIH's Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 funding was cut by $260 million below FY 2010 spending levels, we are very pleased to see this increase in the stipends," said Cathee Johnson Phillips, NPA's executive director, speaking on behalf of the NPA Board of Directors. "We will continue to advocate for a greater increase in 2012 and the following years. This advocacy is important, because the NRSA stipend schedule sets the standard for postdoc compensation across the country."

The NPA Advocacy Committee led the efforts to advocate for an increase in the FY 2011 stipends and continues its efforts for FY 2012. The President's Budget requests a 4-percent increase in NRSA stipends for FY 2012.

The National Postdoctoral Association supports an NRSA entry-level postdoctoral stipend of $45,000, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Personnel Needs Committee in its report Addressing the Nation’s Changing Needs for Biomedical and Behavioral Scientists (2000).


Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)
FASEB is an organization that legislators, federal agencies, and the media turn to for information on policies related to biomedical science and engineering. At FASEB, policy development begins with the working scientists representing their member societies and reflects the views of a broad cross-section of the research community. Their full-time presence in Washington allows them to monitor the latest legislative and regulatory developments, news, and events affecting scientists, and their staff provide analytic, communications, and technical support for their initiatives. The combination of volunteer action and staff professionalism ensures that their advocacy efforts are designed for maximum effectiveness.


Science Careers monthly journalist Beryl Lieff Benderly

Science Careers columnist Beryl Lieff Benderly writes an article on the first Friday of every month entitled "Taken For Granted," which deals with issues relevant to Postdocs. Benderly is a Washington-based journalist who writes on science policy and careers for the website of Science magazine. Recently elected a Fellow of the American Society for the Advancement of Science, Benderly has written eight books and hundreds of articles for national magazines and Web publications.


Recommended Reading

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Free Trade Magazine Subscriptions and Technical Document Downloads

Journal of Visualized Experiments

Kerry Ann Rockquemore - Winning Tenure Without Losing your Soul

Leaving the Ivory Tower

Making the Most of Your Postdoc

NAS 2000 Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience

National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity

Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist

Recovering from Postdoc Mistakes

Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Overcome the Imposter Syndrome

The Evolving Postdoctoral Experience

The Postdoc Experience: Not always what you expect

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This Fine Place So Far From Home: Voices of Academics from the Working Class

Women in Science: The battle moves to the trenches


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