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AAMC MOSAIC 2022 Cohort Scholars

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AAMC’s MOSAIC Program Scholars are select National Institute of Health (NIH)-K99/R00 awardees who hail from diverse backgrounds, for example from groups underrepresented in research, as they transition from postdoctoral appointments into academic research faculty positions.

Kynon Jade Benjamin
Kynon Jade Benjamin, PhD

Kynon Jade Benjamin, PhD

Project Title: Comprehensive Computational Analysis of Genetic and Regulatory Differences Between Individuals With African and European Ancestries Across Four Brain Regions

Institution: Lieber Institute, Inc.

Born and raised in a large extended family from Indianapolis, Indiana, Kynon Jade Benjamin is proud to be the first doctor in his family. Science has always been a passion for Dr. Benjamin, and he remembers his family encouraging his interest by giving him a microscope and lab coat for Christmas when he was 10. He earned his GED with the support of his family before moving on to Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). At IUPUI, Dr. Benjamin completed his work study at a neuroscience research laboratory. This started his neuroscience research journey, leading to several undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral research awards, as well as poster and oral presentation awards. His current research at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine focuses on the improvement of therapeutics for underresearched communities (i.e., personalized medicine) via investigating ancestry genetic and epigenetic differences for neurological disorders in relevant tissues. Throughout his research path, Dr. Benjamin’s experiences have reinforced the critical need for diversity and creating inclusive spaces. As such, he has worked to provide mentorship and representation as well as advocate for opportunities for other underrepresented minorities.

Grant ID: MD0169640

Kyle A. Cottrell
Kyle A. Cottrell, PhD

Kyle A. Cottrell, PhD

Project Title: Identifying Determinants of ADAR-Dependency in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Institution: Washington University

Funding NIH Institute/Center: National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Kyle A. Cottrell grew up in a small town in southwest Missouri. He began his undergraduate studies at Ozarks Technical Community College before transferring to Missouri State University. It was there while volunteering in a laboratory that he became interested in biomedical research. He earned his BS and MS at Missouri State and his PhD from Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). His doctoral studies focused on posttranscriptional regulation by miRNAs and RNA-binding proteins. As a postdoctoral research associate at WUSTL, Dr. Cottrell studies the RNA editing enzyme ADAR and its role in breast cancer. As a first-generation student from a low-socioeconomic background, he is keenly aware of the challenges those from disadvantaged backgrounds face in academia. Dr. Cottrell has taken an active role in improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in biomedical research, both at the individual level through his mentorship of trainees from underrepresented backgrounds and at a larger scale through his work outside of the laboratory. As a member of the Washington University Postdoc Society, he has organized several events focused on career development. Dr. Cottrell founded First-Gen Scholars to provide mentorship, community, and other resources for trainees who are first-generation students or who are from low-socioeconomic backgrounds so that they will be better equipped to navigate careers in academia.

Grant ID: MD016946

Melissa Flores
Melissa Flores, PhD

Melissa Flores, PhD

Project Title: Toward Accurate Cardiovascular Disease Prediction in Hispanics/Latinos: Modeling Risk and Resilience Factors

Institution: University of Arizona

Funding NIH Institute/Center: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Melissa Flores grew up in Midland, Texas, and has always been avidly curious about the natural and social world. Her undergraduate research experiences at the University of Texas at Austin and early community work in behavioral health spurred her interest in social dynamics and health. She continued her education at the University of Arizona, where she earned a PhD in family studies and human development and a minor in biostatistics. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychology at the University of Arizona, working with Dr. John M. Ruiz. As a developmental scientist, she aims to understand both social and structural factors associated with the persistence of health disparities in Latina/o/x populations using a resilience-focused lens. She is interested in novel and advanced quantitative methods to model complex social environments as they relate to cardiovascular disease. Dr. Flores is enthusiastic about and committed to strengthening the academic pipeline for diverse scholars. She is an active mentor across several academic domains spanning middle (6th to 10th grade) to graduate school.

Grant ID: HL157611

Erica L. O’Brien
Erica L. O’Brien, PhD

Erica L. O’Brien, PhD

Project Title: Pathways Linking Negative Self-Views of Aging to Physical Activity in Daily Life: An Intensive Within-Person Approach

Institution: Pennsylvania State University

Funding NIH Institute/Center: National Institute on Aging

Erica L. O’Brien has lived in various parts of the United States, as well as abroad. Her interest in science emerged from her undergraduate research experience, which focused on older adults and the experience of aging. She earned her BS in sociology from Virginia Tech and a PhD in psychology with an emphasis on lifespan development from North Carolina State University. In 2019, she began her postdoctoral training as a T32 fellow in the center for healthy aging at Pennsylvania State University. Her research interests are in understanding and promoting the everyday psychological and behavioral pathways that lead to healthy aging. Dr. O’Brien has consistently sought to integrate her scientific training with mentoring, education, and outreach activities aimed at engaging students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds in STEM work. She looks forward to continuing initiatives designed to promote diversity in science and academia as an independent investigator.

Grant ID: AG075259

Meet our 2021 Cohort Scholars

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