Cornell selects eight Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows

By: Daniel Aloi ,  Cornell Chronicle
Wed, 05/08/2019

Yunqui (Kelly) Luo has long been intrigued by the laws of nature.

“As a kid, I loved to play with tools and understand the ways in which the physical world works around us,” she said. The physics labs at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology cemented her passion for research.

“The journey to understand the intimate interplay between fundamental science discoveries and technological innovations, particularly the depth and complexity of quantum physics in various domains of information science, has made for nothing but a thrilling and fulfilling venture,” says Luo, who is one of eight recently selected Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows.

Currently a Graduate Presidential Fellow at the Ohio State University, Luo plans to defend her doctoral dissertation in August and this fall will join Cornell and the lab of her faculty sponsor, Dan Ralph, professor of physics.

Luo’s research involves two-dimensional hybrid material systems, “a newly discovered group of nanosystems with the potential to revolutionize silicon-based computer chips with faster computational speed, smaller size and ultralow power.” She looks forward “to combining my expertise in 2D spin and magnetism with Cornell’s expertise in magnetic manipulations, [and] probing the ultimate limits of nonvolatile magnetic memory.”

The Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is an initiative created in 2017 to attract some of the world’s best young talent to Cornell. The inaugural class of 10 fellows was selected in February 2018. A new cohort of fellows is selected each year.

“I’m happy to welcome this group of talented, accomplished scholars to Cornell,” said President Martha E. Pollack. “The university is committed to leadership in research, and I look forward to the contributions of these distinguished new members of our community.”

The program encompasses research-based disciplines across the Ithaca campus, at Cornell Tech in New York City and Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. The new fellows represent fields in the life sciences, the humanities, social sciences and the physical sciences.

Researcher Ana Porras, another new fellow, is already at Cornell and has been studying the relationship between the gut microbiome and human health. Her faculty sponsor is Ilana Brito, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and a Mong Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow.

Porras, a native of Colombia, has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she researched calcific aortic valve disease using tissue engineering techniques.

She will use her engineering background to design tissue models of inflammatory bowel disease. Her hobbies include “crocheting cute microbes.”

Six other new postdoctoral fellows will arrive at Cornell beginning this spring and summer. They are:

  • Mina Tahmasbi Arashloo, a doctoral student at Princeton University. Her research on computer networks draws from programming languages, systems, computer architecture and other areas of computer science to explore the design of programmable platforms that abstract and automate network monitoring and control tasks otherwise done by humans. She will work with Nate Foster, professor of computer science.
  • Dorian Bandy ’10, a doctoral student in musicology at the University of Glasgow. He researches melody, variation and embellishment in the music of Mozart and is a conductor and violinist. A music and literature major as an undergraduate at Cornell, Bandy was a 2010 Marshall Scholarship recipient and studied baroque violin at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His faculty sponsor is David Yearsley, professor of music.
  • MC Forelle, a doctoral student in communication at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. Her scholarly work examines the intersections of technology, culture and the law. She will work with James Grimmelmann, professor of law at Cornell Tech and Cornell Law School. Forelle has degrees in film production from Boston University and in media, culture and communication from New York University, where her master’s thesis was on the use of Twitter by congressional candidates in 2012. Her dissertation combines legal analysis and ethnography in examining the tensions between personal property and intellectual property regimes in software-embedded consumer products, particularly cars.
  • Aaron Hall, a scholar of slavery, governance and constitutionalism in the 19th-century United States. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Hall will receive his Ph.D. in history this month from the University of California, Berkeley. His faculty sponsor at Cornell is Josh Chafetz, professor of law. Hall is writing a book on the creation of an authoritative American constitutional culture through conflicts over slavery prior to 1830. He is also developing a second book studying slavery as a public institution. His work has appeared in the Journal of Southern History, Law and History Review and other journals.
  • Celene Reynolds, a doctoral student in sociology at Yale University with research and teaching interests in social change, law and organizations, and gender and sexualities. Her faculty sponsor is Pamela Tolbert, the Lois S. Gray Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Social Sciences. A published scholar with numerous grants and awards for her research, Reynolds is studying how anti-discrimination law has been interpreted differently over time, despite the letter of the law remaining the same. Her dissertation centers on the change in how Title IX – the 1972 U.S. civil rights law prohibiting sexual discrimination in education and other programs receiving federal funding – has been applied.
  • Manvendra Singh, a scientist at Max-Delbrueck Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany. His doctoral research at Freie University in Berlin was on endogenous retroviruses aiding human embryogenesis, with transposable elements (TEs) offering key transcription factors to bind and regulate the expression of genes. The work integrated genomic, single-cellular and other datasets from individuals showing symptoms of preeclampsia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and reproductive dysfunction. His faculty sponsor is Cedric Feschotte, professor of molecular biology and genetics. Singh’s research interests at Cornell will include applying deep learning and neural networks methodology to analyze genomic data and “decipher the further role of TEs as regulatory elements in development and disease progression.”

Cornell received more than 200 applications for this class of postdoctoral fellows. A selection committee of tenured faculty members reviewed the applicants and shortlisted 15 for interviews.

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research administers the fellowships, which are funded by the Office of the Provost and the deans of participating schools and colleges at Cornell. Appointments are for three years, subject to a positive annual evaluation of scholarly progress. The fellows, along with participants in other prestigious Cornell postdoctoral programs ,receive lifetime membership in the Society of Cornell Fellows.

Accomplishments among the first class of postdoctoral fellows so far have included a faculty appointment at Cornell (Andrew Campana, in the Department of Asian Studies), several publications, invited talks and various high-profile, discipline-specific awards.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle. 

Headshot of postdoc fellow Mina Tahmasbi Arashloo