[Photo: The Rutgers-RWJMS Postdoctoral Career Development Program included the Rutgers Annual Postdoc Appreciation Day/Research & Career Development Symposium held every September at Rutgers since 2009.  Starting in 2011, the President of the Postdoctoral Association (PDA) had been an INSPIRE Fellow (Dr. Matthew Marcello: 2011 and 2012; Dr. Keith Feigenson: 2013; Dr. Krishna Tobon: 2014; Dr. Stephen Shannon: 2015).  The PDA President works with the PDA Officers to organize all aspects of the event, from selecting the Keynote Speaker and other presenters, to choosing the location, generating publicity, and handling the web site and registration.]    


Sofya Borinskaya, Ph.D.
Rutgers University
Department of Pathology

Sofya Borinskaya is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Martha Soto. Sofya holds B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Binghamton University, SUNY and Ph.D. in Biomedical Science with Cell Analysis and Modeling concentration from UConn Health, Farmington, CT. In graduate school, she worked on interdisciplinary projects about dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton. Sofya studied the role of the adaptor protein Nck in signaling from cell membrane to the actin cytoskeleton and regulation of actin dynamics by cofilin and capping proteins using detailed biochemical modeling. Her postdoctoral research projects will extend to investigating actin dynamics in C. elegans model organism. More specifically Sofya will investigate the role of WAVE in regulating cadherin/HMR-1 dynamics in adherens junctions. She also will explore the roles of different nucleation mechanisms in polarity establishment and cellular migration during epidermal and intestinal morphogenesis.

Sofya is an advocate of math education for life sciences and interested in a career of an educator researcher at primarily undergraduate institution. During her graduate career she took a variety of courses in teaching and instruction, computational biology education and earned the Certificate in College Teaching and Instruction. She also contributes to the development of the computational science teaching materials for undergraduate life science curriculum. Additionally Sofya is learning how to build creative and playful environment in classroom and how improvisation and performance enhance science education.


Victoria L. DiBona, Ph.D.
Rutgers University
Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology

Victoria DiBona is a true Scarlet Knight, having earned both a B.S. in Biochemistry followed by a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Rutgers University.  Her thesis project, under the direction of Dr. Huaye Zhang, focused on how the polarity protein Par1 regulates microglia function both during development and following injury.  Having enjoyed mentoring numerous undergraduate students during her thesis training, Victoria wanted to continue to pursue a career in academia committed to both research and undergraduate education. She was pleased to accept a post-doctorate position in the IRACDA INSPIRE program at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and work in the lab of Dr. Lori White. Her postdoctoral research aims to examine the effects of pesticide/insecticide exposure on microglia-neuron interactions during early development, which could have implications for understanding different neurodevelopmental disorders. To better prepare for a career immersed in undergraduate teaching and research, this post-doctoral project will be performed utilizing Danio rerio, zebrafish, which are a unique and intriguing model organism for studying microglia in CNS disorders and well-suited for undergraduate laboratory training.


In addition to this exciting research endeavor, Victoria is preparing to continue her mentorship, training and teaching of undergraduate students in entry-level courses, as well as specialized instructions of basic science research tools such as microscopy, model systems, and methods, at Rutgers University and Minority-Serving Institutions. Combining both a sincere love of scientific research and teaching, she hopes to help inspire the next generation of scientists to continue to ask the tough questions and explore the unknown.


Jennifer Catuzzi Fragale, Ph.D.
Rutgers University
Brain Health Institute

Jennifer Fragale earned a B.S. degree in Molecular Biology from Montclair State University in 2011 and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Rutgers University-Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2016. In graduate school, she studied the role of cognitive flexibility and motivation in the development of anxiety disorders. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers University Brain Health Institute where she works in the laboratory of Dr. Gary Aston-Jones. Her research focuses on the role of orexin in motivated opioid abuse. Orexins are neuropeptides exclusively produced in the hypothalamus and have been implicated in motivated drug taking. Jennifer’s work aims to identify orexin circuits critical for motivated opioid abuse. She hopes that her work will help to identify novel pharmacological treatments to combat opioid addiction. Jennifer is passionate about engaging young students in scientific research. In the Aston-Jones laboratory, she works with several undergraduate students and enjoys her time spent mentoring them.

Pragati Sharma, Ph.D.
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Pragati Sharma earned her B.S. (Honors) in Chemistry and M.S. (Honors) in Analytical Chemistry from Panjab University, Chandigarh in India. For doctoral work, she moved to New Jersey to pursue her love for life sciences at Rutgers University’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in the lab of Steven J Brill. There, she employed the awesome power of yeast genetics and biochemistry to understand the role of post-translational modification of proteins by Small Ub-like MOdifier (SUMO) in the maintenance of eukaryotic genome integrity. Part of Sharma’s work showed that large fungal SUMO-Targeted Ub-Ligases (or STUbLs), a class of enzymes involved in genomic stability, have evolved to exclude lysine residues from their primary sequences to avoid auto-ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation.

Switching gears from DNA repair to protein synthesis, Sharma joined the lab of Terri G Kinzy at Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School as a postdoctoral fellow. Her research involves investigating the mechanisms that regulate translation elongation in fungal protein synthesis. Additionally, she is working to develop new and improved antifungal therapeutic agents, especially for fungal infections affecting immuno-compromised demographic such as individuals undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients and pre-mature infants.