KL2 & Affiliate Scholars
2022-2024 CATS Scholars Heading link
Christian Ascoli, MD
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, UIC College of Medicine
Mentor: Gye Young Park, MD, MSc, Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Sleep, and Allergy, Department of Medicine, UIC College of Medicine
As a pulmonary and critical care physician, Ascoli’s goal is to develop a robust research program that bridges the evidence-to-practice gap that exists in sarcoidosis and interstitial lung diseases by gaining insight into their immunopathogenesis. He seeks to establish a comprehensive clinical practice that delivers preeminent medical care to the underrepresented minorities most affected by these diseases through implementation of personalized medicine strategies and developing much needed targeted therapies crucial to reducing the high rates of morbidity and mortality.
2022-2022 KL2 cont Heading link
Kristine Zimmermann, PhD, MPH
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, UIC School of Public Health, Department of Family and Community Medicine, UI College of Medicine- Rockford
Mentor: Stacie Geller, PhD, Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, UIC College of Medicine
Zimmermann is a public health researcher committed to advancing evidence-based practice in rural community and clinical settings via community-engaged research. Her long-term goal is to improve the translation of evidence-based practice in rural communities with a focus on increasing physical activity in rural, pregnant persons.
2022-2024 KL2 scholars, cont. Heading link
Sarah Messmer, MD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine and Pediatrics, Department of Medicine, UIC College of Medicine
Mentor: Niranjan S. Karnik, MD, PhD, Visiting Professor of Psychiatry, Director of the Institute for Juvenile Research, Co-Director, Digital Mental Health Program, UIC College of Medicine
Through Messmer’s clinical care at UIC’s Community Outreach Intervention Projects (COIP) West Side Field Station, she has worked with a multidisciplinary team to design interventions such as the mobile van to bring care to patients where they are, in an environment where they feel comfortable and welcomed. She seeks to build the necessary research skills to effectively study these interventions, as well as design clinical trials to improve the care provided to patients with opioid use disorder, particularly those most at risk of overdose death.
2022-2024 CATS Affiliate Scholars Heading link
Monique Jindal, MD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine, UIC College of Medicine
Mentor: Alan Schwartz, PhD, Professor and Interim Head, The Michael Reese Endowed Professor of Medical Education, UIC
As a primary care provider for a predominantly Black patient population, Dr. Jindal has witnessed firsthand the impact of provider-level racism (i.e., racial biases held by providers) on health equity. She believes that by addressing experiences of racism directly and truly engaging patients, we can advance racial health equity. The goal of this KL2 is to build upon her prior work and –by applying co-production, simulation and communication science principles –develop a pilot intervention to address racism within clinical encounters.
2022-2024 Affiliates, cont. Heading link
Monica Lee, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, UIC College of Medicine
Mentor: R. John Solaro, PhD, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, UIC College of Medicine
Lee’s career objective is to create an independent academic research foundation focused on understanding vascular biology from a multi-cellular perspective. Her current research program is focused on unfolding the mechanisms of how nuclear pore elements mediate endothelial and vascular health. Not only does this reflect the interdisciplinary appreciation for the nucleus as a mechanosensor, but aligns with Lee’s long-term career goal to elucidate unexplored mechanisms that drive endothelial dysfunction, a preceding event of many high-impact human diseases.
2022-2024 Affiiates, cont. Heading link
Joann Romano-Keeler, MD, MS
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, UIC College of Medicine
Mentor: Jun Sun, PhD, AGAF, Professor, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Department of Microbiology/Immunology, UIC College of Medicine
Romano-Keeler’s goal is to understand how micro and macronutrients impact establishment of the fetal and neonatal microbiome. The career development award provides an opportunity to acquire new research skills in the workflow of metabolomics- including analysis and interpretation of data- and how to construct enteroids from human intestinal tissue to interrogate how short chain fatty acids modulate vitamin D receptor expression and intestinal homeostasis during intestinal epithelial cell development. Her research will inform her team’s ability to design nutritional interventions that positively impact outcomes during pregnancy and across the lifespan.
2022-2024 Affiliates, cont. Heading link
Camila Zamperini, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Restorative Dentistry, UIC College of Dentistry
Mentor: Luisa DiPietro, DDS, PhD, Professor, Department of Periodontics, Director, UIC Center for Wound Healing & Tissue Regeneration, UIC College of Dentistry
While root caries has been increasingly observed in the daily clinical practice, our understanding of its specific pathophysiological mechanisms is still unexplored. There is a critical need for translational initiatives that identify and explore specific pathogenic mechanisms for potential clinical intervention. Zamperini’s innovative approach focuses on unveiling the complex role of human neutrophils in degrading the dentin extracellular matrix during root caries progression. This understanding could lead to novel therapeutic approaches tailored to inhibiting the progression of root lesions.
2021- 2023 CATS Scholar Heading link
Elmira Jalilian, PhD
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, UIC College of Medicine
Mentor: Ali Djalilian, MD, Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, UIC College of Medicine
Jalilian’s research is focused on using novel stem cell and tissue engineering approaches for therapeutic applications in corneal diseases. Her current project is to study the use of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and their products (secretome and exosomes) in cornea nerve regeneration after injury and understanding the mechanisms underlying this process.
2021-2023 Affiliate Scholars Heading link
Ashley Hughes, PhD, MS
Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences
Mentor: Robin Mermelstein, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Director, UIC Institute for Health Research & Policy, Co-Director, UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science
Dr. Hughes uses mixed methods, human factors approaches to create safer, better coordinated systems of care. Her area of focus targets improvements to team-based care delivery approaches for chronically ill and complex patient care which necessitate involvement of multiple specialties and disciplines to provide standard of care (e.g., individuals living with cancer, hypertension, diabetes,
2021-2023 Affiliate Scholars, cont. Heading link
Steven Kregel, PhD, MS
Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, UIC College of Medicine; Assistant Professor, Department of Cancer Biology, Loyola University Chicago
Mentor: Donald Vander Griend, PhD, Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, UIC College of Medicine
The Androgen Receptor (AR) is a nuclear hormone receptor that binds to male hormones and acts as a transcription factor in a variety of cells, but it is the major oncogenic driver of prostate cancer – and it is also the major target of prostate cancer therapy. Dr. Kregel’s research addresses issues in prostate cancer such as understanding AR-biology and resistance to AR targeted therapy, the immunological microenvironment and metastatic spread of prostate tumors, and developing models that can facilitate personalized medicine.