June 2019 – Upcoming Opportunities

Volunteer at World Science festival

When: Sunday, June 2nd, 10am – 6pm

Where: Washington Square, New York

The World Science festival is happening on June 2nd and the NYC chapter of SfN (braiNY) is looking for volunteers to lead neuroscience-related activities they have organized. If you want to participate sign up for a shift!

People with expertise in perception are also wanted. Bonus if you know about virtual reality. There will be a group demoing VR and some volunteers are needed to talk about the neuroscience behind it.

Feel free to contact Heather McKellar with any questions! For more information about the World Science Festival, check out their website here.


Scientific Image Contest

Do you work on the lab all day long but have a secret artistic passion? Do you feel that your neuronal stainings are a piece of art? Or do you see science in every corner of the city? Regardless of your background, here is a contest for you! Participate in the first Scientific Image Contest FotoECUSA and share your scientific art with the community. Submit your images via Twitter or Instagram before July 15th (read the complete contest rules here). For more information contact Sandra Franco.


Public Engagement Workshop

When: Thursday, August 1st – Saturday August 3rd

Where: The New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center, 259 Greenwich St Fl 40, New York.

Are you a scientist seeking a creative outlet and connection to a broader audience? Or a creative professional who wants to inspire others with a passion for science? This 3-day workshop is for individuals interested in creating experiences that mix science with art, music and play, to introduce new audiences to the excitement of scientific discovery. Apply here!

FYI: The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs sponsors NYAS memberships for all Columbia Postdocs. So if you are not yet a member, ask Amanda Kelly.

Columbia Postdocs @ March for Science

Fighting together for science

May 4, 2019 @ Foley Square

May 4th is popularly said to be Star Wars Day (May the Force be with you). However, this May 4th, 2019 people from all around the world gathered with the purpose of celebrating science and advocating for science as the force of our future. Fueled by the great success of the last two Marches, on this Star Wars Day we went out to raise our voices again.  

This year, NYC march was the flagship event for the March for Science Movement and several Columbia Postdocs attended and marched together with other scientists & non-scientists to stand for 1) open access science, 2) use of science for the common good and 3) the protection of human and environmental rights.


Two topics were central: the fight against climate change and the MeToo STEM Movement. Keynote Speakers were: Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, an advocate for coastal communities and ocean justice, Dr. BethAnn McLaughlin, an advocate to fight discrimination and sexual misconduct in STEM and founder of MeTooSTEM website, Aracely Jimenez-Hudis, a fighter against climate change and Green new Deal supporter and Alexandria Villaseñor, a 13-year-old climate activist.   


The organizers also hosted a Science Expo at Pace University that welcomed activists, curious minds and concerned citizens. I volunteered by showing how easy it is to extract tons of DNA from strawberries. I engaged in funny and interesting discussions about what is DNA and how the development of DNA sequencing techniques have changed the way we look at certain diseases. Brandon volunteered at the BioBus showing how fun the microscopic life can be!

At the end of the day everyone had fun, learned something new and came back home becoming more aware of the importance of advocating for science.




SciComm series: Get Your Presentation Skills Kicking

 CUPS SciComm Series:

Jan 29th, Feb 5th, Feb 12th, 2019 @ CUMC (Organizers: Micaela Cunha & Sandra Franco Iborra, Outreach & Communications Committee)

We kicked-off 2019 with a series of Science Communication Seminars focused on presentation skills for postdocs.

How to Prepare a Strong Scientific Presentation (Tatiana Schnieder)

Effectively communicating science is a must-have in today’s hypercompetitive research world, whether in our labs & department seminars, at conferences, or when pitching to potential sponsors. It can also be super useful if you want to get into teaching – or even when you’re trying to explain your work to your in-laws or your grandmother…

The Science of Slide Design (Eugene Douglass Jr)

That’s part of why we created the Outreach and Communications Committee this Jan – to help postdocs develop their SciComm skills through seminars & workshops. We’re also trying to develop some outreach work where postdocs can engage in public speaking & share their work outside the good old ivory tower.

Essential Elements for Effectively Delivering Your Presentation (Kyle Marian Viterbo)

Speakers Info:

How to Prepare a Strong Scientific Presentation, January 29th
Tatiana Schnieder  – Assist. Prof. of Clinical Neurobiology, Columbia University 


The Science of Slide Design, February 5th
Eugene Douglass Jr.    – Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Systems Biology, Columbia University.


Essential Elements for Effectively Delivering Your Presentation, February 12th
Kyle Marian Viterbo    – Science Communicator, The Symposium: Academic StandUp

Dhru Deb’s Graphic Novel – on the why & how of cancer research

To kick off CUPS’ series on Science Stories, we are delighted to host Dhru Deb, Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Biomedical Engineering here at Columbia University. In addition to his role as a scientist, Dhru is also a visual artist with a passion for combining art & science. Below, you will discover’s Dhru’s first science cartoon inspired by his work as a cancer researcher. Dhru tells us here what inspired him this piece:

In a nutshell, what does your research focus on in the lab?

My goal is to engineer bacteria known to selectively reside inside tumors to secrete therapeutics and molecules that would attract our immune cells and kill the tumors.

What were your sources of inspiration for creating this Science Story?

My inspiration for this piece is three-fold:

  • A Graphic SciComm workshop delivered by Dr. Matteo Farinella and organized by CUPS added fuel to the fire as I have always been interested in exploring the connection between science & art and being supported by mentors such as Dr. Tal Danino at CU
  • The work of Julia Wertz (Illustrator for the New Yorker and Harper’s Bazaar) and Paula Scher (Graphic Designer at Pentagram)
  • My personal, absolute disdain for the dryness and overuse of infographics in the field of Scicomm

 Do you already have experience with creating Science Stories, graphical in this case? What would be your advice for people just trying it out for the first time?

I have experience in making graphic novels, sequential art and creative writing. But, this is my first data comic. My advice for others – try to find metaphors that people outside scientific research would be familiar with and never be patronizing.

To find out more about Dhru’s work, click here

Written & Graphical content created by Dhru Deb.


Meet Micaela Cunha, Postdoctoral Fellow in Space Research

Dr. Micaela Cunha, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Space Research at Columbia University

Meet Our Postdocs: Micaela Cunha, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Space Research at Columbia University

Which department are you in at Columbia and what is your position?

I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Radiological Research in the Medical Center. I was awarded a fellowship by the NASA-funded Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH).

Where are you from and how long have you been in NYC?           

I am from Portugal, from a small town near Porto. I have been in NYC since December 2016.

Where did you go to school? Describe your path to your current position.          

I did my bachelors degree in Biomedical Engineering and my masters in Radiation and Medical Imaging, both at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. After two years working on projects related to image-guided radiation therapy and dosimetry for space radiation, I pursued my Ph.D degree in Medical Physics at the University Claude Bernard Lyon, France. I worked on developing and validating a new biophysical model to plan tumor treatment by ion beam radiotherapy.

What research question are you trying to figure out right now?

How to protect astronauts from developing cancer later in life after exposure to the space radiation environment.

In a nutshell, what tools or approaches are you using to try and figure this out?

The major limiting factor of long-term space travel is the risk of developing cancer later in life due to continued exposure to space radiation.

A possible way to reduce such risk is to use radioprotectors that work at a biological level. Several chemical compounds such as vitamins, antioxidants, or aspirin, have been shown to provide protection against carcinogenesis. The challenge lies in determining whether this protection would also happen for carcinogenesis induced by space radiation.

I analyze data of carcinogenesis induced by space radiation in combination with radioprotectors. Using mathematical models, the goal is to extract information about the biological mechanisms involved in space-radiation-induced carcinogenesis.

What is the best part of your job?            

To know that my work might make a difference in preserving other people’s health, regardless of whether it’s astronauts or radiotherapy patients!

Tell us a bit about yourself or your projects that are not related to science.           

I love fried chicken and watching Game of Thrones! Not necessarily at the same time though (laughs). Recently, I started running Spartan Races and really enjoyed the great atmosphere of camaraderie at these events. Moreover, each time you feel compelled to get out of your comfort zone and achieve more! You might be surprised at the things you can achieve when you are motivated and feel confident and encouraged! I try to apply this positive mindset to my daily life too and the result is amazing!

What is your favorite thing about NYC?

I don’t know about other places in the U.S., but what I love about NYC is that you have the chance to be yourself and discover your true self without being afraid of judgement. Coming to NYC gave me the opportunity of breaking free of a lot of preconceived ideas and explore who I really wanted to be.

When did you join CUPS and what is your current role, if any?        

August 2018. I heard about it during the new postdoc orientation and started following it on social media. One day I finally decided to attend the General Meeting to check out what they had going on. The group was very welcoming and I felt my voice heard since the very beginning. I then attended all the committee meetings to get to know people in CUPS better. Currently, I am Co-President for the Medical Center, social media manager, and active member of the Outreach & Communications and the Networking & Community Building Committees.

What do you like the most about CUPS? 

I love that CUPS is a really nice group of people that will enrich your experience in NYC at both a professional and personal level! It’s not just about building your communication or leadership skills, it’s about making meaningful connections with fellow postdocs! I started friendships within CUPS that I’m convinced will last for life! Highly recommend everyone to join!

To follow Micaela: