Each year since 1955, The City University of New York has presented its own prestigious scholarship, the Jonas E. Salk Award, to outstanding students who will be attending medical schools or graduate programs in biomedical sciences after graduation. The Salk award is named for the renowned City College alumnus who developed the first polio vaccine, and students are selected on the basis of original research papers undertaken with mentors who are prominent scientists. It provides recipients with $8,000 over four years to defray tuition costs. Following are the Macaulay student who are among the winners of this year’s Salk Award.
Alec Levine graduated with a biology degree from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College in 2018 and begins at the New York University School of Medicine this fall. Levine grew up on Staten Island in an extended family with a wide range of medical practitioners. He plans to become a geriatric specialist. “The hope that I can make both physical and psychological differences in peoples’ lives motivates me greatly as I continue my pursuit of a career in medicine,” he says.
Marie Mazzeo earned a biochemistry degree from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College in 2018 and heads to the NYU School of Medicine. She and her twin brother, Michael, who is also pursuing a medical career, were Hunter’s co-valedictorians last year. A defining experience, she says, was the opportunity she had to shadow a surgical oncologist at NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center who had treated her mother a decade earlier.
Hamza Sadhra graduates this spring from Hunter College with a major in bioinformatics and a minor in public policy, and he begins at the University of Rochester Medical School this fall. Sadhra was born in Pakistan and moved with his family to Brooklyn when he was five. “In New York City, and in the neighborhoods I grew up in, I witnessed a cultural disconnect between the health care system and the immigrant/minority populations I was a part of,” he says. “This drives me to give a voice and help represent those who are often overlooked and underserved in medicine.”
Brianna Nazir, a 2018 biology graduate from Macaulay Honors College at City College, will attend the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She was inspired to pursue a career in medicine after her mother’s diagnosis with an aggressive form of breast cancer. “Embarking on my journey in biomedical research was intimidating,” she says, “but my passion for searching for answers to some of life’s most puzzling questions and drive to develop a solution to an issue so deeply personal to me have helped me persevere.”
Marienela Heredia graduates this spring with a degree in cell and molecular biology from Macaulay Honors College at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, then heads to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a Ph.D. program to study the viral mechanisms of disease. A first-generation college graduate whose parents are Puerto Rican, Heredia is focused on viruses, such as Zika and dengue, that have a devastating effect on Latin America and the Caribbean.
Sana Batool, a 2018 graduate of CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College at Lehman College, will attend Harvard Medical School. In addition to her Salk award, Batool is the recipient of the nationally prestigious Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.