BETTR - an IRACDA Program




Albert Einstein College of Medicine
1300 Morris Park Ave.
Bronx N.Y. 10461
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Program Directors

Dr. Dianne Cox and Dr. Barbara Birshtein are co-directors of the BETTR program.

Dr. Dianne Cox has used many models ranging from Dictyostelium amoebae to mammalian leukocytes and cancer cells.  She is well known for her expertise on signaling requirements leading to alterations in the actin cytoskeleton necessary for macrophage functions like phagocytosis and chemotaxis.  Much of the work in her laboratory is imaging-intensive and utilizes cutting edge technologies such as intracellular biosensors, FRET, FLIM, TIRF and multiphoton microscopy with live cell imaging.  

Dr. Cox believes that training the next generation of scientists and physicians is a major responsibility of academic science. Dr. Cox has served as co-director of the Molecular Cell Biology Course since 2008, keeping the course fresh and exciting by assuring that the syllabus contains the latest research findings and by introducing alternative teaching methods. Recognizing that many women and under-represented minorities are not as competitive for faculty positions as their colleagues, Dr. Cox has organized a women’s networking group at Einstein with the goal to aid in the development of skills necessary to succeed in a career in science.  This group provides an informal forum for networking with members at all stages of scientific careers and opportunities for presentations of grant proposal, job talks and chalk talks. In addition to her educational activities at Einstein, Dr. Cox also lectures at undergraduate, middle, and elementary schools about pursuing a career in science and, since 2006, has judged a multi-school High School Science Competition in Nassau County.


Dr. Barbara Birshtein is a molecular immunologist with a keen interest in the regulation of the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus by a complex 3’ regulatory region that contains multiple regulatory elements, including enhancers and insulator regions. Dr. Birshtein's laboratory has contributed greatly to the characterization of the various regulatory elements of this region, and to an understanding of how they foster this region’s essential role in class switch recombination and expression of the high levels of antibody heavy chain expression in plasma cells. Dr. Birshtein and her laboratory have described their research findings in >90 publications. Dr. Birshtein has trained numerous graduate students, both Ph.D. and MD-Ph.D, and postdoctoral fellows, who have gone on to scientific leadership roles in academia and industry

Dr. Birshtein has assumed directorship of the newly formed training grant initiative here at Einstein. She has considerable experience with respect to grant initiatives, having served as a member of many study sections, including those of the NIH, and one specifically devoted to training grants. In addition, she is an active teacher, with leadership roles as director of the unit on genetics, genomics and gene expression for first year medical students in the course on Molecular and Cellular Foundations of Medicine, and as a long-time director of the graduate course in immunology, which now she co-leads together with an Einstein colleague. In addition, she was director of the graduate school here at Einstein. Dr. Birshtein has received awards for her roles in both graduate and medical school education.


Program Coordinators

Lehman College Program Coordinator:

Dr. Liesl B. Jones is the Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. She has mentored MARC scholars, and LASAMP and BRIDGES students as well. All of the undergraduate students (MARC or non-MARC) who have worked in her laboratory have gone onto to post-graduate education at the masters or doctoral level or to medical school. Dr. Jones has mentored many high school students through her affiliation with Bronx Science and New York Academy of Science and the Intensive Harlem Children Society Internship Program in Science, Medicine & Engineering. These programs aid as recruitment tools for the College and the MARC Program. Dr. Jones will be actively involved in the identification and recruitment of the scholars and monitoring their progress in teaching activities. She will also coordinate the teaching activities of the scholars while at the Lehman campus.


Hostos College Program Coordinator:

Dr. Nelson Nunez-Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Chemistry, will act as both the Program Coordinator and as a Teaching Mentor at Hostos. Dr. Nunez-Rodriguez’s research focuses on the mechanisms involved in neuronal cell death in Alzheimer Disease. Dr. Nunez-Rodriguez is the college American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) linkage fellow, Coordinator of Physical Sciences Unit within the Natural Sciences Department and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). He has developed several student-oriented activities as former advisor of the Student Government Association and current advisor of the student Science and Environmental clubs. He has also coordinated the Science Mentoring Program and is currently a member of the Dual Degree Engineering Program Advisory, Honor Program and Student Leadership Committees. Dr. Nunez-Rodriguez will be actively involved in the identification and recruitment of the BETTR scholars and will be a part of the Teaching Advisory Committee that monitors the scholars' progress in teaching activities. He will also be responsible for coordinating the teaching activities of the scholars at Hostos.


Program Administrators

Ms. Nancy Garcia will act as the program administrator and will support the day-to-day administrative operation of this program. Ms. Garcia joined Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in November of 2009, as a Grants Administrator. She is a member of National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA), since 2009 and attends annual meeting in order to stay updated with NIH changes.

Ms. Rosina Salerno is currently the administrator of the Anatomy and Structural Biology Teaching Office. Ms. Salerno will maintain the training records of the scholars including the required coursework and reports of the Teaching and Research Advisory Committees. Ms. Salerno will also coordinate the activities of the Scholars between Einstein and its partner institutions, Hostos and Lehman College.

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