The 7th Cohort of RNA Fellows has Scientific Depth and Diversity

10 young students stand behind a hitching post in the Life Sciences Research Building courtyard
2021-22 RNA Institute Fellows, left to right, Rachel Lange, Ryan Treen, '20-21 Fellow Ed Zandro Taroc, Gregory John, Sawyer Hicks, Jacob Schroader, Michelle Urman, Raghu Katreddi, William Mudd and Chris Smith.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 20, 2021) — Based on outstanding academic performance, 12 doctoral students from UAlbany and SUNY Poly have been named 2021-22 RNA Fellows — the seventh such cohort in the institute’s young history.

The Fellows were selected from four participating PhD programs — Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences and Chemistry at UAlbany, and Nanobiosciences at SUNY Poly. They are supported primarily by a training grant from NIH, and an allocation from the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School. The training program is run by the The RNA Institute, which is housed in and sponsored by  the UAlbany College of Arts and Sciences.

Marlene Belfort and Thomas Begley of the University at Albany
RNA Fellows Program co-directors Marlene Belfort and Thomas Begley

These RNA Fellows form a cohesive cohort that take an RNA-centric curriculum of courses and colloquia. They also have the option to collaborate with the School of Business and the Writers Institute to gain experience in entrepreneurship and science writing, respectively. A full overview of the RNA Institute Doctoral Training Program can be viewed on the RNA Training Programs page.

PhD student Rachel Lange is researching the genetic and host-driven evolution of tick-borne RNA viruses at the Wadsworth Center's Arbovirology Laboratories with her Fellows program mentor, School of Public Health Assistant Professor Alex Ciota. She said of the Fellows program, "I was attracted to the RNA fellowship because of the extensive opportunities to expand my professional network and skills, while also broadening my understanding of current RNA technologies and research beyond my focus on RNA viruses."

Michelle Urman, a PhD student in Biological Sciences mentored by ChangHwan Lee, was drawn to the options available in the Fellows program. "I had heard other graduate students talking about the opportunities of the entrepreneurship and communication workshops that help students like me who are unsure of their future after graduate school gain interdisciplinary experience," she said. "In addition to that, the program provides many opportunities to attend multiple research seminars and symposiums with students from fields other than my own."

The announcement of the new Fellows was celebrated on May 7 with a lunch in the Life Sciences Research Building courtyard attended by the fellows, their individual faculty mentors, program co-directors, Distinguished Professor of Biology Marlene Belfort and Professor of Biology Tom Begley, RNA Institute Director Professor Andy Berglund, and Kevin Williams, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School.

“It’s really gratifying to see how the RNA Training Program has grown over the last 7 years," said Belfort.  "We were particularly pleased to have Professor Kevin Williams with us to welcome the most recent cohort of Fellows, given that as dean of the Graduate School he has supported the program since its inception.  Kevin lauded the success of the program, finding the collaboration among the four different departments and among the Fellows themselves impressive.”

Eleven of the Fellows are enrolled at UAlbany, with one, William Mudd, now at SUNY Poly. Mudd is one of three to have their undergraduate degrees from UAlbany. Three others have their bachelor's from other SUNY colleges, two from New York private colleges, and one from Oregon State University. Three are international students: Emmanuel Adade from the University of Ghana; Kavya Chegireddy from the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Technology, India; and Raghu Katreddi from the Shri Vishnu College of Pharmacy, Andhra University, India.

The full list of the 7th cohort of RNA Fellows is as follows:

  • Rachel Lange, Biomedical Sciences. Mentor: Assistant Professor Alexander Ciota.
  • Jacob Schroader ’20, Biological Sciences. Mentor: RNA Institute research faculty member Kaalak Reddy.
  • Sawyer Hicks, Biological Sciences. Mentor: Professor Andy Berglund.
  • Emmanuel Adade, Biological Sciences. Mentor: Assistant Professor Alex Valm.
  • Michelle Urman, Biological Sciences. Mentor: Assistant Professor ChangHwan Lee.
  • William Mudd ’20, Nanobioscience. Mentor: Lecturer Benoit Boivin.
  • Gregory John, Chemistry. Mentor: Associate Professor Alan Chen.
  • Kavya  Chegireddy, Biological Sciences. Mentor: Joseph Wade.
  • Rachel Fey, Biomedical Sciences. Mentor: Assistant Professor Alexander Ciota.
  • Ryan Treen ’19, Biomedical Sciences. Mentor: Associate Professor Anil Ojha.
  • Chris Smith, Chemistry. Mentor: Associate Professor Mehmet Yigit.
  • Raghu Katreddi, Biological Sciences. Mentor: Associate Professor Paolo Forni.