The Consortium Undergraduate Student Program (CUSP) is a summer research internship program for undergraduate students hosted by laboratories participating in the NIH Common Fund’s Cellular Senescence (SenNet) program.

Meet the 2024 CUSP Students:

Meera Bhat

Meera Bhat is a rising senior at Johns Hopkins University pursuing undergraduate and master’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering. During her time at JHU, she has been conducting research on cellular aging and senescence in dermal fibroblasts, immune T cells, and Acomys mouse cells at the tiME lab with Dr. Jude Phillip. This summer, she will intern under Dr. Rong Fan and Dr. Stephanie Halene in the Fan Lab at Yale University. Meera will be working with DBiT-seq, spatial transcriptomics, and staining to study senescent cells in human lymph tissues. Over the course of the internship, Meera hopes to gain the invaluable experience offered by Dr. Fan and Dr. Halene along with furthering her knowledge about the biological applications of senescence research. Ultimately, after graduation, Meera wishes to pursue a medical degree and continue her ambitions in the field of surgery.


Denzel Bonilla-Pinto

Denzel Bonilla-Pinto is a Questbridge scholar at Wesleyan University studying molecular biology, biochemistry, and neuroscience, as well as an active member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. He currently works at the Padilla-Benavides lab on metal-binding proteins and their roles in muscle development. He will be doing his internship at MIT where he will be applying high-resolution Raman microscopy and single-cell and spatial multi-omics to map the molecular and cellular heterogeneity and spatial information of senescent cells. After finishing his undergraduate studies, he plans to attend graduate school to complete a doctoral degree, hoping to one day open his own laboratory to perform clinical research.


Natalia Casas

Natalia Casas is a sophomore at Texas A&M University majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Neuroscience. She currently works in a lab in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at Texas A&M School of Medicine in hopes to further understand the role of astrocytes in neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease. After graduation, she plans to pursue an MD/PhD program, allowing her to further advance research in neurodegenerative disorders while simultaneously earning her medical degree, with the goal of pursuing a career as a neurosurgeon. She will be interning in the Wang Lab at Duke University this summer where she will be researching the role of senescence-related molecular mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease, and further investigating a novel therapeutic strategy to remove senescent cells in the brain, therefore alleviating dementia. She is excited to learn more about the mechanisms that lead to the onset of this condition and further expand her knowledge in the field of neurodegenerative disorders.

Fatoumata Diallo

Fatoumata Diallo is a Rhode Island native and senior at Brown University. She is majoring in Health and Human Biology. Her internship is in the Königshoff Lab, operating under TriState SenNet. She is excited to research and learn lab techniques that involve handling human tissue to understand cellular senescence in chronic lung diseases. She knows this opportunity will deepen her understanding of respiratory conditions, aiding her aspirations of becoming an emergency physician.


Victor Dunagan

Victor Dunagan is a rising Junior at Vanderbilt University pursuing a major in Biomedical Engineering with a double major in Electrical and Computer Engineering on the pre-med track. As a SEARLE Undergraduate Research Fellow, he investigates the impact of fluid shear stress on cancer cell morphology and transcriptomic networks in the Cynthia Reinhart-King lab. Victor has presented his findings at the 2023 Biomedical Engineering Society and has been recognized by the Vanderbilt Department of Biomedical Engineering for his research contributions. He will intern at the University of Michigan’s SenNet site, focusing on technology development and applications related to Seq-Scope for spatial transcriptomics datasets. Victor aspires to integrate bioinformatics into biomedical technology development and pursue a career in neurology, combining his expertise in engineering with medical research.


Brian Hung

Brian Hung is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Oregon studying human physiology, with minors in chemistry and bioengineering. During his time with the SenNet CUSP internship, Brian will be interning at the Baker laboratory of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota with a focus on identifying and characterizing senescent cells in the spinal cords of mice over aging and in conditions of pathology. With the aspiration of becoming a physician, Brian hopes to learn new research skills and apply learned knowledge in a professional manner. Brian’s motivation to become a surgeon is to achieve personalized care that improves each patient’s well-being. From consultation to the post-surgery recovery process, building close relationships with patients often is the catalyst to a patient’s fast recovery.


Amy Li

Amy Li is an upcoming senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying Molecular and Cell Biology with a certificate in Data Science. After graduation, she plans to continue her education to obtain a PhD. She is currently interning at Sanford Burnham Prebys in San Diego, where the research focuses on the epigenetics of cancer and aging in senescent cells. During her internship, she aims to learn and master new laboratory techniques, attend seminars to explore other areas of research, and gain a deeper understanding of senescent cells.


Ari Li

Ari Li is a rising sophomore at Yale intending to major in applied Math. At Yale, he is a part of the Urban Philanthropic Fund, Bridges ESL, the chess club, Sigma Chi, and other clubs/organizations.  Ari is interning at Mount Sinai this summer, where he will research the evaluation of senescent cells in both normal and senescence inducers-treated lung tissues. Over the course of the internship, he hopes to build a robust foundation in the fundamentals of experimental design and gain hands-on experience in data analysis and interpretation under the guidance of experienced mentors. Ari hopes to build on his experience at Mount Sinai this summer to pursue a graduate degree in biostatistics.


Raquel Mattos-Canedo

Raquel Mattos-Canedo is a rising junior studying biology and geochemistry at Brown University. This summer she will be interning at the Davis Heart Research Lung Research Institute at Ohio State University. This lab works with precision cut lung slices and the characterization of senescence markers under different stimuli in different lung cell types. This summer, Raquel hopes to gain a lot of experience in the lab setting, and learn about senescence, specifically in lung cells. She is also excited to meet new faces and be a part of the Ohio State Community. She is excited to connect with other students who, like her, are interested in pursuing clinical research in the future.

Isabel Reid

Isabel Reid is pursuing a major in Cellular and Molecular Biomedical Science with minors in Gender & Health and Dance at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This summer she will work at Columbia Irving Medical Center in New York City to conduct research in cell senescence within the tissues of the central nervous system. In the fall, Isabel plans to begin working towards a Master’s of Science in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. Ultimately, Isabel plans to attend medical school, integrating her clinical and research experiences to drive future healthcare advances. She is deeply enthusiastic about this opportunity and believes that the knowledge and experience gained will provide invaluable skills for her future in medicine.


Morgan Riley

Morgan Riley is a rising junior at The Ohio State University studying biomedical science. During the school year she works in Drs. Rojas and Mora’s research lab studying idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. This summer she will be interning in Dr. Megan Ruhland’s lab at Oregon Health and Science University. In the lab, she will be working on tissue isolation, fixation, embedding and immunohistochemical staining in efforts to identify and map senescent cells in tissues using the FASST mouse model. She hopes to learn new laboratory techniques, network with research professionals, and delve deeper into the scientific research process. After graduating from Ohio State, she plans to pursue a medical degree and become a physician.


Annaka Saffron

Annaka Saffron is an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins University, expecting to graduate in 2026 with a bachelors of science in biomedical engineering and a minor in applied math and statistics. At JHU, she is in Dr. Phillip’s TiME lab, studying T cell motility, and has been a student researcher in University of Michigan’s department of Neuroscience, MiRcore, and Michigan State University’s department of Biosystems Engineering. At SenNet, she will be in the Department of Dermatology at Columbia University’s Medical Center studying intrinsic and extrinsic senescence in a 3D skin model using Opal, Visium, and in silico methods. She hopes to achieve biofabrication skills and learn about senescence at the organ level. Her career goals are to pursue an MD-PhD and become a clinical scientist.


Karah Shirley

Karah Shirley is currently pursuing a B.S. in Microbiology at the University of Minnesota. Since her sophomore year, she has been working in the Niedernhofer lab in The Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism. For the SenNet internship, Karah will be placed at The University of Minnesota Tissue Mapping Center focusing on mapping senescent cells within human adipose and liver tissues. Over the course of this internship, Karah hopes to learn more about different platforms that are currently being used to detect and characterize senescence and learn what this data means and how to analyze it. In the future, Karah hopes to go into biomedical research and development and pursue a master’s or PhD in immunology or microbiology.


Julien Song

Julien Song is an undergraduate at Brown University (Class of 2026) pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology on the Biomedical Informatics track and a Certificate in Data Fluency. She is a member of the Lifespan Center for Clinical Cancer Informatics and Data Science and a 2023 NIH Dataworks! Grand Prize awardee. She will be joining the Dixit Laboratory at the Yale School of Medicine this summer 2024. The Dixit Lab studies immunosenescence, immunometabolism, and aging, focusing on the relationship between immune and metabolic systems. It aims to discover and harness molecular targets that control inflammation and immune dysfunction to enhance the health span. She hopes to expand her knowledge and contributions in biomedical research, working towards aspirations of contributing to medicine and healthcare advancements.

Catherine Xie

Catherine Xie is a rising senior at the University of Rochester majoring in molecular genetics and statistics. She is interning at Carnegie Mellon University, where the lab is working to characterize senescent cells by analyzing proteomics and transcriptomics data to identify senescent signatures and new markers. She is interested in the application of bioinformatics in medicine and public health. She hopes to learn computational methods to characterize senescent cells and enhance her knowledge in senescence and machine learning. She aspires to be a physician and researcher working to improve medical treatments and policies.


Judy Zhou

Judy Zhou is a dedicated undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University, majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a focus on immunoengineering and Genomics & Systems Biology. She is currently working in the Lin Lab of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology. This summer, Judy will intern at the MIT/Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School under the mentorship of Prof. Jian Shu and Prof. Peter So. She will be working on the development of the “SenNetRaman” project, which integrates advanced Raman microscopy with single-cell and spatial multi-omics to study senescent cells in a non-destructive manner. Through this internship, Judy aims to deepen her expertise in innovative biomedical technologies and prepare for a PhD. Her career aspirations include revolutionizing healthcare through biotechnological advancements and venture capital initiatives.