Center for Molecular Imaging & Bioengineering

Tow Foundation Current Fellows


Post-Doctoral Fellows

Afruja Ahad

Afruja Ahad received her BA/MA in Biotechnology in 2016 from Hunter College in the City University of New York. Following graduation, she worked in the Weber and Larson laboratories at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in various projects utilizing PET-tracers as imaging agents to diagnose and treat numerous types of cancers. In 2018, she joined the Biology PhD program at the Graduate Center in the City University of New York with a focus on molecular, cellular and developmental biology. Her work at MSKCC piqued her interest in cancer pharmacology so in 2019, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Maria Contel at Brooklyn College and began her work on the use of gold-based therapeutic payloads in the targeted treatment of HER2-positive cancers. In 2020, she was awarded the Tow Fellowship and has since been working on collaborative projects between the Contel lab and the Jason Lewis lab at MSKCC. Her research focuses on the development and evaluation of gold-based antibody-drug conjugates and immunoliposomes in the targeted therapy of cancer cells as well as in animal models.

Elizabeth Coffee

Elizabeth Coffee obtained her MD at Texas A&M University, and completed her residency training in Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. During her residency training she helped validate new segmentation software for the volumetric analysis of primary and secondary central nervous system malignancies. She is currently completing training in Neuro-Oncology Fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where she serves as chief fellow. She joined the laboratory of Dr. Kayvan Keshari in July 2021. In her current role, she aims to validate [1-13 C] dehydroascorbate as a novel probe in hyperpolarized MRI in order to examine the role of reactive oxygen species in the radioresistance of primary brain tumors. Dr. Ingo Mellinghoff serves as co-mentor for her research providing support in brain tumor animal models and guiding the project towards clinical translation.

Alessia Volpe, PhD

Dr. Volpe is an Italian scientist trained as a cancer researcher in both Italy and the United Kingdom, where she received her PhD in Cancer Imaging from King’s College London. During her time in London, she developed a non-invasive clinically compatible reporter-based nuclear imaging platform for the accurate and prolonged tracking of a diverse range of cell-based immunotherapies (including CAR-T cells, gamma-delta T cells and Tregs) to enhance their safety, management and long-term follow-up in cancer patients. She currently holds a position as a Research Associate in the laboratory of Dr Vladimir Ponomarev and serves as a Chief Research Fellow in the Department of Radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her research activity involves the development of novel strategies for tumor sensitization to CAR-T cell immunotherapies as well as the development of novel reporter genes for optical and nuclear-based imaging of adoptive T cell therapies.

Pre-Doctoral Fellows

Naxhije Berisha

Naxhije Berisha graduated summa cum laude in 2016 from Hunter College of the City University of New York with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. She worked under Charles Michael Drain’s photonics laboratory on harnessing the photo-properties of porphyrin and phthalocyanine dyes for applications in energy harvesting, biomedical imaging, and photo-dynamic therapy. In 2017, she continued work with Dr. Drain as a PhD student at the Chemistry Graduate Program of the City University of New York, co-mentored by Moritz Kircher in the department of Radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering. While there, she further explored the use of cyanine-based dyes adsorbed to gold nanoparticles for applications in multiplexed molecular imaging. Due to retirement and relocation of her principal investigators, Naxhije transitioned to Rein Ulijn’s peptide nanotechnology lab and became co-mentored by Dan Heller in the department of Pharmacology at Memorial Sloan Kettering. She now focuses on developing new nano-therapies for applications in personalized medicine.

Guillaume Dewaele Le Roi

Guillame Dewale Le Roi received his M.Sc. from Sorbonne University in Paris and moved to the United States to pursue his PhD within the Chemistry Graduate Program of the City University of New York (CUNY). He joined the laboratories of Brian Zeglis at Hunter College of CUNY and Jason Lewis at Memorial Sloan Kettering to pursue his passion for radiochemistry, molecular imaging, and translational science. His research focuses on the creation of novel strategies for the site-specific modification of proteins and peptides with radionuclides.

Michael Phipps

Michael Phipps graduated summa cum laude in 2017 from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. While at the University of Missouri, he fostered his interest in radiochemistry under Silvia Jurisson, researching radionuclide separations and chelator chemistry at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) and Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital. In 2017, he accepted a graduate student position at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He now works in the labs of Lynn Francesconi at Hunter College and Jason Lewis at Memorial Sloan Kettering, pursuing a PhD in inorganic chemistry, researching novel PET imaging agents and therapeutic agents for the molecular imaging and therapy of cancers.