Tow Foundation Current Fellows

Center for Molecular Imaging & Bioengineering

Tow Foundation Current Fellows


Post-Doctoral Fellows

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.

David Bauer

Dr. David Bauer is a biomedical chemist specializing in radiopharmaceutical cancer research, mainly targeted alpha-particle therapy. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biomedical chemistry at the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz (Germany, 2014), graduated in chemistry, and obtained his Ph.D. at the Dresden University of Technology (Germany, 2020). He joined the laboratory of Dr. Jason Lewis (Emily Tow Jackson Chair in Oncology) in the Department of Radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 2020. Dr. Bauer is working with radiometals for imaging (e.g., cupper-64, gallium-68, lead-203, zirconium-89) and therapy (e.g., actinium-225, astatine-211, lead-212, radium-223, radium-224, lutetium-177). Currently, he is working on various theranostic projects exploring new cancer-targeting strategies with partners from industry and academia to optimize and translate targeted alpha-particle therapy into the clinic.

Tullio Esposito

Tullio Esposito received his BSc in clinical pharmacy from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver campus). He completed a MSc and PhD from the same institution, focusing on using molecular imaging to study the pharmacokinetics of immunomodulatory agents and novel drug formulations/ nanomedicines. In late 2021 he joined the laboratory of Kishore Pillarsetty to peruse his passion for radiochemistry, pre-clinical imaging and translational science. His work primarily focuses on developing methods to reduce renal and salivary toxicity from PSMA-based targeted alpha therapy (i.e., 225Ac-PSMA-617). He has also continued his work to use nuclear imaging to better understand the formulate cancer immunotherapies, namely CD40 agonistic antibodies. 

Magdalini Panagiotakopoulos

Magdalini Panagiotakopoulos is a multidisciplinary scientist, devoted to biomedical research since her undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering, at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. During her Ph.D. at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, she studied the biophysical aspects of cancer metastasis, using nano- and micro-fabrication tools to create artificial platforms mimicking human tissue. Her work resulted in three first-author publications and several collaborative projects. After her Ph.D., she worked as an R&D Manager for two years in a diagnostics startup company, where she monitored the activities of a team of 10 scientists and engineers, focusing on the product’s clinical development. During this time, she set up from scratch two complete, functional research labs (cell culture lab and chemical synthesis and characterization).

She moved to the United States and joined MSKCC’s Molecular Pharmacology Program in late 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. In the Cancer Nanomedicine Lab, she developed nanoparticle drug delivery systems for the targeted treatment of cancer or acute kidney injury. Acute kidney injury, for which no approved drugs exist, is a common side effect of cancer therapies and can dramatically increase patients’ morbidity and mortality. Her work in MSKCC till now has resulted in a provisional patent and a presentation award by the Controlled Release Society.

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

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.

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.

Joni Sebastiano

Joni Sebastiano received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry in 2020 after three years at Stony Brook University. During her undergraduate career, she worked as a college intern at the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center Laboratory working closely with various strains of bacteria and performing DNA sequencing. She then furthered her scientific career and joined the Ph.D. in Biochemistry program at The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. There, she joined the lab of Dr. Brian Zeglis where she focuses her research on the development of novel radioimmunoconjugates for the diagnosis and therapy of cancer and diagnosis of endometriosis.