Charles E. Kaufman Foundation

2018 Kaufman Symposium RecapResearcher event was held Oct. 26-27 in Pittsburgh

Keynote speaker Abhay Ashtekar, Ph.D., opens the 2018 Kaufman Symposium held on Oct. 26-27 in Pittsburgh.

On Oct. 26-27, 2018, the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation symposium was held, bringing researchers together who received a grant from the organization (2015-2017) to present their innovative, interdisciplinary initiatives in biology, chemistry and physics.  The symposium presented a unique opportunity for researchers of various disciplines to meet, share ideas and learn of current and budding collaborations across scientific fields. In addition to Kaufman-funded researchers, the symposium was attended by members of the Scientific Advisory Board, members of the board of directors and staff of The Pittsburgh Foundation.  

There were 21 presentations at this year's symposium, seven from each year. Grant recipients from 2018 were also in attendance. Abhay Ashtekar, Ph.D. (biography below), a world-renowned theoretical physicist and member of the National Academy of Sciences from Pennsylvania State University, delivered the keynote speech.

Grantee Presentations at the Symposium

Dr. Elias Aizenman  
2016 New Initiative Grantee, University of Pittsburgh
Genetic Programming of a Neuroprotective Pathway in Neurodegeneration 

Dr. Tia-Lynn Ashman  
2017 New Initiative Grantee, University of Pittsburgh
The Pollen Virome: Viral Discovery and Diversity

Dr. Philip Bevilacqua  
2016 New Initiative Grantee, Pennsylvania State University
Identification of Novel RNA Switch Biology Using RNA Structure-Seq

Dr. Roberto Bonasio  
2016 New Initiative Grantee, Pennsylvania State University  
Single-Cell Dissection of Brain Plasticity in a Model Ant Species 


Dr. Dawn Carone  

2017 New Investigator Grantee, Swarthmore College
Sequence Diversity and Misregulation of Pericentric Satellite Sequences

Dr. Mark Chen  
2015 New Investigator Grantee, Lehigh University  
Concise Synthesis of Open-Shell-Conjugated Molecules that Exhibit Unusual Intermolecular Covalent-Bonding Interactions

Dr. Theodore Corcovilos  
2015 New Investigator Grantee, Duquesne University  
Building Quasicrystal Analogs with Ultracold Atoms

Dr. Gurudev Dutt 
2016 New Initiative Grantee, University of Pittsburgh
Trapped Diamond Nanocrystals as Fundamental Probes of Quantum Mechanics and Gravity

Dr. Matthew Good  
2015 New Investigator Grantee, University of Pennsylvania  
Spatiotemporal Patterning of Zygotic Genome Activation in a Model Vertebrate Embryo

Dr. Ekaterina Grishchuk  
2017 New Initiative Grantee, University of Pennsylvania  
Reconstitution and Dissection of Chromosome Segregation 

Dr. Chad Hanna  
2016 New Investigator Grantee, Pennsylvania State University  
Reducing Selection Bias in LIGO Searches for Black Holes and Neutron Stars

Dr. Michael Hatridge  
2017 New Initiative Grantee, University of Pittsburgh 
Engineering Quantum Machines via Parametric Couplings

Dr. Elizabeth Heller  
2016 New Investigator Grantee, University of Pennsylvania  
Neuroepigenetic Remodeling in Transcription and Behavior 

Dr. Benjamin Hunt  
2016 New Investigator Grantee, Carnegie Mellon University  
Proximity Effects and Topological Edge States in van der Waals Heterostructures 

Dr. Eric Joyce  
2017 New Investigator Grantee, University of Pennsylvania  
Condensin II-Regulated Inter-Chromosomal Contact Frequencies Can Modulate Potential to Form Translocations

Dr. Justin Khoury  
2015 New Initiative Grantee, University of Pennsylvania  
Superfluid Dark Matter 

Dr. Brooke McCartney  
2015 New Initiative Grantee, Carnegie Mellon University  
Microbiota-Dependent Elevation of Alcohol Dehydrogenase in Drosophila is Associated with Changes in Alcohol-Induced Hyperactivity and Alcohol Preference

Dr. Scott Medina  
2017 New Initiative Grantee (Dr. James Marden), Pennsylvania State University
Defining the Glycan-Specificity and Mechanisms of Action for Antitumor Lectins 

Dr. Amish Patel  
2015 New Investigator Grantee, University of Pennsylvania  
How to Antifreeze Proteins Recognize and Bind Ice in Vast Excess of Water

Dr. Mikael Rechtsman  
2017 New Investigator Grantee, Pennsylvania State University  
Introduction to Topological Photonics and 4D Quantum Hall Physics

Dr. Jennifer Round  
2015 New Investigator Grantee, Ursinus College  
Identification of MAGUK Scaffold Proteins as Intracellular Binding Partners of the Synaptic Adhesion Protein Slitrk2


About the Keynote Speaker: Abhay Ashtekar, Ph.D.

Abhay Ashtekar, Ph.D., is the director of the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos, Evan Pugh Professor of Physics and holder of the Eberly Chair at Penn State. He received his doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago in 1978. He has authored or co-authored over 270 scientific papers and written or (co-) edited nine scientific books on general relativity, cosmology and quantum gravity. His research has advanced our understanding of the asymptotic structure of space-time, gravitational waves in full non-linear general relativity, 'atomic' structure of space-time geometry at the Planck scale and the quantum nature of black holes and big bang. His reformulation of general relativity as a gauge theory has led to loop quantum gravity, an approach to the unification of general relativity and quantum physics that is now being pursued in dozens of research groups worldwide. He has continued to play a critical role in the development of this field as well as its sub-field called loop quantum cosmology.

Ashtekar is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a winner of the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society, given biannually for outstanding contributions to gravitational science. He is also one of only 51 honorary fellows of the Indian Academy of Sciences, drawn from the community of scientists living outside of India. He was awarded the senior Forschungspreis by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and held the Krammers visiting chair in Theoretical Physics at the University of Utrecht, Netherlands; a Senior Visiting Fellowship of the British Science and Engineering Research Council; and the Sir C. V. Raman Chair of the Indian Academy of Science. He was awarded Doctor Rerum Naturalium Honoris Causa by the Friedrich-Schiller Universitaet, Jena, Germany in 2005 and by the Universite' de Aix-Marseille II, France in 2010. He is a past president of the International Society for General Relativity and Gravitation, and a past chair of the Division of Gravitational Physics of the American Physical Society.