Awards & Accolades: May 2020








César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential assistant professor of Psychiatry, Microbiology, and Bioengineering, was honored with an ACS Infectious Diseases Young Investigator Award by the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry and ACS Infectious Diseases. The award recognizes outstanding young investigators in the infectious diseases field who are within ten years of their last training experience or at the Assistant Professor level. De la Fuente received a plaque and an award of $1,000. As part of the honor, he will attend the 2020 ACS National Meeting & Exposition and present at an ACS Division of Biological Chemistry symposium.

De la Fuente was also named to the first edition of In Vivo’s “Rising Leaders” in the life sciences list—entrepreneurs and innovators who represent the next wave of creativity in health care. As leader of the Machine Biology Group at Penn, de la Fuente aims to develop computer-made tools and medicines that will replenish the world’s antibiotic arsenal.

Raina Merchant, MD, an associate professor of Emergency Medicine and the director of the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health, earned the Mid-Career Investigator Award from the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM). The award recognizes commitment and achievement in research pursuits. Merchant received it for her work exploring the connections between digital media use and health behaviors. Specifically, one of Merchant’s projects analyzed people’s Google searches to discover that health-related searches spiked in the week before a visit to the emergency department.

Jason Moore, PhD, director of the Institute for Biomedical Informatics and a professor of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics, and Lyle Ungar, PhD, a professor of Genomics and Computational Biology in the Perelman School of Medicine as well as Bioengineering and Computer and Information Science, among others, within the University of Pennsylvania, were each named to Guide2Research’s list of top computer scientists in the United States. The list is based on each researcher’s h-index, a measure of how often a person’s publications have been cited in other research—for example, Moore’s h-index is 89, meaning he has 89 publications that have been referenced at least 89 times. Moore, whose main research focus is artificial intelligence and machine learning, was ranked at No. 190 in the United States and No. 288 internationally. Ungar, who often collaborates with the Center for Digital Health on word-use research, reached the list at No. 389 in the United States.

Mitesh Patel, MD, the director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit and an assistant professor of Medicine, earned the Society of General Internal Medicine’s Quality and Practice Innovation Award. The award recognizes those who have established exemplary systems for practice improvement in ambulatory or inpatient clinical practice. “This is such a wonderful recognition,” Patel said in an award acceptance video thanking his team’s partners. “We are looking forward to the opportunities ahead.”

Hongjun Song, PhD, Perelman Professor of Neuroscience, received an R35 Research Program Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health. This award enhances funding stability and provides the freedom to pursue long-term projects or embark on groundbreaking research. Song’s work focuses on neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a brain region critical for learning, memory, and modulation of affective behavior. Continued research, through this award, will investigate neural stem cell regulation and neurogenesis in the developing and adult mammalian brain and how these processes affect neural function. Song is also interested in addressing how dysfunction of these mechanisms may be involved in brain disorders.

Christine Willinger, a graduating MD-MPH student with the Perelman School of Medicine, received the 2020 Excellence in Public Health Award from the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Physician Professional Advisory Committee. The award recognizes medical students who advance public health in their communities and who exemplify the USPHS mission to protect, promote, and advance health and safety. As a medical and public health student at Penn, Willinger worked to promote community health through leadership and mentorship at student-run free clinics in West Philadelphia. She looks forward to using her public health degree to continue advocating for her patients individually and systemically while she pursues primary care-specific training within Internal Medicine at UCLA.

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