Cohn Fellowship Supports Faculty Research

Five junior faculty members at Rush University have been selected as Class of 2022 Cohn Fellows, receiving grant support for research into breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, healthy aging and more
Five faculty members selected for the 2022 Cohn Fellowship

Every year the Cohn Family Foundation provides grant funding to support junior faculty at Rush University who are mentees in the Rush Research Mentoring Program. The Cohn Fellowship allows mentees to gather preliminary data for research proposals and continue their research activities.

The following faculty members were selected as the Class of 2022 Cohn Fellows after a very competitive process.


Puja Agarwal, PhDPuja Agarwal, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine (Section of Epidemiology Research) and Clinical Nutrition. She is also a nutritional epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. Her research concentrates on nutrition and healthy aging.

Agarwal is working on identifying modifiable risk factors, specifically focusing on the role of dietary patterns, food groups, and nutrients for Alzheimer's disease, dementia, disability, and cognitive and motor decline among diverse older adults. She is also interested in understanding the mechanistic links between diet and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease pathology in the aging brain. Agarwal’s work as a postdoctoral fellow at Rush demonstrated a relation between healthy diet and Parkinsonian signs, disability and Alzheimer's dementia. These findings helped shape her projects to look at these relationships in underrepresented populations and understand various related mechanisms. Her Cohn Fellowship research will initiate a dietary study in an ongoing longitudinal cohort of older African Americans to determine the relationship of diet with various cognitive domains and brain neuroimaging in this underrepresented population.


Lauren Bradley, PhDLauren Bradley, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Rush Medical College. Her research centers on the use of technology to assess weight-control behaviors and promote behavior change, particularly in bariatric surgery patients.

Bradley’s Cohn Fellowship research will focus on using ecologically valid measures to compare behavioral patterns in patients who have regained weight after bariatric surgery and those who have maintained their weight losses. The results of this research will provide an improved understanding of behavioral risk factors for weight regain, which is essential to inform postoperative interventions.


Kajal Gupta, PhD Kajal Gupta, PhD, is an instructor in the Department of Internal Medicine (Division of Hematology, Oncology and Cell Therapy) at Rush Medical College. She is currently working with Andrew Zloza, MD, PhD, to understand the mechanisms underlying novel microbial-based cancer therapies. Her research focuses on persister cells in cancer.

Gupta is investigating persister cells in the context of hormonal therapy for breast cancer and deciphering the role of the microbiome in the development of persister cells in patients on hormonal therapy. Gupta’s Cohn Fellowship research will focus on developing novel markers for the identification of persister cells and establish in vivo models to study persister cell development.


Alana Kirby, MD, PhD Alana Kirby, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush Medical College. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School, followed by a movement disorders fellowship here at Rush. She works closely with T. Celeste Napier, PhD, and her research interest is in Parkinson’s disease.

Kirby is particularly interested in understanding how deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus in Parkinson’s disease mediates its effects in order to improve outcomes for patients. Her Cohn Fellowship research will focus on developing leading-edge optogenetic strategies in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease to interrogate the effects of deep brain stimulation. She will use these techniques to screen and identify important circuits engaged by deep brain stimulation and ultimately improve stimulation strategies for patients.


Carrie Richardson, MD, MHS Carrie Richardson, MD, MHS, is an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine (Division of Rheumatology) at Rush Medical College. Her research focuses on rheumatic diseases.

Richardson’s research includes the mechanisms of ectopic calcification in rheumatic diseases. Her current research involves developing and characterizing a mouse model of ectopic calcification in systemic sclerosis (scleroderma). Richardson’s Cohn Fellowship research will investigate the role of dermal macrophages in this model, with the aim of using the results to inform future translational studies in human systemic sclerosis.