“In the News”

March 20, 2020   I   Jola Glotzer

UIC 2019 Researcher and Innovator of the Year Awards Announced

Three UIC researchers with ties to the CBC, Stephanie Cologna, Laura Sanchez and Joanna Burdette, honored with the Researcher of the Year Rising Star in Basic Life Sciences Award

The CBC congratulates all of the honored researchers! Their accomplishments and links to the CBC are posted below. Enjoy!

2019 Researcher of the Year Award in Basic Life Sciences

Rising Star

Stephanie Cologna, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Stephanie Cologna, UIC. (Photo: Joshua Clark)

Already recognized as a ‘Rising Star’ by the Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry journal, Stephanie Cologna’s research is focused on developing innovative approaches to understanding biomolecular signatures of neurodegeneration using mass spectrometry. Work by her laboratory has indicated that the NPC cholesterol transporter protein (NPC1), the defective protein in Niemann-Pick Type C disease, may have a function beyond that of only cholesterol transport. This new finding has the potential to transform multiple fields and change the paradigm for understanding the function of the NPC1 protein. Stephanie’s work is well funded: she is the lead on a multi-center $1.2M award from the Together Strong NPC Foundation, PI on an award from the Ara Parseghian Foundation and Co-I on an NSF award. In addition to her exemplary publication record, Dr. Cologna provides a high level of service to her field. A sought-after speaker, she also serves the American Society for Mass Spectrometry as a member of the Digital Communications Board and has served as a session chair at the annual conference. At UIC she has taken on the position as Academic Director of the Mass Spectrometry Core at UIC and in 2019 managed to obtain a highly competitive NIH S10 award to modernize the core with a new Orbitrap HS mass spectrometer. Together with co-winner Laura Sanchez, Dr. Cologna created an annual conference to provide continuing education in this field to the UIC Community. Over the last two years, approximately 120 researchers from Chicago and the Midwest have attended this event which highlights research at UIC, demonstrates our capabilities in mass spectrometry and facilitates collaborations. It is clear that Dr. Cologna should be recognized as a ‘Rising Star’ by our community!

2019 Researcher of the Year Award in Basic Life Sciences

Rising Star

Laura M. Sanchez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Laura Sanchez, UIC. (Photo: Jenny Fontaine)

A mass spectrometrist who has built a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary translational research program since her arrival at UIC in 2015, Laura Sanchez embodies the definition of a ‘rising star’. She has successfully competed for national funding from both NSF (Co-I) and NIH (PI), as well as from the *Chicago Biomedical Consortium. The scope of Dr. Sanchez’s projects which include biofilm models of the microbiome, drug discovery of novel natural products, and mass spectrometry imaging of ovarian cancer, illustrates the breadth and flexibility of her work. In collaborations with others from UIC COP and computer science, she is working to create an innovative bioinformatics tool to classify and mine microbial libraries for drug discovery. Her research in the ovarian cancer arena has the potential to map molecular signatures, advancing detection and elucidating which environments drive initiation, promotion, progression and metastasis. It is hoped that this groundwork will lead to discovery of points of intervention. Over the past 4 years, Dr. Sanchez has published 18 peer reviewed articles and earned an h-index of 14! Comments on one of her most recent articles highlighting new mass spec techniques that track messenger molecules traveling between migrating cancer cells and ovarian tissue described the tool as “a beautiful example of developing an analytical method to go after a really important question in cancer biology”. Her significant contributions to her field(s) of research, her outreach to the broader community through her service commitments, publications, and invited talks coupled with her exemplary record of securing outside funding make her a true rising star and a deserving recipient of the 2019 UIC Rising Star award in the field of Basic Life Sciences.

2019 Researcher of the Year Award in Basic Life Sciences

Rising Star and Distinguished Researcher of the Year

Joanna Burdette, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Joanna Burdette, UIC. (Photo: Jenny Fontaine)

An outstanding reproductive biologist who has developed a highly collaborative and translational research program at UIC, Dr. Burdette is one of the few individuals across our community who has been recognized as both a Rising Star and Distinguished Researcher of the Year in the Basic Life Sciences! Dr. Burdette’s active and diverse research program includes projects ranging from drug discovery of novel imaging agents, animal models for ovarian cancer therapy and prevention, mechanisms of ovarian carcinogenesis, through botanical dietary supplements as alternatives to hormone replacement therapy for women’s health. This broad research program has crystalized over the past three years with the development of an innovative, paradigm-shifting technology, a “fallopian tube/ovary on-a-chip”. This microfluidic 3D platform allows the study of polycysticovarian syndrome and speeds development of novel cancer chemotherapeutics for the treatment of high grade serous ovarian cancer. This organ culture system developed by Dr. Burdette to model ovarian cancer demonstrates the cutting-edge nature of her research.

Disseminating her cutting-edge research has resulted in authorship of over 100 peer-reviewed and review publications in high impact journals. In addition to acquiring a very impressive track record of funding as a PI or Co-I on awards from, among others, NIH, DoD, and ACS, in recent years, she has assumed leadership positions within the UIC community. Her roles as Co-Program Director for the NIH-funded Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program, Associate Director for the NIH-funded Center for Clinical and Translational Science KL2 training program for junior faculty, and Program Director of the ASPET Pharmaceutical Industry Internship Partnership for PhD trainees show her dedication to mentoring the next generation of scholars. It is for all these reasons (any many more) that we are pleased to come full circle and award Dr. Burdette the 2019 Distinguished Researcher of the Year award for Basic Life Sciences.


Adapted (with modifications) from UIC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research announcement.


Stephanie Cologna, UIC
  • CBC Summer Workshop in Proteomics and Informatics (2015):
    ▸ Workshop Recap
    Stephanie Cologna (UIC) — Workshop Lecturer

Laura Sanchez, UIC

Joanna Burdette, UIC