Two Columbia Professors Win Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Diversity Leadership Awards

The awards, of $1.15 million each, will support one project that aims to better understand inflammatory pain and one that will guide improved breast cancer treatment.

October 28, 2022

Professors Ishmail Abdus-Saboor and Elham Azizi are among the 25 scientists nationwide who were awarded the inaugural Chan Zuckerberg Science Initiative (CZI) Diversity Leadership Awards to pursue science research, the initiative announced this month. The award “aims to recognize and further the leadership of excellent biomedical researchers who—through their outreach, mentoring, teaching, and leadership—have a record of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in their scientific fields.” Abdus-Saboor and Azizi will receive $1.15 million each over five years to pursue new research and undertake outreach, mentoring, and teaching activities.

Professor Abdus-Saboor, assistant professor of biological sciences and principal investigator at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute, was awarded for “Uncovering Peripheral and Central Neural Circuits for Inflammatory Pain,” a project that “aims to increase the fundamental understanding of inflammatory pain by mapping behavior, modifying peripheral genes, and constructing longitudinal brain-wide activity networks,” according to CZI’s website.

Professor Azizi, the Herbert and Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Cancer Data Research (in the Herbert and Florence Institute for Cancer Dynamics and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center) and assistant professor of biomedical engineering, was awarded for her project, “Computational Modeling of Regulatory Mechanisms in the Spatial Breast Tumor Microenvironment Purpose.” The project will use machine learning technologies to investigate the genes that drive immune cell dysfunction. The project’s ultimate goal is to improve and personalize breast cancer treatments that re-activate the body's immune response.

Columbia is one of only three universities with multiple faculty members to receive the award. 

“We are proud that Columbia researchers are being recognized for cutting-edge research that also emphasizes diversity, equity, and inclusion, as all great research should and must,” Dennis Mitchell, senior vice provost for faculty advancement, said. “The fact that the Initiative recognized two projects on such disparate topic areas is a testament to Columbia’s wide-ranging expertise and our university-wide commitment to expanding the scope of who practices science.”