Jun S. Song, M.A.St., Ph.D. (Program Director)

Founder Professor of Physics
Professor of Statistics (0%)
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Song applies his formal training in mathematics and physics to conduct rigorous research at the interface of mathematical sciences, biology, and physics. His research integrates biophysics, genomics, and computation to extract biologically important information from large datasets. Since 2015, he has been designing and administering inclusive training activities for students under-represented in biomedical sciences. He served as an MPI of the UIUC Big Data to Knowledge Center, through which he established close educational ties with Fisk University. He currently also serves on the External Advisory Board of Fisk University’s NSF Implementation Award. In 2019, he successfully extended this fruitful partnership to include biophysics training and faculty-level research collaborations, supported by strong commitments from the Chancellor's Office and other units at UIUC. Having transitioned from mathematical physics to computational biology himself, Dr. Song is keenly interested in retraining quantitative scientists in biology; to date, he has successfully retrained 8 postdocs from theoretical physics, mathematics, and aerospace engineering in computational biology.

Stephen A. Boppoart, M.D., Ph.D.

Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering
Professor of Bioengineering
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Boppart’s research focuses on developing innovative optical imaging and sensing technologies, and translating these into biological and clinical applications. This process is facilitated by his education and training in both Medical and Electrical Engineering (Ph.D., MIT) and Medicine (M.D., Harvard). His research includes intraoperative imaging of breast tumor margins using polarization-sensitive optical coherence tomography (OCT), the development of a novel optical technology for optically amplifying weak optical signals from tissue, and using OCT for assessing and diagnosing middle-ear infections and middle-ear biofilms in humans. Dr. Boppart directs the GlaxoSmithKline Center for Optical Molecular Imaging, an industry-academic partnership located within the Beckman Institute, and he serves as the Executive Associate Dean and Chief Diversity Officer of the engineering-based Carle Illinois College of Medicine. His mentoring and training activities were internationally recognized by the Optical Society of America with the Paul F. Forman Engineering Excellence Award.

Lee Limbird, Ph.D.

Professor of Chemistry
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Fisk University

Before joining Fisk, Dr. Limbird served on the faculty in the School of Medicine at Vanderbilt University for 25 years. While at Vanderbilt, she served as Chair of Pharmacology, Director and PI of the T32 in Pharmacological Sciences and the first Associate Vice Chancellor for Research. At Fisk University, Dr. Limbird served as PI on the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) supplement to develop the MyNRMN tool embedded in Her commitment to the development of under-represented biomedical investigators is manifest in her role as Founding Director of the MARC U*STAR program (T34 GM105551) at Fisk and her role as MPI of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program.

Lei Qian, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Discipline Coordinator of Computer Science
Fisk University

Dr. Qian's research focuses on machine learning and its application in bioinformatics and other areas. He has also studied optical computing, pure and applied logics, computer security, theory of computability and proof theory. He is the PI of NIH Fisk University/UIUC-Mayo KnowENG BD2K Center R25 Partnership program and co-PI of NSF HBCU-UP TIP program. He also served as PI and co-PI in multiple grants funded by NSF, NOAA and AFOSR. He has mentored his students in machine learning, computer security, bioinformatics, computer security and other areas.

Program Manager

Constantine Coca

Bridge Program Coordinator
Fisk University

Mentor Training Facilitator

Anna Sokac, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Sokac's lab studies actin biology in developing embryos. She is also a SCIALOG Fellow with the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, a Master Facilitator/Consultant with NIH’s National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), and a Master Facilitator/Consultant with UW-Madison’s Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER). Dr. Sokac is a recipient of the NIH MIRA award (1R35GM136384), and a collaborating author of the evidence-based mentee training curriculum, Entering Research, 2nd Edition (Macmillan Learning).