Baruch College alumna Katsiaryna (Kate) Milashevich (’21) is among eight CUNY students  who have won 2022 Jonas E. Salk Scholarships for their scientific research. Her work  on “Mitochondrial Distribution of Glycine Receptors in Motor Neuron Cell Lines” was done under the mentorship of Professor Pablo Peixoto (Natural Sciences).

Noting her “brilliance, drive, scientific curiosity, independent thinking, and integrity,” Peixoto said his former student “embodies the qualities of a promising future medical student and professional. Kate’s track record of excellence in the classroom, the research laboratory and in clinical volunteering certainly catalyzed her acceptance into medical school. It also contributed to the research environment at my laboratory, leveraging preliminary results that will support a future grant application to the National Science Foundation. She shows an outstanding promise as a future physician scientist who embodies the qualities of an ideal candidate to the Jonas E. Salk Scholarship.”

Kate Milashevich in lab
Kate Milashevich in lab

Milashevich graduated from the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences with an an Honors in Biology major and Communication Studies minor. Her research examined the existence of a hypothetical mitochondrial glycine receptor in cultured motor neurons using immunofluorescence imaging. Preliminary findings identified a correlation between the localization of mitochondrial fluorescence and the glycine receptor in non-differentiated cells.

Milashevich is currently taking a gap year before starting medical school in August. She hasn’t yet decided which school to attend. In the meantime, she’s working with patients at CityMD Urgent Care as a medical scribe to further develop her clinical experience.

Milashevich was drawn to medicine as a career path after her younger brother was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. “I began to explore a multitude of contemporary studies to understand his diagnosis,” she said. One topic that intrigued her was neuroinflammation and the role of the anti-inflammatory amino-acid glycine. She sought out Peixoto’s lab as a place where she could pursue her interests.

Milashevich also shadowed an opthalmologist and decided to pursue a career as a physician “to empower families through knowledge and benevolence. I hope to consolidate what I have learned about autism— to study patients from various angles, and to offer individualized care because just like in autism, every person is their own puzzle to solve.”

Milashevich credited her science education at Baruch with nurturing her interests and helping her establish a foundation for her future career. “Building this foundational understanding takes great care, support, and time, which I was very fortunate to receive,” she said. The small size of Baruch’s Department of Natural Sciences creates a family-like atmosphere where “the students all know each other and gather to study in groups allowing for different opinions and resources to coexist and flourish. The faculty know each student and are more than accessible and considerate. They reach out to you with your best interests in mind, to ensure no opportunity evades you … No matter my future ambitions, I still have a family at Baruch who cares for my success and remains approachable even after my graduation.”

This is Peixoto’s third student to win a Salk.

Salk Scholarship winners receive a total of $8,000 over the course of four years to help defray the cost of study for M.D. and D.O. degrees, as well as doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences.

In 1955, the Jonas E. Salk Scholarship was created by the Board of Estimate of the City of New to honor Dr. Jonas E. Salk, world-renowned scientist, developer of the first vaccine to prevent polio, and a graduate of The City College of New York.

Each year, Salk Scholarships are awarded to eight graduates of CUNY senior colleges who have been accepted by, and plan to attend, U.S. medical or graduate schools. Students are selected for the awards based on academic performance, especially scientific research conducted as undergraduates, along with their potential to make significant contributions to medical research.