Cornell selects eight Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows

Yunqui (Kelly) Luo has long been intrigued by the laws of nature.


“As a kid, I loved to play with tools and understand the ways in which the physical world works around us,” she said. The physics labs at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology cemented her passion for research.

“The journey to understand the intimate interplay between fundamental science discoveries and technological innovations, particularly the depth and complexity of quantum physics in various domains of information science, has made for nothing but a thrilling and fulfilling venture,” says Luo, who is one of eight recently selected Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows.

Currently a Graduate Presidential Fellow at the Ohio State University, Luo plans to defend her doctoral dissertation in August and this fall will join Cornell and the lab of her faculty sponsor, Dan Ralph, professor of physics.

Luo’s research involves two-dimensional hybrid material systems, “a newly discovered group of nanosystems with the potential to revolutionize silicon-based computer chips with faster computational speed, smaller size and ultralow power.” She looks forward “to combining my expertise in 2D spin and magnetism with Cornell’s expertise in magnetic manipulations, [and] probing the ultimate limits of nonvolatile magnetic memory.”

The Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is an initiative created in 2017 to attract some of the world’s best young talent to Cornell. The inaugural class of 10 fellows was selected in February 2018. A new cohort of fellows is selected each year.

“I’m happy to welcome this group of talented, accomplished scholars to Cornell,” said President Martha E. Pollack. “The university is committed to leadership in research, and I look forward to the contributions of these distinguished new members of our community.”

The program encompasses research-based disciplines across the Ithaca campus, at Cornell Tech in New York City and Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. The new fellows represent fields in the life sciences, the humanities, social sciences and the physical sciences.

Six other new postdoctoral fellows will arrive at Cornell beginning this spring and summer, including Manvendra Singh, a scientist at Max-Delbrueck Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany. His doctoral research at Freie University in Berlin was on endogenous retroviruses aiding human embryogenesis, with transposable elements (TEs) offering key transcription factors to bind and regulate the expression of genes. The work integrated genomic, single-cellular and other datasets from individuals showing symptoms of preeclampsia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and reproductive dysfunction. His faculty sponsor is Cedric Feschotte, professor of molecular biology and genetics. Singh’s research interests at Cornell will include applying deep learning and neural networks methodology to analyze genomic data and “decipher the further role of TEs as regulatory elements in development and disease progression.”

Cornell received more than 200 applications for this class of postdoctoral fellows. A selection committee of tenured faculty members reviewed the applicants and shortlisted 15 for interviews.

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research administers the fellowships, which are funded by the Office of the Provost and the deans of participating schools and colleges at Cornell. Appointments are for three years, subject to a positive annual evaluation of scholarly progress. The fellows, along with participants in other prestigious Cornell postdoctoral programs ,receive lifetime membership in the Society of Cornell Fellows.

Accomplishments among the first class of postdoctoral fellows so far have included a faculty appointment at Cornell (Andrew Campana, in the Department of Asian Studies), several publications, invited talks and various high-profile, discipline-specific awards.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.