CSCI Faculty Announcements

September 1, 2020

We are particularly pleased to welcome two new faculty members recruited by the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative (CSCI) with laboratories space located on the 11th floor of the William Black Building.

Chia-Wei Cheng, PhD

Chia-Wei Cheng, PhD

Chia-Wei Cheng will join the faculty as Assistant Professor of Genetics and Development in the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), effective January 1, 2021.

Chia-Wei graduated from the National Taiwan University (Taipei, Taiwan) with a combined BS/MS degree in Biological Science. She matriculated as a PhD student at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA), where she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Valter Longo at the Davis School of Gerontology studying nutrient sensing signaling in the context of therapeutic fasting and tissue regeneration. She joined the laboratory of Dr. Omar Yilmaz at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research (Boston, MA) for her postdoctoral training. Chia-Wei built upon the joint expertise of her primary mentor in intestinal stem cells (ISC) biology and co-mentor, Dr. David Sabatini (Whitehead Institute, MIT) to identify metabolic adaptation during ISC regeneration and directly establish that circulating metabolites can modulate the transcriptional machinery to influence adult stem-cell fate decisions. Chia-Wei holds a K99 award for her transition to independence.

Chia-Wei’s research program will focus on the interface of nutritional and transcriptional regulatory networks in adult stem cells. She is particularly interested in a novel regenerative program mediated by the fasting and refeeding, a phenomenon referred to as “adaptive multi-organ regeneration.” Her studies in the gut, blood, and pancreas reveal how adult stem and progenitor cells perceive the nutritional states and adjust their cell fate decisions in tissue regeneration. Her laboratory at CSCI will study the metabolic cell-fate determinants in the contexts of tissue regeneration, plasticity, and oncogenic transformation. She believes the translation of nutrition facts into stem cell fate decisions will help inform dietary recommendations and inspire therapeutic strategies.

Chia-Wei is genuine about food, as much as she is serious about dietary research. As a scientist and as a foodie, she always asks "What is good to eat?" Students and postdocs interested in answering this question are welcome to join her team.

Aaron Viny, MD/MS

Aaron Viny, MD/MS


Aaron Viny will join the faculty as Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology in the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), effective September 1, 2020.

Aaron graduated in the inaugural class of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (Cleveland, OH), a program specifically designed to train physician scientists. He performed the research part of his program in the laboratory of Dr. Jaroslaw Maciejewski identifying polymorphisms in genes driving clonal lymphoproliferative leukemia.  Upon beginning his Hematology/Oncology clinical fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York, he joined the laboratory of Dr. Ross Levine for his postdoctoral training.  Together, they generated novel cohesin mouse models and intersected phenotypic, transcriptional, and chromatin conformation datasets to identify the functional effects of cohesin loop abnormalities in hematopoiesis and hematopoietic stem cell biology. Aaron holds a K08 award for his transition to independence.

Aaron’s research program will interrogate the effects of epigenetic disease alleles on 3-dimensional DNA structure in normal and malignant tissue, and will leverage new understanding of structural aberrations for epigenetic reprogramming and synthetic lethal modifications. His plan is to create a comprehensive translational research program to study the mechanistic and functional role of altered chromatin structure in transcriptional regulation of both normal and malignant hematopoiesis, particularly acute myeloid leukemia. His laboratory at CSCI will use mechanistic studies in mouse models and primary patient samples to understand normal and malignant stem cell function, and identify a new class of targets for therapeutic intervention. His work also extend beyond cancer, to uncover previously unappreciated aspects of developmental biology and cellular reprogramming.

Aaron is a survivor of acute lymphoblastic leukemia after an allogeneic bone marrow transplant at age 21.  He brings a passion and dedication to the bench that is directly influenced by the time he spent bedridden, which gave him a rather unique perspective. Students and postdocs interested in learning more are welcome to join his team.