The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB recently created the O’Neal NextGEN Scholar awards to provide a mechanism to support the training of future scientific leaders in cancer research. The O’Neal Cancer Center is pleased to announce the 2021 class of NextGEN awardees. 

Predoctoral awards enable promising graduate students to obtain mentored cancer research training from O’Neal Cancer Center faculty members by expanding upon the student’s dissertation project, enhancing the student’s potential to develop into a productive, independent researcher.

Postdoctoral awards support an integrated program of research and training for promising postdoctoral trainees and are meant to enhance a trainee’s potential to develop into a productive, independent researcher.

2021 O’Neal NextGEN Scholar Awardees

The O’Neal Cancer Center is pleased to announce the current class of NextGEN awardees.

Awal Chadha, M.D.

Awal Chadha, M.D.Awal Chadha, M.D.

The recipient of this year’s postdoctoral award, Awal Chadha, M.D., is a current fellow within the Division of Hematology & Oncology in the Department of Medicine at the UAB Heersink School of Medicine. Chadha is a participant in the school’s ABIM Research Pathway Program, which recognizes applicants who have evidence of significant previous research experience and a strong interest in furthering a career as an academic physician-scientist.

Chadha’s project aims to identify markers that could be exploited for the design of future therapeutics for colorectal cancer by proposing study of tumor-infiltrating myeloid cells in the context of colitis-associated colorectal cancer development with special emphasis on understanding their heterogeneity through transcriptional profiling and investigating their biological functions. Chadha is sponsored by Casey Weaver, M.D., a senior scientist in the Cancer Biology & Immunology Research Program at the O’Neal Cancer Center and the Wyatt and Susan Haskell Professor of Medical Excellence within the UAB departments of Pathology, Medicine and Microbiology.

Nikita Bhalerao

Nikita BhaleraoNikita Bhalerao

Nikita Bhalerao, a current cancer biology theme student within the Graduate Biomedical Sciences program, is the recipient of the O’Neal Cancer Center’s predoctoral award. Bhalerao’s proposal is driven by the need for identifying novel molecular pathways that can serve as early detection markers and targets for improved treatment strategies for patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. She will investigate the feasibility of ST6Gal1 as a potent biomarker to detect pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma at early stages. Bhalerao is sponsored by Susan Bellis, Ph.D., a senior scientist in the Cancer Biology & Immunology Research Program at the O’Neal Cancer Center and the Alma B. Maxwell Endowed Chair of the UAB Department of Cell, Developmental & Integrative Biology.


Requests for applications for the next round of O’Neal NextGEN Awards will be posted in Fall 2022.