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From the mouths of mentors

Our graduate students are smart, passionate, and driven. Meet some of the students who stood out among the crowd this year!

From the mouths of mentors

Research ShowCASE 2017

CWRU School of Medicine is not for the faint of heart. It’s a place that invites committed, spirited people to accomplish their goals alongside world-class thinkers, teachers, and researchers. It's a challenging but rewarding environment, and no one knows that better than our medical and graduate students.

Master’s students, PhD candidates and postdocs, and MSTP students can spend many years meticulously pursuing their interests before finally earning their chosen degrees or completing their programs.

This year, the School of Medicine, alongside the CWRU School of Graduate Studies, was proud to award more than 370 master’s and doctoral degrees to a talented Class of 2017. Congratulations to all of them!

For a snapshot of the thoughtful and wide-ranging activities that our excellent graduate students pursue, check out some of the CWRU awards below and learn what their own mentors think about their accomplishments:

Graduate Student Appreciation Awards

Bioethics: Anupama Cemballi

Anupama Cemballi won for her extraordinary efforts working to improve healthcare conditions for those living in poverty in the region. She founded and was president of Advocates for Cleveland Health, an organization of CWRU students dedicated to improving community health through awareness and action. In addition, she has served Northeast Ohio health concerns at MetroHealth, University Hospitals, and as part of several university initiatives and research projects, all while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.---Eileen Anderson-Fye, EdD

Genetics: Justine Ngo and Rachel Stegemann

I cannot imagine a person more deserving of this than Justine. She has organized DNA Day for the past several years, bringing CWRU scientists to elementary, junior high, and high schools in the Cleveland community. Because of her leadership, DNA Day was nominated for and won the Dorothy Pijan Outstanding Established Student Event or Program Series Award for 2017.---Anthony Wynshaw-Boris, MD, PhD

Rachel's commitment to science goes well beyond her own research towards better understanding of the genetic basis of obesity. It  includes community outreach activities such as DNA Day that improve scientific educational opportunities for children in elementary through high school. Her dedication to childhood education bridges a much-needed gap between our community and the cutting edge scientific discoveries that are being made in the laboratories at institutions such as CWRU.---David Buchner, PhD

Pathology and Medicine: Anna Czapar

Anna is an outstanding graduate student who demonstrated a high level of productivity in the lab and outside of the lab. She has published 8 papers, mentored three undergraduate students, acted as Anatomy Camp chair for two years, interacted with the greater virology community as student chair for the 2017 Gordon Research Seminar for the Physical Virology meeting in Barga, Italy, and has been active in our Cleveland community in several other programs. She is a highly productive student, scholar, and mentor and I think was an excellent choice for this award!—Nicole Steinmetz, PhD

Public Health: Maryann Salib

Maryann is an exceptionally caring and passionate advocate for the health of individuals and populations, and she is exceptionally humble! I am not at all surprised that she was chosen for this honor.---Johnie Rose, MD, PhD

Pharmacology: Leslie Cueller-Vite

Leslie is an outstanding graduate student that has a passion for science as well as improving the scientific community. She was one of the leaders of the City of Cleveland March for Science, is a mentor to undergraduates from underrepresented groups in STEM fields, and is the President of the Graduate Student Organization in the Department of Pharmacology. She is a key advocate for the graduate student body as a whole and particularly in the Department of Pharmacology.—Ruth Keri, PhD                                                                                                         

The Charlotte Smith Award in Public Health Nutrition: Samuel Chin

Sam Chin is a dedicated, compassionate young man who exemplifies the qualities needed in a future public health nutritionist: passion about health and well-being, and a desire to make healthy foods accessible to all. His future in the field is incredibly bright.--- Tamara Randall, MS, RDN, LD, CDE, FAND

Doctoral Excellence Awards

Biochemistry: Courtney Nicole Niland

Courtney’s research gives us new insights into a question central to biology: how do RNA binding proteins pick out and associate only with a few specific RNA molecules among the vast sea of all the other RNAs in the cell? By using new high throughput methods to study this problem, she discovered a complete set of “rules” that describe how different RNA substrates compete for binding to RNase P, an essential RNA processing enzyme found in all organisms including humans. The rules she established reveal why some RNAs are processed faster than others by RNase P in the cell and suggests how these differences may be involved in regulating gene expression.--- Michael E. Harris, PhD

Biomedical Engineering: Prateek Prasanna

Prateek belongs to that rare breed of graduate students who can do it all: research, write papers, make business pitches, mentor undergraduate students, and collaborate with lab peers. Over the last 4 years, mentored by myself and Dr. Pallavi Tiwari, Prateek has assembled an incredible portfolio of patents, publications, and awards. The Doctoral Excellence award is wholly and completely deserved.--- Anant Madabhushi, PhD

Epidemiology and Biostatistics: Heming Wang

Heming has great passion and talents in data science. I am truly happy for her achievements and believe she will be very successful in her career.--- Xiaofeng Zhu, PhD

Molecular Medicine: Hoi I. Cheong

“Queenie” is a true scholar, whose research revolved around the physiological response to hypoxia, publishing three papers on this topic during her thesis research. She was a fantastic citizen of the program and the school. She was treasurer and then president of the Graduate Student Senate; she helped organize events for our PhD program, including helping with new students; and she won the 2014 Graduate Student Appreciation Award in Molecular Medicine.--- Jonathan Smith, PhD

Neurosciences: Jon P. Niemi

Jon Niemi's thesis dramatically changes the textbook view of the role of immune cells in nerve regeneration by showing that macrophages act directly on injured neurons to promote regeneration.--- Richard Zigmond, PhD

Nutrition: Stacey Wing-Yee Chung

Dr. Chung has been an outstanding student in that she excelled not only in science, but also in being a dedicated citizen to the Department, the graduate school and the CWRU community. She has all the makings of an outstanding future scientist and a dedicated, productive member of society.--- Danny Manor, PhD

Pathology: Rodney Dixon Dorand, Jr. and Tyler E. Miller

Dixon exhibited an unusual level of thoughtfulness and care to his research and daily personal interactions that are above those of his peers. For his thesis project, he was the first to describe a completely novel function for cancer-derived Cdk5 activity in immune checkpoint modulation. Most impressively, however, is that Dixon never lost his humility, humor, collaborative spirit and helpful presence in the laboratory despite accumulating accolades and academic successes.---Alex Huang, MD, PhD

We could immediately tell that Tyler had a strong passion for science, which he coupled with remarkable intelligence and enthusiasm. He independently designed an advanced high-throughput in vivo screen that allowed him to screen for novel drug targets for glioblastoma in a functional tumor microenvironment that was physiologically relevant to a human tumor. He did this in spite of many doubts from colleagues and persisted because he knew it was the best science.---Jeremy N. Rich, MD and Paul Tesar, PhD

Pharmacology: Christopher Francy

Chris is a bright and talented young scientist who was a leader among his peers, and his contributions to the field of mitochondrial biology have significantly advanced our understanding of the molecular machinery driving functional changes in human cells.---Jason Mears, PhD

The Eva L. Pancoast Memorial Fellowship: Sarah Cassatt

Sarah is very interested in delivering nutrition education at the global health level.  As a Pancoast recipient, Sarah plans to travel to Limon, Nicaragua with The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), where she will develop nutrition-specific initiatives focused on diabetes management and education, malnutrition screening, and the promotion of women's and pediatric health.---Stephanie Harris, PhD

The Herbert S. Steuer Award: Mahra Colvin and Brianna Walker

One of the great rewards about teaching is having the privilege to work with the enthusiastic students attending CWRU. Two such students are Brianna and Mahra. Both were awarded the 2016 Herbert S. Steuer Award for Excellence in Anatomy. They each hold a strong foundational knowledge in the anatomical sciences of gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, histology, and embryology. Both have completed their first year of training to become health care professionals. I absolutely have no doubt that both will be outstanding contributors to their respective programs and beyond in their health care careers.

The Lenore A. Kola Graduate Student Community Service Award: Kendall Hoover

Kendall is a phenomenal graduate student. In addition to her own research focused on brain development, she is a leader in both outreach and community-building activities. She is particularly passionate about engaging with the larger Cleveland community. She helps organize DNA Day, and over the past year, she also played a critical role in revamping graduate student recruitment to better showcase the research opportunities at CWRU and the benefits of pursuing graduate work in Cleveland.---Heather Broihier, PhD

The Lester O. Krampitz Prize: Erin Armentrout

When Erin joined the lab, she took on the challenging project of trying to understand how P. aeruginosa injects proteins into host cells using a nano-syringe, called a type III secretion system. Her work focused on the interface between this needle and the host cell, and resulted in a fantastic study that, for the first time, identified the host-cell sensor, as well as mechanism by which host cell contact is transmitted to the bacterium. Beyond her scientific achievements, Erin’s cheerful disposition and humor helped make the lab a welcoming and fun place to work for all.---Arne Rietsch, PhD

The Medical Humanities and Social Medicine Research Grant: Max Feinstein

As a joint-degree student Max is pursuing both an MD and MA in bioethics. The grant, which supports new or ongoing research, was awarded to help him conduct comparative research in the U.S. and in Columbia on Latino patients' experiences with healthcare providers.--- Eileen Anderson-Fye, EdD

The Medicine, Society and Culture Travel Grant: Megan McKenney, Natasha Rupani, and Kakul Joshi

Bioethics' MA students Megan McKenney and Natasha Rupani both won Medicine, Society, and Culture travel grants to present a co-authored poster on interdisciplinary programming in Medical Humanities and Social Medicine at the 2017 biennial meetings of the Society for Psychological Anthropology in New Orleans. Both students were also supported by a National Science Foundation grant to attend professional development workshops designed to enhance research rigor and public engagement at this same event.---Eileen Anderson-Fye, EdD

Kakul Joshi, a doctoral student in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, was awarded the Medicine, Society and Culture Travel Grant. This award enabled her to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Health Behavior in Tucson, Arizona, in March 2017 to present her work on the outcomes of providing produce prescriptions to low-income patients with elevated blood pressure.---Erika S. Trapl, PhD

Research ShowCASE

Graduate Student Research Award: Ian Bayles, Sahil Gulati, and Darcie Seachrist

Ian has always impressed me with his can do attitude and fearless approach to science. He has helped develop a novel approach toward identification of compounds that block metastasis which may eventually be used to treat cancer. The award is a well deserved honor.—Peter Sacheri, PhD

Sahil is an exceptional graduate student who is committed to research and to helping others in the laboratory. In a recent first author publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sahil and co-authors demonstrated the ability to reprogram GPCRs into self-renewing machines. This opens up the possibility of new therapeutic options for treating people with vision impairment.---Phoebe Stewart, PhD

Darcie is a non-traditional graduate student who was a research assistant for over a decade before entering the PhD program in Pharmacology. Even with three children, she is completely committed to the highest quality research and has driven an outstanding thesis project that focuses on identifying molecular mechanisms that control breast cancer aggressiveness. Her poster described her identification of a novel regulator of breast cancer that has opened a completely new area of research for her laboratory.---Ruth Keri, PhD

The Graduate Student Honorable Mention: Michael Glover, Sarah Jones, and Jeremy Whitson

The research which Mike is currently pursuing includes understanding the contribution of persistent chronic inflammation in neoplastic conversion of the prostate epithelial cells; and identification of prognostic biomarkers for biochemical recurrence of prostate cancer. Mike is intelligent, passionate and has a high level of personal motivation. He has the ability and willingness to see on both a detailed and Big-Picture scale. He has already decided to pursue the area of Urology and/or Urologic Oncology after completion of his MD degree.--- Lee E. Ponsky, MD and Sanjay Gupta, PhD

Sarah’s research is on the family, school and neighborhood influences of adolescents' diet quality and caloric intake. Her study provides not only valuable insights to these multi-level influences but how and where intervention efforts can be directed to reduce the epidemic of obesity in our country, especially in low-income, urban communities. Her work clearly shows that a child's environment, especially when dominated by convenience stores, can have significant impact of calories consumed and the types of foods consumed.---Elain A. Borawski, PhD

Jeremy’s impressive abilities as a researcher and thinker, his unsurpassed organizational and writing skills and warm personality  have inspired all of us in the Monnier Lab. He will be thoroughly missed.---Vincent Monnier, MD

Postdoctoral Research Award: Sharon Rymut

Sharon was recognized for her exciting work determining the mechanism of action of ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory therapy in cystic fibrosis. For this, she also recently received a prestigious postdoc-to-faculty transition award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  Sharon is a creative and hardworking scientist with an exceedingly bright future.---Thomas J. Kelley, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Award Honorable Mention: Sylvia Gayle

Sylvia is a senior post-doctoral fellow who was recently awarded a training fellowship from the National Cancer Institute. She is focused on identifying drug combinations that can improve therapeutic outcomes in women who suffer from a highly aggressive form of breast cancer known as triple negative breast cancer. She has identified the mechanism(s) of resistance for a novel drug class as well as an approach to reverse that resistance. This should improve the efficacy of these new drugs when they are ultimately FDA approved for breast cancer therapy.—Ruth Keri, PhD

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