Graduate student Nicole Bennardo has been named the first recipient of the Dr. Norman & Melinda Payson Graduate School Fellowship. The new fellowship supports the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences and recognizes outstanding students.
|Nicole Bennardo (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)|
John J. Rossi, Ph.D., Morgan and Helen Chu Dean’s Chair in the graduate school, selected Bennardo as the recipient, calling her a “tremendous asset” to the graduate school and a worthy beneficiary of the first fellowship.
Rossi, the Lidow Family Research Chair and chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, also cited Bennardo’s distinguished leadership in service to the graduate school as president of the Graduate Student Organization and as a teaching assistant.
Bennardo, a fifth-year student, studies DNA repair mechanisms under Jeremy Stark, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Radiation Biology. Her research focuses on identifying the genetic factors involved in genome rearrangement formation.
Genome rearrangements occur when pieces of a cell’s DNA move from one place to another on a chromosome, or to a new chromosome altogether. Genome rearrangements may involve DNA pieces of any size, including partial genes, whole genes and multiple genes, and they can lead to cancer and other diseases.
Bennardo aims to understand what causes genome rearrangements and to identify potential therapeutic targets that could be used to prevent cancers induced by chemotherapy, radiation and other DNA-damaging agents.
“I was very honored to be chosen for this fellowship, and I would like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Payson for their generous support of the graduate school,” Bennardo said.
Longtime City of Hope supporters Norman Payson, M.D., and his wife, Melinda Payson, established the fellowship with half of a $1 million gift to the school. The remaining half funded the Dr. Norman and Melinda Payson Graduate Studies Center.
“We are extremely pleased that Nicole is the inaugural recipient of this fellowship,” said Norman Payson. “Melinda and I have no doubt she has an exceptional and accomplished career ahead of her.”
Originally from New York, Bennardo entered City of Hope’s graduate school after earning her bachelor’s degree from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif. She hopes to pursue a career in academia after she obtains her doctoral degree.