An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By City of Hope | May 21, 2019
This year's graduation ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. on June 7th, 2019, in the CIty of Hope Rose Garden.
On June 7, eight newly minted graduates from the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences will have doctor of philosophy degrees bestowed upon them by their laboratory mentors.
Held in the City of Hope Rose Garden, the commencement ceremony will be the 21st since the graduate school first opened to students in 1994. The keynote address will be delivered by Bruce Sullenger, Ph.D., the Joseph W. and Dorothy W. Beard Professor of Experimental Surgery at the Duke University School of Medicine. An honorary degree will be bestowed upon the City of Hope Board of Governors, represented by Robert S. Marx and Susanne M. Reyto.
For the graduates, it is the culmination of years of intensive study and training.
“Receiving a Ph.D. from a graduate school of this caliber is a remarkable achievement,” said Adam Bailis, Ph.D., the school’s associate dean of professional development. “It takes a tremendous amount of hard work, patience, persistence and creativity. We couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Here’s a closer look at the future scientific leaders that comprise the 2019 graduating class:
Ragini Bhargava grew up in Mumbai, India, and came to Los Angeles 11 years ago to pursue her bachelor of science degree at UCLA. Working under the guidance of Jeremy M. Stark, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics at City of Hope, Ragini studied the role of the end joining pathways of DNA double-strand break repair in maintaining genome stability. Her thesis work has led to two first-author and one co-author research publications, along with one first-author review article. During her studies, Ragini received the H.N. and Frances Berger Foundation and the Helen and Morgan Chu fellowships. Ragini plans to pursue her postdoctoral studies in the field of cancer biology.   
Abby Jiarong Chiang, originally from Taipei, Taiwan, earned a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry from UCLA. Working in the laboratory of Markus Kalkum, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Molecular Imaging and Therapy at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Chiang studied the immunomodulatory impact of novel vitamin B9 derivatives that are produced by probiotic Lactobacillus. She also participated in a study with NASA/JPL on the mechanisms of survival and stress resistance of microbes exposed to space conditions onboard the International Space Station. Chiang is the first author of two publications, a co-author of six other publications, and was the recipient of a NASA sponsorship to present her work at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress in Australia. She plans to employ her proteomics and metabolomics knowledge to pursue a career in the field of mass spectrometry.
Li Li grew up in Shandong, China, earned a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Taishan Medical University in China and a master’s degree in biological science from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. While working in the laboratory of Yanhong Shi, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, she utilized stem cells to uncover the mechanisms of neurodegeneration and worked within a team to develop cell therapy products for neurological disease. Her findings led to the publication of one scientific paper and another one in review. She also has one review paper published and one in preparation. Li plans to continue her research in mechanism discovery and therapy development for neurological diseases using stem cells.
John Paul Murad grew up in Diamond Bar, California, and earned his B.S. in chemistry from Cal Poly Pomona and a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences from Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona. He completed his graduate education in the laboratory of Stephen J. Forman, M.D., professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, with guidance from assistant professor Saul Priceman, Ph.D. Murad’s work focused on cellular immunotherapy for the treatment of solid tumors, including metastatic prostate cancer and ovarian cancer, through development of novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. A 2014 H.N. & Frances Berger Foundation Fellow, Murad is the first author of a scientific paper, “Effective Targeting of TAG72+ Peritoneal Ovarian Tumors via Regional Delivery of CAR-Engineered T Cells,” and co-author on several others. He plans to use his combined knowledge of immunology and cancer biology to pursue a career in translational immunotherapy.
Cassandra Agbayani Ramos, from Sacramento, California earned her bachelor of science in biochemistry and molecular biology from UC Davis and her master of science in biological sciences from San Jose State University. She worked under the direction of David Ann, Ph.D., professor and associate chairman in the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Institute at City of Hope. Her research investigated how obesity-associated hyperinsulinemia influences the internal metabolism and external environment of breast cancer. Ramos was funded by a pre-doctoral fellowship from the City of Hope Center for Cancer and Aging and was the recipient of the Levine-Riggs Symposium Young Investigator Scientific Achievement Award. She plans to use her training in research, analytical problem-solving and science communication to pursue a career in the fields of science policy and social advocacy.
Xichun Wang grew up in Shanghang County, Fujian province in China, earning his dental degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of Medicine. He then continued his education at the University of San Francisco, earning a master's degree in public administration in healthcare services. He worked under the direction of Andrei S. Rodin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Computational and Quantitative Medicine at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope. Wang developed the application of network-centered systems biology methods to genomic multimodal big data. He is the first author of two scientific publications in review. He will be working as a public health informatics scientist in a government agency. 
Jonathan Wise, who grew up in Shelby, North Carolina, earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from Furman University. At City of Hope, he worked in the lab of Arthur Riggs, M.D., director of the Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute, and was co-mentored by John J. Rossi, Ph.D., Dean of the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences and chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. Wise studied the Argonaute proteins in mouse embryonic stem cells and human cervical cancer cell lines, investigating their function inside the nucleus and their effects on RNA transcript expression and processing.  His research provides novel insights into cell cycle-specific functions of Argonaute-1 and how this protein may be involved in slowing tumor progression. 
Jing Zhang grew up in Jiangxi, China, and earned a bachelor's degree in bioengineering from Nanchang University. Her research interests took her to the Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, where she studied the evolution of the immune system from invertebrate to vertebrate and earned a master of science degree. Working in the laboratory of Zuoming Sun, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Molecular Imaging and Therapy at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, she studied the role of TCF-1 in Th17 immunity and T cell lymphoma. Zhang is the first/co-first author of three scientific papers and the co-author of several others. She will continue her research in the field of autoimmune disorders.

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