City of Hope Introduces Newest Graduates

June 3, 2017 | by City of Hope

On June 9, nearly a dozen 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 19th since the graduate school first opened to students in 1994. Michelle Le Beau, Ph.D., director of the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, will be the commencement speaker.
 
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 remarkable individuals that comprise the 2017 graduating class:
 
Bradley Ahrens was born and raised on the beaches of San Diego. He earned degrees in biology and physiology from Mesa College and University of California, San Diego before going on to earn his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Western University in Los Angeles.
 
In the laboratory of John Shively, Ph.D., he developed a novel PET imaging agent – now entering clinical trials at City of Hope – which can noninvasively diagnose different types of breast cancer. Through collaboration with University of Southern California and the guidance of Richard Ermel, D.V.M., Ph.D., Ahrens concurrently completed a laboratory animal veterinary residency. During his time at City of Hope, he has authored several scientific papers and editorials and has delivered multiple keynote addresses.
 
Andrew Chin of Newbury Park, California, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with an emphasis in cell biology at Humboldt State University. Under the direction of Emily (Shizhen) Wang, Ph.D., former associate professor at City of Hope (presently at University of California, San Diego), he studies the inhibitory effects of plant miRNA miR159 on breast cancer. He is the first author on one scientific paper and three review articles, and plans to explore the heterogeneity and functional consequences of normal and cancer extracellular vesicles.
 
Qi Cui, born in China, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biological technology from Nankai University. Under the direction of Yanhong Shi, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology at City of Hope, he studied the genetic and epigenetic regulation of cancer stem cells in glioblastoma.
 
Cui, recipient of the H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation Fellowship, is the first author of two scientific papers and co-author of another four. Cui is studying the mechanism of glioblastoma progression and aims to develop novel cancer therapies.
 
Juan Du moved to the U.S. from China, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences from Zhejiang University. Under the guidance of Dustin E Schones, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism at City of Hope, Du studied the epigenetic variation in metabolic diseases. Du, the recipient of funding from the H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation Fellowship, was the first author of two scientific papers and a co-author on four others during her work with Schones. Her future work will focus on utilizing advanced sequencing technology to study complex diseases.
 
Xiaoxiao Ma, from Beijing, China, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biological science from the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, China. Under the mentoring of Wendong Huang, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism at City of Hope, Ma explored how environmental stimulation cross-talked with intracellular kinase signal pathways to promote cancer development. During his graduate training, he was first author on two scientific papers and co-authored eight other scientific articles.
 
Nathaniel E. Magilnick, of Santa Monica, California, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology from California State University, Northridge. Working in the lab of Mark Boldin, M.D., Ph.D., Magilnick studied how noncoding RNA contributes to the regulation of inflammatory responses and basic cellular functions. Magilnick is the co-author of several scientific papers and has a first-author manuscript in submission. He plans to continue investigating the basic biologically processes that govern innate immune responses.
 
Cai Morgan Roberts, originally from the U.K., grew up in Northern California, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering from the University of California, Davis. For his Ph.D. work at City of Hope, Roberts joined the laboratory of Carlotta Glackin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, where he characterized the functions of the transcription factor Twist in ovarian cancer. During his time at City of Hope, he was the recipient of the Robert Clements and Parsons Foundation Fellowships and published two first-author scientific papers and one shared first-author paper. He was a co-author on several others. Roberts is continuing his training as a postdoctoral associate at the Yale University School of Medicine. His research in the laboratory of Gil Mor, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on mechanisms of drug resistance in ovarian cancer recurrence.
 
Pamela Tiet of Garden Grove, California earned a Bachelor of Science degree in bioengineering from University of California, Berkeley. Working under the direction of Jacob M. Berlin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at City of Hope, her focus was on developing a biosensor to detect Staphylococcus aureus using oligonucleotide-functionalized gold nanoparticles and on the synthesis of silica-coated paclitaxel nanocrystals for the purposes of loading onto tumor-tropic neural stem cells for targeted drug delivery. She was awarded the H. N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation Fellowship in 2013 and the Helen and Morgan Chu Graduate Student Fellowship in 2015. Tiet has been accepted into the National Cancer Institute’s Carolina Center for Nanotechnology Training Program as a T32 postdoctoral fellow at University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy, where her research will focus on cancer immunotherapy.
 
Michael Ryan Weist of Saline, Michigan earned both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in engineering and biomedical engineering from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Under the mentorship of John Shively, Ph.D., he developed a method to track cells with positron emission tomography. Using this technique, he has studied the trafficking of natural killer cells and chimeric antigen receptor T cells. Michael Weist was awarded an H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation Student Fellowship in 2012.
 
Ethan Ellis White of China Spring, Texas, earned a bachelor of science in chemistry from Baylor University. While working in the laboratory of Jacob Berlin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine, he studied several nanoparticle-based strategies for improving brain cancer immunotherapy. White was awarded the H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation Fellowship in 2012 and is a first co-author on several scientific papers, both published and in submission. Last year, White was one of the scientists featured at City of Hope’s newest educational outreach program, the Hope Experiment. He led an immunotherapy demonstration for hundreds of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students, inspiring the next generation of researchers. After graduation, he intends to pursue a research career at the interface of immunotherapy and drug delivery.
 
 
 

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