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GSBS recognizes 52 graduate students as they embark on dissertation research

Annual ceremony celebrates successful completion of qualifying exam

By Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

September 18, 2018
  • Kristopher Holloway, of the Anaclet and Zhang labs, awaits the start of the recognition ceremony.
  • Daniel Hidalgo of the Socolovsky lab
  • Mary Ellen Lane, dean of the GSBS, offers remarks.
  • Ganga Bey, of the Person and Kiefe labs, receives her business cards and laser pointer—a GSBS tradition.
  • Nanditha Uma Naresh, of the Haynes lab, was the recipient of the Zelda Haidak Memorial Scholarship.
  • The 2018 GSBS Qualifying Exam cohort
  • Heather Loring, center, of the Thompson and Schiffer labs, with her parents, grandparents, lab advisors and Dean Flotte.
  • Daniel Durning of the Mello lab
  • Oghomwen Igiesuorobo of the Anaclet lab
  • With the qualifying exam in the rear view mirror, students enjoy the reception.

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Dean Mary Ellen Lane, PhD, welcomed and congratulated 52 graduate students entering the transformative years of their doctoral research during the GSBS Qualifying Exam Recognition Ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 18.

“The qualifying exam can be a crucible experience, where working through the real possibility of high-stakes failure makes you stronger, and more prepared to face the ups and downs of dissertation research ahead of you,” Dr. Lane told the students. “You have come through something that few have the opportunity to experience.”

In their second year of study, students take the QE, which, upon passage, marks the beginning of doctoral research as the students leave the classroom behind and fully enter the lab. Through the process, many life lessons are learned, Lane said.

“Some of you had to learn, perhaps for the first time in your lives, the art of graceful failure. You had to overcome shock and humiliation—and keep your composure long enough to take in the helpful advice and clarification of expectation, and then go through it all again. But you did, and you passed, and you’re here,” the dean said.

The students are embarking on their research that will result in their dissertations at a time when students should be increasingly optimistic about careers as biomedical research scientists, said Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education, provost, executive deputy chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine.

Dean Flotte listed his annual ‘top ten’ list of reasons for his optimism, highlighting advances in medical research and investment, replete with pop culture references, including the possibility of a new Star Trek movie. Ultimately, Flotte said, one of the primary reasons to be optimistic is that the world needs intellectuals more than ever before and that this class of PhD candidates represents the future.

“The health of our society depends on the active engagement of well-educated people like yourselves . . . individuals who think rationally, argue convincingly, and care enough to participate in the public discourse,” he said.

In addition to recognizing the students’ accomplishments, Lane introduced Nandhitha Uma Naresh, third-year PhD candidate in the Cole Haynes lab, as the Zelda Haidak Memorial Scholarship recipient. The Haidak scholarship is named in honor of Zelda S. Haidak, the wife of long-time faculty member Gerald L. Haidak, MD, to support female trainees working in the area of cell biology.

The students who were admitted to doctoral candidacy in the academic year 2017-18 and recognized during the ceremony are:

Hawa Abu, Catarina Kiefe lab

Betul Akgol Oksuz, Job Dekker lab


Matthew Alcusky, Kate Lapane lab


Kellianne Alexander, Michael Francis lab


Sarah Anderson, Read Pukkila-Worley lab


Ganga Bey, Sharina Person & Catarina Kiefe labs

Alysia Bryll, Craig Peterson lab


Stephanie Carreiro, MD, Edwin Boudreaux lab

Evelyn Chang, Samuel Behar lab


Amy Cheung, Kensuke Futai lab


Michelle Conti, Jennifer Benanti lab


Sarah Davis, Anastasia Khvorova lab


Daniel Durning, Craig Mello lab


Evelyn Erickson, Christelle Anaclet lab


Chantal Ferguson, Anastasia Khvorova lab


Salome Funes, Daryl Bosco lab


Debanjan Goswamy, Javier Irazoqui lab


Sunil Guharajan, Robert Brewster lab


Georgia Gunner, Dorothy Schafer lab

Hans Tobias Gustafsson, Oliver Rando lab


Benjamin Helfand, Edwin Boudreaux & Richard Jones labs

Daniel Hidalgo, Merav Socolovsky lab


Kristopher Holloway, Christelle Anaclet & Hong Zhang labs

Brent Horowitz, Marian Walhout lab


Oghomwen Igiesuorobo, Christelle Anaclet lab

Victoria Julian, Alexandra Byrne lab

Marina Krykbaeva, Oliver Rando lab


Meenakshi Sundaram Kumar, Daryl Bosco lab


Xuqiu Lei, Kate Fitzgerald lab


Andrea Lopez-Ceparo, Milagros Rosal lab


Heather Loring, Paul Thompson & Celia Schiffer labs

Deborah Mack, Kate Lapane lab


Margaret Magaletta, Rene Maehr lab


Yekaterina Makeyeva, Craig Mello lab


Zeynep Mirza, Victor Ambros & Marian Walhout labs

Kathleen Morrill, Elinor Karlsson lab


Kristyn Norris, Mary Munson lab


Christa Park, Francis Chan lab


Nicholas Peterson, Read Pukkila-Worley lab


Henry Pratt, Zhiping Weng lab


Tomás Rodríguez, Erik Sontheimer lab


Neha Samant, Daniel Bolon lab


Serkan Sayin, Amir Mitchell lab


James Shen, Eric Baehrecke lab


Jordan Smith, Wen Xue lab


Sneha Suresh, Scot Wolfe lab


Bradford Tremblay, Cole Haynes lab


Nandhitha Uma Naresh, Cole Haynes lab


Melanie Walker, Arthur Mercurio lab


Grant Weaver, Lawrence Stern lab


Zeyu Yao, Phillip Zamore lab


Lola Yu, Roger Davis lab