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Justice, equity, diversity and inclusion celebrated at annual GSBS awards ceremony

By Colleen Locke

UMass Medical School Communications

June 03, 2021

The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences recognized student scientists for academic achievement, mentoring, service and scholarship during a hybrid awards ceremony on Thursday, June 3. A new award for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion leadership was presented for the first time.

Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine, began his opening remarks by drawing parallels between the search for the cause of influenza and for COVID-19.

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Chancellor Collins presents the 2021 Chancellor’s Award to Heather Loring for outstanding research and leadership.

“It’s not an original thought to indicate that genius and hard work must come together for great science to happen, but it is something that your work as pandemic-era scientists has proven,” Provost Flotte said.

Although most of the winners were announced ahead of time, the winners of the Chancellor’s Award and the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Research were announced at the event. Chancellor Michael F. Collins presented the 2021 Chancellor’s Award to Heather Loring for her outstanding research and leadership, saying that her discovery of novel mechanistic insights may lead to the development of novel therapies for cancer and neurogeneration. GSBS Dean Mary Ellen Lane honored Zachary Milstone and Erica Mondo, participating in the event via Zoom, for their thesis research.

As for the new award, the Student Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (JEDI) Leadership Award was created to honor up to three students or a student group with a demonstrated record of excellence and achievement in promoting or enhancing JEDI in the GSBS community over the academic year. Dean Lane said that in a competitive group of nominees, the Diversity Interest Group stood out for the monthly journal club it launched in December.

“It’s a forum to learn and dialogue the impacts of discrimination in our community and society,” Lane said.

Launched in 2011, DIG was revitalized in 2018. Lane asked the current leadership, Thuyvan Luu, Abiola Ogunsola, Stephanie Becker and Cesar Bautista-Sotelo, to stand and be recognized.

After announcing all of the award recipients and acknowledging the nominees, Lane returned to the theme Flotte introduced at the start of the event.

“Over the last year, we have seen our scientists make continued progress toward taming the pandemic and giving us the privilege of being sites for trials of groundbreaking treatments and preventative measures. And even if we acknowledge that the grief and suffering are ongoing and continue to take a toll on the lives of many in our own community and the world, I hope that we can take a moment to appreciate that you must have had a front row seat, and in some cases even an active role, in witnessing a miracle that started with an idea whose merit wasn’t immediately recognized,” Lane said.

She closed by encouraging graduates to create a more inclusive definition of excellence that drives them as individuals and as a community.

Award recipients, some of whom will earn degrees during Commencement on Sunday, June 6, are:

Chancellor’s Award
Heather Loring
Insights into the Role of SARM1 in Pathological Neuron Death
Paul Thompson, PhD, and Celia Schiffer, PhD, mentors

Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Thesis Research
Zachary Milstone
Histone Deacetylase 1 and 2 are Essential for Early Cardiac Development
Chinmay Trivedi, MD, PhD, mentor

Erica Mondo
Investigating Microglia-vascular Interactions in the Developing and Adult Central Nervous System
Dorothy Schafer, PhD, mentor

Class Speaker
Sumeet Nayak
Sharon Cantor, PhD, mentor

GSBC Career Development Awards
Peren Coskun
Sean Ryder, PhD, mentor

Nandhitha Uma Naresh
Cole Haynes, PhD, mentor

Riccio Travel Awards
Revati Darp
Craig Ceol, PhD, mentor

Mehmet Hakan Guney
Jeremy Luban, MD, mentor

Xue “Shirley” Li
Elinor Karlsson, PhD, mentor

Godkin Award
Apurv Soni
Jeroan Allison, MD, mentor

29 Who Shine
Apurv Soni
Jeroan Allison, MD, mentor

Alpha Omega Alpha
Asia Matthew-Onabanjo
Leslie Shaw, PhD, mentor

Zurier Awards
Aurian Garcia González
Marian Walhout, PhD, mentor

Barry Kriegsman
Kenneth Rock, MD, mentor

Dean’s Award for Outstanding Mid-Thesis Research
Mariana Noto Guillen
Amir Mitchell, PhD, mentor

Nicholas Peterson
Read Pukkila-Worley, MD, mentor

I-Hao Wang
Paul Greer, PhD, mentor

Outstanding Student Mentor in the Classroom or Research Setting Award
Daniel Hidalgo
Merav Socolovsky, MD, PhD, mentor

Daniel Mott
Samuel Behar, MD, PhD, mentor

Student Community Service Leadership Award
Daniel Hidalgo
Merav Socolovsky, MD, PhD, mentor

Student JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Leadership Award
Diversity Interest Group
Brian Lewis, PhD, mentor