2020 Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Commencement and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Academic Convocation

Established in 2004 with a landmark gift from Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Vice Chair of the MSK Boards of Overseers and Managers, the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSK) admitted its first class in the summer of 2006. The school offers the next generation of biomedical scientists an intensive PhD program that trains them to investigate and attack cancer through the twin lenses of basic research and real-life clinical challenges.

GSK faculty are nationally recognized scientists working at the forefront of biomedical research, and the curriculum takes advantage of the unique integration of the basic science and clinical arms of Memorial Sloan Kettering. An intensive lab-work model, along with the opportunity to observe firsthand how research findings are applied, ensures that GSK graduates are well positioned to close the gap between basic and clinical research.

2020 Honorary Degree and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Biomedical Research

James P. Allison

James P. Allison

James P. Allison, PhD, is Chair of the Department of Immunology, the Olga Keith Wiess Distinguished University Chair for Cancer Research, the Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, and the Executive Director of the Immunotherapy Platform at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Dr. Allison will deliver this year’s commencement address.

Past GSK Honorary Doctorate of Science Recipients

  • 2019: Dr. Kenneth J. Marians
  • 2018: Dr. Cori Bargmann
  • 2017: Dr. Robert Langer
  • 2016: Dr. Joan S. Brugge
  • 2015: Dr. Robert A. Weinberg
  • 2014: Dr. Thomas J. Kelly
  • 2013: Dr. Paul A. Marks
  • 2012: Mr. Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., and Dr. Harold E. Varmus
2020 Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduates
Ivan Jose Cohen, PhD

Ivan Jose Cohen, PhD
Tumor Glycolysis Is a Mechanism of Immune Exclusion in Solid Tumors
Mentor: Ronald G. Blasberg, MD


Christopher Hulton, PhD

Christopher Hulton, PhD
Direct Genome Editing of Patient-Derived Xenografts Using CRISPR-Cas9 Enables Rapid In Vivo Functional Genomics
Mentor: Charles Rudin, MD, PhD


Mark J. Jelcic, PhD

Mark J. Jelcic, PhD
Uncovering ATP Interactors and Signaling Mechanisms in Inflammation and Wound Healing
Mentor: Philipp Niethammer, PhD


James Whiteside Keith, Jr. PhD

James Whiteside Keith, Jr. PhD
Impact of Gut-Dwelling, Antibiotic-Resistant Pathobionts on Mucosal Immune Activation and Antimicrobial Defenses
Mentor: Eric Pamer, MD


Nicholas Frederik Kuhn, PhD

Nicholas Frederik Kuhn, PhD
Engineering Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T Cells to Elicit an Endogenous Antitumor Immune Response
Mentor: Renier Brentjens, MD, PhD


Hannah Christina Wise

Hannah Christina Wise, PhD
Characterization of Epigenetic Regulators in Urothelial Carcinoma
Mentor: David B. Solit, MD


Brittany Anne Woods, PhD

Brittany Anne Woods, PhD
Determinants of Clonal Evolution in JAK2V617F-Driven Myeloid Malignancies
Mentor: Ross Levine, MD


Yuchen Xie, PhD

Yuchen Xie, PhD
Genetic Loss-of-Function Studies of SETD2 in Tumorigenesis
Mentor: Emily Cheng, MD, PhD


Recognition of the Doctoral Dissertation Research


Sloan Kettering Division/Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences
  • Noelle V. Antao Understanding the Impact of PP2A Misregulation on Mitosis after Whole-Genome Doubling Thesis mentor: Prasad Jallepalli, MD, PhD
  • Hanan Baker Elucidating the Physical Principles Underlying Lipid Bilayer Perturbation by Hydrophobic and Amphiphilic Peptides Thesis mentor: Daniel A. Heller, PhD
  • Mridula Balakrishnan Drosophila Cofilin: Its Roles in Sarcomerogenesis and Myopathy Thesis mentor: Mary Baylies, PhD
  • Ryan E. Blawski An Investigation of KMT2 Family Methyltransferases: Novel Roles for Protein Lysine Methylation in Cancer Thesis mentor: Minkui Luo, PhD
  • Maria Elizabeth Bustillo Tension-Sensitive Regulation of Adhesion during Epithelial Remodeling Thesis mentor: Jennifer A. Zallen, PhD
  • Shi Chen Dynamic Conformational Landscapes and Transition States of Protein Methyltransferases Thesis mentor: Minkui Luo, PhD
  • Andrew Cho Synthesis, Characterization, and Translation of [6-13C,15N3]-Arginine, a Hyperpolarized 13C Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Probe for in vivo Arginase Activity Thesis mentor: Kayvan R. Keshari, PhD
  • Hyunwoo Cho Integrative Computational Analysis of Epigenetic Changes in Cellular Differentiation Thesis mentor: Christina Leslie, PhD
  • Angela Chui Oxidative Stress Regulates Neocortical Progenitor Behavior and Neurogenesis Transition Thesis mentor: Songhai Shi, PhD
  • Ashley J. Chui N-Terminal Degradation Is the Activation Mechanism of the NLRP1B and CARD8 Inflammasomes Thesis mentor: Daniel Bachovchin, PhD
  • Melissa D. Docampo The Role of Short-Chain Fatty Acid Signaling in Graft-Versus-Host Disease Thesis mentor: Marcel R. M. van den Brink, MD, PhD
  • Dylan J. Drakes Optimization of T Cell Receptor–Modified T Cells for Cancer Therapy Thesis mentor: Renier J. Brentjens, MD, PhD
  • Sunyana Gadal Role of ERK Dependent Feedback in BRAF V600E Melanoma Progression Thesis mentor: Neal Rosen, MD, PhD
  • Mayur Mahavir Gadiya Mechanisms of Action of Noncanonical ESR1 Ligand Domain Mutations Identified in Breast Cancer Thesis mentor: Sarat Chandarlapaty, MD, PhD
  • Theodoros Giavridis In Vivo Modeling of CAR T Cell–Induced Cytokine Release Syndrome and Discovery of Novel Therapeutic Interventions Thesis mentor: Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD
  • Sudha Ragavalli Guttikonda Modeling Neuroinflammation Using hPSC-Derived Microglia in an in vitro Tri-Culture System Thesis mentor: Lorenz Studer, MD
  • Zachary S. Hann Chemical Probes to Trap Ubiquitin Conjugation Cascade Intermediates Thesis mentor: Christopher D. Lima, PhD
  • Christopher Peter Horoszko Under Stress from Oncogenic Ras:Secretory Phospholipase A2 Activity and Lipid Dysregulation Thesis mentor: Daniel A. Heller, PhD
  • Ming Jiang Profiling Protein Methylation Events and Characterizing Their Roles in Hematopoiesis and Cancer Thesis mentor: Minkui Luo, PhD
  • Sohn G. Kim Clearance of an Antibiotic-Resistant Intestinal Pathogen with a Lantibiotic-Producing, Colon-Resident Probiotic Thesis mentor: Eric Pamer, MD
  • Evangelia Loizou In vivo Modeling of Myeloid Hematological Malignancies with Complex Karyotypes Thesis mentor: Scott W. Lowe, PhD
  • Lauren Tate Marek Functional Proteomics and Pharmacologic Disassembly of Oncogenic Enhanceosomes in Acute Myeloid Leukemia Thesis mentor: Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD
  • Hilary T. Monaco Spatiotemporal Understanding of Cooperation in Microbial Communities Thesis mentor: Joao Xavier, PhD
  • Xiaojing Mu Chromosome-Autonomous Feedback Eliminates Meiotic DSB Competence upon Synaptonemal Complex Formation Thesis mentor: Scott Keeney, PhD
  • Pooja Naik Patterned Cell Surface Receptors in Planar Polarity and Boundary Formation Thesis mentor: Jennifer A. Zallen, PhD
  • Edwin Charles Pratt Multiplexed Imaging Using Nanoparticles and Rational Isotope Pairs Thesis mentor: Jan Grimm, MD, PhD
  • Andrea Rizzi Improving Efficiency and Scalability of Free Energy Calculations through Automatic Protocol Optimization Thesis mentor: John Chodera, PhD
  • Ariën Sebastian Rustenberg Quantifying Protonation State Effects in Protein-Ligand Interaction Thesis mentor: John Chodera, PhD
  • Germán Alberto Sabio Regulation of Epithelial Polarity in the Drosophila Embryo Thesis mentor: Jennifer A. Zallen, PhD
  • Preethi Srinivasan The Role of Germline Pathogenicity and Its Clinical Implications for Human Cancer Thesis mentor: Michael F. Berger, PhD
  • Chaya Stern Improving Molecular Mechanics Force Fields via Capturing Non-Local, Quantum Effects and Quantifying Parametric Uncertainties Thesis mentor: John Chodera, PhD
  • Lexi Sun An in vitro Single-Molecule Study of Polysome Formation Kinetics Thesis mentor: Xiaohui Qu, PhD
  • Dinali P. Wijewarnasuriya Excessive Co-Stimulation Leads to Dysfunction of Adoptively Transferred T Cells Thesis mentor: Renier J. Brentjens, MD, PhD
  • Angela M. Yu Computationally Reconstructing RNA Folding Pathways from Experimental Data Thesis mentor: Christina Leslie, PhD

2020 Award Winners


Research Awards
  • Dorris J. Hutchison Fellowship
    • Recognizes outstanding research under the mentorship of an MSK faculty member
    • Awarded to Laura Menocal
  • Barbara and Stephen Friedman Fellowship Award
  • Bruce Charles Forbes Fellowship Award
  • General Atlantic Graduate Research Fellowship
    • Provides support for a promising graduate fellow to pursue their education and key research interests that integrate scientific priorities with important clinical needs
    • Awarded to Inbal Caspi
  • Marie-Josée Kravis Women in Science Endeavor Graduate Fellowship
  • Marie-Josée Kravis Women in Science Endeavor Postdoctoral Fellowships
  • Postdoctoral Research Awards
    • Recognize outstanding accomplishments and promise by research fellows or research associates who have been at MSK for at least one year and have published a significant research paper as first author
    • Awarded to N. Sumru Bayin, PhD (The Alexandra Joyner Lab)
    • Awarded to Marcus Ruscetti, PhD (The Scott Lowe Lab)
  • Tri-Institutional Breakout Prize for Junior Investigators
    • Established by leaders from The Rockefeller University, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to recognize exceptional current postdoctoral trainees at each of the three institutions who have made significant research contributions
    • Awarded to Manu Setty, PhD
  • Louise and Allston Boyer Young Investigator Award for Basic Research
    • Honors researchers at the Associate level or below who have demonstrated great promise and accomplishment in laboratory investigations
    • Awarded to Andrea Schietinger, PhD
  • Katharine Berkan Judd Award Lectureship
Clinical Awards
  • Louise and Allston Boyer Young Investigator Award for Clinical Research
    • Honors physicians at the Associate level or below who have demonstrated great promise and accomplishment in clinical investigations
    • Awarded to Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD
  • Willet F. Whitmore Award for Clinical Excellence
    • Honors a clinician whose talent, dedication, and compassion reflect the standards set by Willet F. Whitmore during his more than 46 years of service at Memorial Sloan Kettering
    • Awarded to Carol Aghajanian, MD
  • C. Chester Stock Award Lectureship
  • The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Prize
    • Recognizes individuals who have made significant or groundbreaking contributions to pediatric oncology, highlighting the long-standing and future-facing partnerships between The Society and MSK and affirming the global leadership of MSK in the field of pediatric oncology
    • Awarded to Carl H. June, MD
    • Awarded to Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD