2023 Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Academic Convocation and Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Commencement

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.

In 2020, GSK launched a new Master of Science in Clinical and Translational Cancer Research (CTCR), which trains physician scholars at MSK to become independent clinical investigators who bridge the gap between basic and clinical cancer research. Through a mix of coursework and mentored research, the CTCR program offers MSK clinicians a mechanism to keep pace with the rapid rate of technological and conceptual advances in cancer biology.

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On Wednesday, May 17, Memorial Sloan Kettering and the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School celebrated the 44th annual Convocation and 12th Commencement event, recognizing academic award winners and new PhD and MS graduates.

2023 Honorary Degree and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Biomedical Research

Craig Thompson

Craig B. Thompson, MD, President Emeritus and Member of the Sloan Kettering Institute


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Craig B. Thompson, M.D., is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and currently leads a research laboratory at the Sloan Kettering Institute and is a member of the Department of Medicine at Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. Dr. Thompson received his BS from Dartmouth and MD from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by clinical training in internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and in medical oncology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute. Dr. Thompson has extensive research experience in cancer, immunology, and translational medicine. His current research focuses on the regulation of cellular metabolism during cell growth/differentiation and on the role that metabolic changes play in the origin and progression of cancer. Dr. Thompson is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a Fellow of the AACR Academy. 

Past GSK Honorary Doctorate of Science Recipients

  • 2022: Dr. Levi Garraway
  • 2021: Dr. Joan Steitz
  • 2020: Dr. James P. Allison
  • 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
2023 Gerstner Sloan Kettering PhD Graduates

Paige Arnold

Paige Krystin Arnold 
Identifying Metabolic Determinants of Cell Identity
Mentor: Lydia W. Finley, PhD 

Bradley Benjamin

Bradley Benjamin 
Structure/Function Analyses of Schizosaccharomyces Pombe Proteins Ppn1 and Asp1, Two Agents of Transcription Termination and Phosphate Homeostasis
Mentor: Stewart H. Shuman, MD, PhD 

Tingxu Chen

Tingxu Chen 
A Hypomorphic Mutation in Pold1 Disrupts the Coordination of Embryo Size Expansion and Morphogenesis During Gastrulation
Mentor: Danwei Huangfu, PhD 

Mollie Elizabeth Chipman

Mollie Elizabeth Chipman 
Understanding the Glioblastoma Tumor Immune Microenvironment as Foundation for Refining Immunotherapeutic Strategies: Contributions from Tumor Cell Lineage and NF1 Alterations 
Mentor: Luis F. Parada, PhD 

Anton Dobrin

Anton Dobrin 
Antigen Agnostic Co-Stimulation for Engineered TCR T Cells  
Mentor: Michel W. Sadelain, MD, PhD 

Caroline E. Gleason

Caroline E. Gleason 
Defining The Pathway To Cellular Senescence: Implications For Cancer Therapy And Physiology 
Mentor: Andrew Koff, PhD 

Florisela Herrejon Chavez

Florisela Herrejon Chavez 
RNA Binding Protein SYNCRIP is Required for Maintaining Normal Hematopoietic and Leukemia Stem Cell Self-Renewal 
Mentor: Michael G. Kharas, PhD 


Nayan Jain

Nayan Jain 
Epigenetic Programming of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T Cells
Mentor: Michel W. Sadelain, MD, PhD 

Yasemin Kaygusuz

Yasemin Kaygusuz
L1CAM and Planar Cell Polarity Maintain the SOX2+ Progenitor-Like State in Lung Cancer Metastasis 
Mentor: Joan Massagué, PhD


Buren Li

Buren Li 
Structure and Activation Mechanism of the Replication Checkpoint Kinase ATR-ATRIP 
Mentor: Nikola P. Pavletich, PhD 

Miguel Angel Miranda-Román

Miguel Angel Miranda-Román 
Overcoming Resistance to MEK Inhibitor Treatment in NF1-Deficient MPNST 
Mentor: Ping Chi, MD, PhD 

Stella V. Paffenholz

Stella V. Paffenholz 
Flexible Preclinical Models of High-Grade Serous Ovarian Carcinoma to Elucidate Mechanisms of Treatment Sensitivity and Resistance 
Mentor: Scott W. Lowe, PhD 

Gemma L. Regan-Mochrie

Gemma L. Regan-Mochrie 
Regulation of DNA Replication Initiation and Elongation  
Mentor: Xiaolan Zhao, PhD 

Adina Rachel Schonbrun

Adina Rachel Schonbrun 
Kinetic Mechanism and Substrate Specificity of Hedgehog Acyltransferase 
Mentor: Marilyn Resh, PhD 

Maria Sirenko

Maria Sirenko  
Integrative Single Cell Profiling and Population Genomic Studies to Characterize the Role of Somatic Mutations in Hematologic Malignancies 
Mentor: Elli Papaemmanuil, PhD 

Zhongmin Wang

Zhongmin Wang 
Ontogeny and Function of Regulatory T Cells during Established Inflammation and at Intestinal Mucosa 
Mentor: Alexander Rudensky, PhD 

Adele Whaley

Adele S. Whaley 
mTORC1 Selective Inhibitors for the Treatment of KRAS G12C Mutant Cancers 
Mentor: Neal Rosen, MD, PhD 


2023 Gerstner Sloan Kettering MS Graduates

Edmund Bartlett, MD

Edmund Bartlett, MD
Assessing the Efficacy of Radiation Therapy Combined with CDK4/6 Inhibition in the Treatment of Retroperitoneal Dedifferentiated Liposarcoma
Mentors:  Samuel Singer, MD; Charlotte E. Ariyan, MD, PhD

Joshua Z Drago, MD

Joshua Z. Drago, MD 
Combinatorial Strategies to Augment the Clinical Activity of HER2-Targeted ADCs in Breast Cancer 
Mentors: Sarat Chandarlapaty, MD, PhD; Shanu Modi, MD 

Parastoo Bahrami Dahi, MD

Parastoo Bahrami Dahi, MD 
Evaluation of Melphalan Exposure in Lymphoma Patients Undergoing BEAM and Autologous Hematopoietic Cell Transplant 
Mentors: Sergio A. Giralt, MD; Jaap Jan Boelens, MD, PhD 

Michael D. Kinnaman, MD

Michael D. Kinnaman, MD 
Subclonal Somatic Copy Number Alterations Emerge and Dominate in Recurrent Osteosarcoma 
Mentors: Christine A. Iacobuzio- Donahue, MD, PhD; Julia L. Glade Bender, MD 

Wungki Park, MD

Wungki Park, MD 
Molecular Profiles and Single Cell Analysis Identify Immunogenic Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (iPDAC)
Mentors: Eileen M. O’Reilly, MD; Christine A. Iacobuzio-Donahue, MD, PhD 

Doris M. Ponce, MD

Doris M. Ponce, MD 
Intestinal Microbiome Restoration in Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant
Mentor: Marcel R. M. van den Brink, MD, PhD 

Kevin C. Soares, MD

Kevin C. Soares, MD 
Imaging and Blood based Biomarkers for the Early Detection of Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma
Mentor: Vinod P. Balachandran, MD 

Roni Tamari, MD

Roni Tamari, MD 
Incidental Diagnosis of Clonal Hematopoiesis Among Healthy, Unrelated, Hematopoietic Stem Cell Donors: A Feasibility Study of Psychosocial, Ethical, and Clinical Issues
Mentor: Miguel-Angel Perales, MD 


Gottfried von Keudell

Gottfried von Keudell, MD, PhD 
A Phase II Study of Epcoritamab in Treatment Naïve Follicular Lymphoma Patients with Advanced Stage and Low Tumor Volume 
Mentor: Andrew D. Zelenetz, MD, PhD 


Recognition of the Doctoral Dissertation Research


Sloan Kettering Division/Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences
  • Abderhman Abuhashem
    Dissecting the Role of RNA Pol II Pausing in Early Mammalian Development 
    Mentor: Anna-Katerina Hadjantonakis, PhD
  • Christopher Bourne
    Improving the Efficacy and Repertoire of Cancer Immunotherapy with Rational Small-molecule Combinations
    Mentor: David Scheinberg, MD, PhD
  • Erika Buechelmaier
    The HELQ Helicase Promotes Annealing in Homology-dependent DNA Double-strand Break Repair
    Mentor: Simon Powell, MD, PhD
  • Cassandra Nicole Burdziak 
    Inferring Mechanisms of Genetic, Epigenetic, and Environmental Cooperativity in Cancer Progression
    Mentor: Dana Pe’er, PhD
  • Patrick Robert Busch 
    Spatial and temporal patterning of Drosophila larval somatic muscle nuclei
    Mentor: Mary Baylies, PhD
  • Zhen Cao
    Prostate Cancer Modeling: From Human Cancer Genomic Analysis to Mouse and Organoid Engineering
    Mentor: Charles Sawyers, MD
  • Inbal Caspi 
    Glucose Transporters GLUT1 and GLUT2 are Key Components in the Human Glucostat
    Mentor: Danwei Huangfu, PhD
  • Walid Khaled Chatila
    Heterogeneity amongst Colorectal Cancers: Incidence, novel phenotypes, and their molecular drivers.
    Mentor: Nikolaus Schultz, PhD
  • Priyanka Chowdhury
    A Mouse Model to Separate Class Switch Recombination and Somatic Hypermutation in B Cells.
    Mentor: Jayanta Chaudhuri, PhD
  • Yujie Fan
    hPSC-derived Sacral Neural Crest Enables Rescue in a Severe Model of Hirschsprung’s Disease
    Mentors: Lorenz Studer, MD
  • Chao Feng
    Deep Learning Approaches for Fine-grained Spatial Modeling of the Tumor Microenvironment from H&E-stained Histopathology Images
    Mentor: Thomas Fuchs, PhD
  • Lauren Jonas
    Innate Immunity protein IFITM3 in Alzheimer’s Disease and Tauopathy
    Mentor: Yueming Li, PhD
  • Heather Jones
    Modulating the Target Specificity of TCRs
    Mentor: David Scheinberg, MD, PhD
  • Joshua Korsen
    Molecular Imaging and Radioimmunotherapy Targeting Delta-Like Ligand 3 in Neuroendocrine Prostate Cancer
    Mentor: Jason Lewis, PhD
  • Tomi Lazarov
    Developmental Origins of Tissue Macrophages and Their Potential Role in Lupus Pathogenesis
    Mentor: Frederic Geissmann, MD, PhD
  • Hyein Grace Lee
    SUMO Contributes to Preferential Substrate Processing by the Ufd1/Npl4- Cdc48 Complex
    Mentor: Christopher D. Lima, PhD
  • Dianne Michelle Tinio Lumaquin-Yin
    Lipid Droplets are a Metabolic Vulnerability in Melanoma
    Mentor: Richard M. White, MD, PhD
  • Joanna Luo
    A contact dependent mechanism of ferroptosis suppression
    Mentor: Yueming Li, PhD
  • Alexander M. Minikes
    A contact dependent mechanism of ferroptosis suppression
    Mentor: Xuejun Jiang, PhD
  • Abbas Nazir
    FOXA1 Mutations Perturb Transcriptional Networks Through Recruitment of Partner Transcription Factors to Drive Cell Identity and Neoplastic Transformation.
    Mentor: Charles Sawyers, MD
  • Navid Paknejad
    Molecular Mechanisms of IP3 Receptor Regulation Richard Hite
    Mentor: Richard Hite, PhD
  • Joyce Pasion
    Loss of Bromodomain-Containing Protein 9 (BRD9) Reprograms Tumor Response to Natural Killer (NK) Cell-Mediated Killing
    Mentor: Hans-Guido Wendel, MD
  • Samantha Phillips
    Increased speed and purity of oligodendrocyte differentiation from human pluripotent stem cells allows for study of lineage progression 
    Mentor: Lorenz Studer, MD
  • Allison Pine
    Single-cell Transcriptional Regulation of Cell State Identity in Glioblastoma
    Mentor: Christina Leslie, PhD
  • Devin Ray
    Development of chemical tools to investigate and manipulate cellular processes
    Mentor: Yael David, PhD
  • Chelsea Ann Rittenhouse
    Next Generation Cerebral Organoids: The Importance of Cell-Type Diversity in Proper Human Brain Development
    Mentor: Lorenz Studer, MD
  • Bess Rosen
    Uncovering Regulators of Human Pluripotency Using Comparative CRISPR Screening
    Mentor: Danwei Huangfu, PhD
  • Elisa Elena Sanchez
    Cytoskeletal regulation of cytotoxic T lymphocyte killing
    Mentor: Morgan Huse, PhD
  • Esther Sanchez De Leon Ley
    Study of MRE11 and RTEL1 Roles in Hematopoietic Malignancy and Telomere Homeostasis Using Disease-associated Mutations
    Mentor: John Petrini, PhD
  • Reeti Mayur Sanghrajka
    The Histone Methyltransferase KMT2D Suppresses SHH-Driven Medulloblastoma Tumor Progression and Metastasis
    Mentor: Alexandra Joyner, PhD
  • Pedro Cito Silberman 
    Tumor MicroEnvironment Actuated T-Cells (MEAT-cells) to conditionally express chimeric antigen receptors and mitigate lethal toxicity.       
    Mentor: David Scheinberg, MD, PhD
  • Cerise Tang
    Microenvironmental Determinants of Metabolic Heterogeneity in Cancer
    Mentor: Nikolaus Schultz, PhD
  • Daniel Eugene Tylawsky
    Drug Delivery to Intracranial Tumors by Active Transport of Targeted Nanocarriers
    Mentor: Daniel Heller, PhD
  • Yuanqing Wang
    Graph Machine Learning for (Bio)molecular Modeling and Force Field Construction
    Mentor: John Chodera, PhD
  • Jiaqi Xu
    The ANKRD31–REC114 interaction is critical for double-strand break control and sex chromosome recombination during male mouse meiosis
    Mentor: Scott Keeney, PhD
  • Carolina Zapater i Morales
    Drosophila Tropomodulin regulates multiple actin-dependent processes during larval myofiber development
    Mentor: Mary Baylies, PhD

2023 Award Winners


Research Awards
  • Dorris J. Hutchison Graduate Fellowship
    • Recognizes outstanding research under the mentorship of an MSK faculty member
    • Awarded to Cheryl Mai
  • Barbara and Stephen Friedman Graduate Fellowship
  • Bruce Charles Forbes Fellowship
  • MERIT Graduate Fellowship
  • MERIT Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • MERIT Sawyers Fellowship
  • Marie-Josée Kravis Women in Science Endeavor Graduate Fellowship
  • Marie-Josée Kravis Women in Science Endeavor Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • Postdoctoral Research Awards
    • Recognizes 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 Mijin Kim, PhD
    • Awarded to Seungjae Lee, PhD
  • 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 Timour Baslan, 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 Yael David, PhD
  • Katharine Berkan Judd Award Lectureship
    • Recognizes an individual who has made great advancements in the understanding of cancer through basic discovery
    • Awarded to Vishva Dixit, MD
      The Judd Lecture will occur on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at 4:30 p.m. in the RRL Auditorium. Please join us! 
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 Adrienne Boire, 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 Martin R. Weiser, MD
  • C. Chester Stock Award Lectureship
    • Given annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to the advancement of cancer therapy
    • Awarded to Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS
      The Stock Award Lecture will occur on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at 9:00 a.m. in RRL-116. Please join us! 
  • 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 Stuart Orkin, MD
      Please join us for Pediatric Grand Rounds on Thursday, May 18, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. in room M-107.