Celebrating the BIMS Class of 2020

On Saturday, May 16, it was a grand day as graduates, family and faculty gathered via Zoom to honor the remarkable academic achievements of 36 individuals. It was a celebration like no other in the school’s history, given the continued social distancing requirements of COVID-19. Patrick Grant, Associate Dean of Biomedical Sciences, addressed the unusual circumstances of the event, “I’ve never hosted a graduation ceremony before, but I’m told they’re not usually done by Zoom.”

Dean David Wilkes spoke about the pursuit of scientific discovery, “this whole process requires creativity, fortitude, vision, determination, strength, and patience,” he said. “Seeking answers, and truth takes courage and integrity,” he added. Grant highlighted the plight of a graduate student, “you’ve persevered, published much of your important work, often in some of the very best scientific journals, you’ve shaped the research of countless others that will follow in your footsteps, and you’ve successfully defended your dissertations. And if it weren’t difficult enough, some of you have done this recently via Zoom”. He continued, “it may seem uncertain what lies ahead as we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic”. Quoting Albert Einstein, he said, “in the middle of difficulties, lie opportunities”.

At this time, we need Biomedical Scientists perhaps more than ever before, and the skill sets you have will be part of the solution.”

–Associate Dean Patrick Grant to students at the virtual graduation ceremony

Before introducing the 36 graduates, Grant added, “it is without question that we are proud of you. You are now part of the fabric of this institution. I thank you for the hard work that you’ve all done.” The graduates will move on to careers in research or medicine. Some will work as post docs, or in jobs in industry and government, or will serve as science advocates.

“We are very, very proud of your accomplishments. It’s not an easy task to get a PhD in Biomedical Sciences,” concluded Grant.

Images from the 2020 Virtual Graduation Ceremony




The following individuals completed their degree requirements.

Student NameDegreeMentorProject Title
Peter BaloghPhD in Experimental PathologyAdam Goldfarb A Role for RUNX3 in Balanced Erythroid-Myeloid Differentiation
James BlairPhD in NeuroscienceJason DruzgalPatterns of Pathological Progression in Parkinson’s Disease Revealed Through Cytoarchitectonic Mapping of Brain MRI
Christopher BottPhD in Cell BiologyBettina WincklerRole of the Intermediate Filament Protein Nestin in Modulating Growth Cone Morphology and Behavior
Tracy Anne CaldwellPhD in BiophysicsLinda ColumbusConformational Dynamics of the Membrane Enzyme Lipoprotein Signal Peptidase (LSPA) and Characterization of Bicelle Membrane Mimetics
Anne Carlton
PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular GeneticsJohn BushwellerThe Role of CBFß in Ovarian Cancer
Ajay ChatrathPhD in Biochemistry & Molecular GeneticsAnindya Dutta
Germline Variation Affects Tumor Progression and Informs Clinical Therapy Decisions Across Cancers
William Chronister

PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics

Michael McConnell & Stefan Bekiranov

Exploring Brain Somatic Mosaicism Through Robust Copy Number Variation Detection in Single Cell Whole Genome Sequencing Data
Andrea Daamen
PhD in Microbiology
Timothy Bender
c-Myb Maintains Glucose Metabolism and Regulates Differentiation Across the
Pre-BCR Checkpoint
Camille Drews
PhD in Experimental Pathology

Scott Vande Pol
Characterization of Papillomavirus E6 Proteins that Bind Cellular E6AP
Kelly DrewsPhD in Experimental Pathology

Mark KesterGlucosylceramide Maintains Influenza Infection through Regulation of Cellular Endocytosis
Jacob Eccles
PhD in Microbiology

Judith WoodfolkDefining Memory B-cell Responses to Human Rhinovirus Infection
Anthony Fernández-Castañeda
PhD in Neuroscience
Alban GaultierThe Active Contribution of Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Cells to Neuroinflammation is Mediated by LRP1
Awndre Gamache
PhD in Microbiology
Michael G. BrownNatural Killer Cell Recognition of Viral Infection: Paired MHC I Receptors Facilitate Viral Detection and Clearance
Allissia Gilmartin
PhD in Microbiology
William Petri
An Investigation of the Role of Lysosomes in Amebic Trogocytosis and Cell Killing
Andrew Grainger
PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics

Weibin ShiIdentification of Genetic Factors in Atherosclerosis Using an ApoE Mouse Model
Benjamin Holloway
PhD in NeurosciencePatrice GuyenetControl of Blood Pressure, Breathing and Acute Stress Via The Rostral Ventrolateral Medulla
Steven Keller
PhD in Physiology
Brant Isakson and Linda ColumbusEndothelial Alpha Globin Controls Nitric Oxide Signaling
Alexander Ksendzovsky
PhD in Physiology
Brant IsaksonMetabolic Control of Neuronal Activation and Epilepsy
Corina Marziano-Willard
PhD in Physiology
Swapnil SonkusareEndothelial TRPV4 Channel Regulation of Pulmonary Arterial Pressure
Katrina McNeely
PhD in Neuroscience
Noelle DwyerRegulation of Cytokinesis in Neural Stem Cells During Cerebral Cortex Development
Christopher MedinaPhD in Microbiology
Kodi RavichandranIntercellular Metabolite Communication via Panx1 Coordinates Inflammation
Stephanie Melchor
PhD in Experimental Pathology
Sarah EwaldIL-1R Drives Acute Disease Tolerance, Liver and Skeletal Muscle Fibrosis, and Sustained Cachexia During T. gondii Infection
Beth Melson
PhD in Microbiology
Melissa KendallPost-transcriptional Regulation of Virulence Gene Expression in Enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7
Nadine Michel
PhD in Neuroscience
Michael McConnellGenomic Stress in Human Neurodevelopment: The Role of p53
Ellen Mintz
PhD in Experimental Pathology
George ChristEvaluation of Functional Outcomes Following Modification of a Tissue Engineered Muscle Repair Technology for the Treatment of Volumetric Muscle Loss
Sarbajeet Nagdas
PhD in Microbiology
David Kashatus and Todd BauerA Role of Dynamin-related Protein 1 in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma
Luke Oostdyk
PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics
Bryce Paschal and Michael McConnellRegulation and Function of the Nuclear Transport Factor KPNA7
Tori Osinkski
PhD in Experimental Pathology
Coleen McNamaraInhibitor of Differentiation 3 Has Distinct Cell-specific Roles in Vascular Disease
Katherine Owsiany
PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics
Gary OwensDefining Roles For Phenotypically Transitioned Smooth Muscle Cells in Atherosclerosis
Jennifer Pearson
PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular GeneticsThomas LoughranTargeting Acid Ceramidase in Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Carol Rowley
PhD in Microbiology
Melissa KendallEnterobacteriaceae Host Adaptation Driven by Intestinal Ethanolamine
Olivia Sabik
PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics
Charles FarberIntegrating Genetic and Genomic Analyses to Identify Novel Genes With a Role in the Complex Genetic Architecture of Osteoporosis
Stephen Shang
PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics
Mazhar AdliIntegrative Analysis of Epigenomics and Transcriptomics: Identifying Genes Necessary for Chemoresistance
Jacqueline Stevens
PhD in Microbiology
Alison CrissNeutrophilic Inflammation Initiated by Gonococcal-endocervical Cell Interactions and Amplified by Migrating Neutrophils
Aditi Upadhye
PhD in Microbiology
Coleen McNamara and Timothy BenderCXCR4 Maintains a Unique Bone Marrow B-1a Population and Regulates Atheroprotective IgM Production
Tiffany Wang
PhD in Microbiology
Thomas LoughranCharacterizing and Targeting the JAK/STAT Pathway in LGL Leukemia

We salute our graduates and wish them the very best as they move to the next phase of their lives!