SBP OETIS Chronicle FY2019 Q2

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OETIS Chronicle

In this issue: ‣ Reaffirming our Accredited Status ‣ GSBS Faculty Profile ‣ SBP Trainees at the 2018 Society for Neuroscience Meeting ‣ Congratulations to Our Recent Ph.D. Graduate & More!

Reaffirming our Accredited Status By Diane Klotz, Ph.D. | Director, Office of Education, Training, and International Services

While most of you reading this are aware that in 2015 SBP was granted accreditation for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) PhD program, you may not know what goes into maintaining our accredited status, i.e., receiving reaffirmation of our accreditation. In brief, after the initial accreditation, schools and institutions are given a 5-year period to continue to grow, evolve, and address areas for improvement. So, in 2020, at the end of our 5 years, SBP will receive a visit from our accreditation body, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), to see how we are doing. Sounds simple, right? In theory, yes; in practice, it’s a little more complex, and we wanted to let you know what to expect from OETIS over the next 16 months until our visit from WSCUC in April 2020… Continued on page 2

GSBS Faculty Profile: Cosimo Commisso By Andrew Bankston, Ph.D. | Program Manager, Graduate School of Biomedical Science

Cosimo Commisso is an Assistant Professor in the Tumor Initiation and Maintenance Program and the NCIdesignated Cancer Center. Cosimo is also a member of the Graduate Program Executive Committee, a member of the GSBS Admissions Committee, and Chair of the GSBS Program Review Committee focusing on Admission/Recruiting & Diversity/Inclusion. Cosimo grew up in Toronto, Canada in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. While he most enjoyed Biology and English in high school, he was fascinated by genetics and hereditability. The possibility of hearing more stories of Gregor Mendel and his peas was too irresistible, and Cosimo went to study human biology and genetics at the University of Toronto. Cosimo started to seriously consider an academic career when he participated in the Biochemistry Summer Research Program at the University of Toronto. He studied meiosis in yeast for two summers and discovered his love of research. Continued on page 2 1

Reaffirming our Accredited Status (continued from page 1)our Accredit-

GSBS Faculty Profile: Cosimo Commisso (continued from page 1)

From our perspective, we’ll be taking on some new activities: writing a ~75-page institutional report of GSBS progress and activities over the past 5 years, preparing for and holding a preliminary Skype “visit” with WSCUC, and preparing for and hosting the 2-day visit in April 2020. From your perspective, we hope that most everything will continue in a “business as usual” fashion. We will provide the same line-up of workshops and events, and we will remain available for all your career and professional development needs. However, because we do need to adjust workloads to accommodate these new activities, namely the report writing, we will be providing you with abbreviated versions of the OETIS Chronicle until we can swap out report writing for newsletter article writing again. For the next few Chronicle issues, we will focus on ensuring you have information about upcoming events and, most importantly, student and postdoc achievements.

He decided to apply to graduate school after brief ‘stardom’ as the national winner of a “monkey face challenge” on the Canadian interactive TV show “Speakers’ Corner.”

What if you miss all the other content? Well, if you look forward to reading articles about events and happenings, we always welcome guest contributors. If you’re a student or postdoc interested in exploring the creative side of your writing, this could be a great opportunity to do so! Finally, as we work through the next 16 months leading up to our reaffirmation of accreditation, we thank all of you for contributing to the success of the GSBS to-date. Further, in advance we thank those of you who will participate directly in the WSCUC visit as, together, we achieve this next milestone in SBP’s mission to educate and train the next generation of scientific leaders.

While in graduate school at the University of Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, Cosimo studied developmental neurobiology in Drosophila, focusing on the role of Notch signaling and endocytosis. It was during graduate school that a member of his thesis committee told him “follow the biology and you will never be wrong,” a lesson that he imparts to his own trainees now. He became particularly interested in signal transduction pathways, an area he pursued during his postdoc at NYU School of Medicine. It was as a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Dafna Bar-Sagi that Cosimo was first able to apply his interest and expertise in signal transduction and endocytosis to mammalian systems. During this time he published three first author papers, including in Nature and Nature Protocols. He also received postdoctoral fellowships from AACR and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. At SBP, the Commisso lab focuses on identifying the role of macropinocytosis as an amino acid supply route in cancer. Taking the advice of his thesis committee member to “follow the biology” to heart, Cosimo says that many of the projects in the lab often veer into new and exciting directions. He encourages his trainees to try to “listen” to their experimental results when designing their next steps. Since joining SBP, Cosimo received a Team Science Award from Pedal the Cause, career development awards from the Department of Defense and AACR, and was named an AACR NextGen Star. He also currently serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Pancreatic Cancer. Continued on p. 3


Cosimo’s mentoring philosophy stems from an understanding that “embarking on a Ph.D. and selecting an educational environment are two of the most challenging and exciting decisions you will likely make.” Cosimo says, “I strive to be a valuable part of our SBP Ph.D. program because I think it is important to train the next generation of scientists. I am extremely proud of our graduate program because while teaching in our tutorial system, I have encountered some of the brightest and most enthusiastic graduate students I have ever met.” Outside the lab, Cosimo enjoys hiking. He has hiked to Potato Chip Rock in San Diego with his wife and hiked for four days in the mountains of Peru on the way to Machu Picchu. He also enjoys traveling, mixology, classic video games, gardening, and creative culinary experiences. And for all the curious minds out there, his favorite extinct animal is the giant sloth.

SBP Trainees at the 2018 Society for Neuroscience Meeting

SBP graduate students Daniel Ojeda Juarez (Kaul lab), Paloma Sanchez Pavon (Chun lab), and Jessica Stupack (Xu lab) presented posters at the 2018 Society for Neuroscience Annual Conference in November. SBP postdoc Lu-Lin Jiang (Xu lab) gave an oral presentation as well.


Congratulations Dr. Tiara Tirasawasdichai! Tiara Tirasawasdichai, Ph.D. Thesis title: Using iPSC-derived mesenchymal stromal cells to study fibrosis in Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy Mentor: Dr. Vincent Chen Graduated December 14, 2018 Tiara Tirasawasdichai was born in Los Angeles, CA, but spent most of her childhood in Sakon Nakhon, a small city in northeast Thailand, before moving to Bangkok during middle school. After graduating from high school in Thailand, she returned to the U.S. to pursue her education in science. During the summer of her junior year, she received an opportunity to do an internship at the University of Cincinnati, in Dr. Yaoliang Tang’s lab. The ultimate goal of her project was to differentiate pluripotent stem cells to become cardiomyocytes to repair damaged hearts. This project was a valuable experience that gave her the opportunity to explore more about the world of research in stem cells. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Biology from McDaniel College, Westminster, MD, summa cum laude and honors in Biology, Tiara realized her continuing passion in stem cell research and yearned to dive deeper to learn more. She sought out an internship in Dr. Vincent Chen’s lab at SBP and started her Ph.D. study in 2014. Since then, she has been working with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) derived cardiomyocytes and mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) to model a genetic disease called Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C). In 2016, Tiara moved with Dr. Chen’s lab to the Krannert Institute of Cardiology in Indianapolis, IN to complete her project, which utilizes iPSC-MSCs to model fibrosis in ARVD/C patients’ harboring desmoplakin (DSP) mutation. In this study, she showed that DSP mutant iPSCMSCs are fibrogenic upon stimulation and uncovered molecular mechanisms on how genetic mutation leads to this phenomenon. During her free time, Tiara enjoys spending time outside hiking and walking her dog, Rosie. If she cannot go out, she usually spends time in the kitchen, trying out new recipes if not doing yoga. Tiara also likes trying new hobbies, and her new favorite one is mini-silhouette painting.

GSBS Holiday Lunch By Mary Bradley, M.L.A. | Manager, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Each year the Graduate School hosts a holiday lunch for GSBS students, deans and staff. This year, the group ate at True Food Kitchen in University City on December 5, 2018. Everyone enjoyed the social interactions and the chance to promote community. The annual White Elephant exchange always provides excitement and laughs! There were a variety of gifts including an assortment of mugs, puzzles, wine and candy but by far the most popular seemed to be the letter to Santa from the IRB. A good time was had by all! 4


OETIS recognizes SBP Trainee accomplishments … SBP graduate students Karina Barbosa Guerra (Dr. Aniruddha Deshpande’s lab), Betsaida Bibo Verdugo (Dr. Guy Salvesen’s lab), and Daniel Ojeda-Juarez (Dr. Marcus Kaul’s lab) were part of a team that received an SBP Values Award for Compassion for their fundraising efforts to support the victims of various natural disasters. Daniel Ojeda-Juarez (SBP Graduate Student in Dr. Marcus Kaul’s lab) received a Trainee Professional Development Award from the Society of Neuroscience and he received 2nd place for his poster presentation at the 2018 Southern California Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Symposium. Karina Barbosa Guerra (SBP Graduate Student in Dr. Aniruddha Deshpande’s lab) was selected to speak at the 2018 American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting. The title of her talk was “Genetic or Pharmacological Inhibition of the Polycomb Group Protein BMI1 Impairs Leukemic Transformation Mediated by the CALM-AF10 Fusion Oncoprotein.” Gaurav Pathria, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Associate in Dr. Ze’ev Ronai’s lab) received the 2018 Eric Dudl Endowed Scholarship Award in support of his research understanding the alternative growth pathways that melanoma cells take in spite of current therapeutics. Read more: -awarded-at-cancer-center-open Anupama Singh, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Associate in Dr. Malene Hansen’s lab) received the Best Poster Presentation at the 2018 Salk Postdoc Symposium. Lu-Lin Jiang, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Associate in Dr. Huaxi Xu’s lab) was selected to speak at the 2018 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting. The title of her talk was “New Modifier In the Neurodegenerative Diseases: Membralin-deficient astrocytes trigger motor neuron death.”

Share your research accomplishments with us. Email and tell us your exciting news!

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Postdoc & Student Counts for FY2019 Q2 POSTDOCS & STUDENTS AS OF JANUARY 10, 2019 POSTDOCS = 132 Total 132 Postdoc Associates 108 Postdoc Associates, Sr. 4 Postdoc Fellows 20 GRADUATE STUDENTS = 48 Graduate Students, SBP 31 Graduate Students, External 17

HIRES BY QUARTER: OCTOBER – DECEMBER 2018 POSTDOCS = 10 Postdoc Associates Postdoc Associates, Sr. Postdoc Fellows

9 0 1

GRADUATE STUDENTS = 6 Graduate Students, SBP Graduate Students, External

1 5

POSTDOC IDP : OCTOBER – DECEMBER 2018 (Note: This data is subject to change)

ANNUAL IDP SENT = 30 PD/PI Participated in the process


PD who left SBP


PD/PI who have not yet participated


1st YEAR IDP SENT = 8 PD/PI Participated in the process


PD who left SBP


PD/PI who have not yet participated


POSTDOCS WHO LEFT SBP IN QUARTER: OCTOBER – DECEMBER 2018 POSTDOCS = 11 La Jolla Lake Nona 10 1 Total per location Postdoc Associates



Postdoc Associates, Sr.





La Jolla 4

Lake Nona 0

Postdoc Fellows GRADUATE STUDENTS = 4 Total per location Grad Students, SBP



Grad Students, External


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Office of Education, Training, & International Services Diane M. Klotz, Ph.D. Director Ellen Smock Program Coordinator, OETIS Education & Training Nisha A. Cavanaugh, Ph.D. Manager, Postdoctoral & Academic Programs

Mary B. Bradley, M.L.A. Manager, Graduate School

International Services Doug Broadhurst, M.A. Manager, International Services

Susie Bolor Senior International Advisor

Leadership Support Guy Salvesen, Ph.D. Faculty Advisor, Graduate Education

Malene Hansen, Ph.D. Faculty Advisor, Postdoctoral Training

Andrew N. Bankston, Ph.D. Program Manager, Graduate School

Teddi Reilly Interim Vice President, Human Resources

contact with any questions or


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