Graduate school: Where the pipeline of breakthroughs begins

June 20, 2013 | by

Research institutes and biotech companies alike love boasting about their drug pipelines. But without well-trained scientists, those pipelines soon dry up.

Photo of City of Hope graduating students

Graduate students await their diplomas at the 15th commencement ceremony of City of Hope's Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences. The school celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. (Photo by AmyCantrell.com)

City of Hope has been fueling the talent pipeline with skilled new researchers through its Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences. This year marks the school’s 20th anniversary, and for a small, independent institution, the reach is impressive. The school has ushered more than 90 students into careers in academia and industry throughout the U.S. at institutions such as Genentech Inc., the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Calif., Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of California, San Francisco, and New England Biolabs Inc.

Two graduates are extending City of Hope’s legacy to the global stage: One currently is a research scientist at biotech firm BioDura Inc. in China; the other holds a position at Chonnam National University in South Korea.

And two graduates used their foundation in biomedical research to pursue medicine. One is a physician at Kaiser Permanente and the other a resident at Stanford University.

The latest batch of graduates received their Ph.D. degrees on June 13 during the school’s 15th commencement ceremony, with many continuing to extend City of Hope’s reach by landing positions at the UCLA School of Dentistry, Genoptix Medical Laboratory in San Diego and Duke University.

Swati Kadam, Ph.D., landed a paid internship at Illumina Inc. in Hayward, Calif. She feels the biotech industry is where she can make the biggest impact.

“For me, at least, I think it’s where I best fit. I love biology, and the point is how I can apply what I know,” she said. Kadam found her path when she enrolled in the Bioscience Management certificate program at Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences in Claremont, Calif. City of Hope helped Keck launch the program in 2008 to broaden learning and career opportunities for students.

"I enrolled in a course just to see if I liked it,” Kadam said, but she found it opened up a new path for her research ambitions.

Supriya Deshpande, Ph.D., who is putting the final touches on her experiments, echoed Kadam’s interest in an industry job. “In the near future, I also want to gain some research experience in the industry, as I want to get a perspective in both academia and industry to get an idea of how research is conducted in these settings,” she said.

For Patrick Perrigue, Ph.D., who currently is applying for jobs, academia is the setting of choice. But when asked if he has a preferred institution, his answer was quick, certain and representative of his classmates’ responses. “Anywhere. I just love doing science,” he said.

Here’s the complete list of this year’s graduates and their thesis titles:

  • Krist Azizian – “Global MicroRNA Expression Status of Human Hematopoietic Stem–Progenitor Cells Modulates Myelopoiesis”
  • Caroline Clark – “PARP Inhibitor and Platinum Drug Combination Therapies in BRCA1 and BRCA2 Isogenic Models”
  • Supriya Deshpande – “Transforming Growth Factor-β Induced Cross Talk Between p53 and microRNA-192 in the Pathogenesis of Diabetic Nephropathy”
  • Wen Jin – “Identification of Novel Angiotensin II Regulated Gene Networks in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells”
  • Swati Kadam – “Global Landscape of DNA Methylation and Gene Expression in Hematopoiesis and Monocytic Differentiation”
  • Julie Kanjanapangka – “Sequential Post-translational Modifications Determine the Fate of FEN1 During Cell Cycle Progression”
  • Ching-Ying (Jenny) Kuo – “Crosstalk Between Post-translational Modifications Regulates KAP1 Function in DNA Damage Signaling Pathway”
  • Stephanie Nay – “Alkbh2 and Alkbh3 Are Anti-Mutagenic DNA Repair Proteins”
  • Patrick Perrigue – “The Histone H3K27 Demethylase JMJD3 Promotes a Pseudosenescent State in Glioma Cells and Regulates Aging-associated Inflammatory Cytokine Production”
  • Jeremy Racine – “Induction of Mixed Chimerism for Reversal of Autoimmunity in NOD Mice”
  • Nicholas Snead – “Parallel Assessment of Mode of Action of siRNA Variants”
  • Diana Tran – “Effects of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals on Germline Epigenetic Remodeling”
  • Karina Vega – “Macrophage Chitinase and Lipoprotein Uptake Responses to Chitin, a Structural Component of the Fungal Cell Wall: Diagnostic and Biomedical Implications”
  • Xizhe Zhang –  “The Role of Long Noncoding RNAs in Small RNA Triggered Transcriptional Gene Activation in Human Cells”

Joining the graduates at the commencement ceremony was entrepreneur and philanthropist Bernard “Bernie” Marcus. Perhaps best known as co-founder of The Home Depot, Marcus is a longtime supporter of City of Hope. He took his place on stage as a graduate as well, receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree.