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Kaisha Gonzalez (‘12) on Being a Multidisciplinary Thinker

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Listen on Spotify, Apple or YouTube Music.

In this episode, we speak with Kaisha Gonzalez, PhD, a 2012 alum of the Microbiology and Immunology program, who has carved a niche for herself in the biotech diagnostics landscape.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Dr. Gonzalez is now a Senior Principal Scientist for Scientific Affairs at DiaSorin Molecular, LLC. Her work is essential in designing and producing in-vitro diagnostic reagents, contributing significantly to the fight against infectious diseases and advancing genetic testing.

Based in the Washington, D.C. area, her work bridges crucial gaps between research and development, marketing, and sales teams, ensuring that scientific developments are effectively integrated with customer needs and business strategies.

With a nod to the formative impact of a PhD, Dr. Gonzalez highlights that it’s not a guarantee of success but rather a key to unlocking opportunities by cultivating essential skills such as public speaking and writing. She champions the concept of a multidisciplinary mindset, suggesting that versatility is a valuable asset in the scientific industry. Additionally, Dr. Gonzalez encourages established professionals to mentor the next generation and recognizes the importance of fostering potential within the community, reminding us of the enduring influence of encouragement and support on a person's career trajectory.

Key Takeaways

Focus on Skills: Pursue a PhD not just for the title but for the diverse set of skills it imparts, from critical thinking to public speaking, which are assets beyond academia.

Embrace Versatility: Careers in science can be multifaceted, involving collaboration across various company departments and direct customer interaction. Be prepared to wear many hats. The interplay between research, development, marketing, and sales is where scientific innovation meets real-world application.

Never Stop Learning: The scientific field requires a commitment to ongoing education; science is ever-evolving, with new challenges and discoveries around every corner.

Cultivate a Multidisciplinary Mindset: Specialization is important, but breadth of knowledge can set you apart in any industry. Avoid the narrowing of expertise too much during graduate studies.

Mentorship and Potential: Recognizing potential in others and providing mentorship is critical for career development in any field. Lift others by recognizing and nurturing their talents.

Top Quotes

[19:11] “I did have this fork in the road where I did apply for a postdoc, and then I applied for this DNA analyst job, which is completely different. And I could just be more comfortable and go into that postdoc, which in all honestly was going to be like a revolving door for me...I was not going to gain new skills. So I decided to get outside of my comfort zone and choose the forensic [job] because I know if I go to this side, I’m going to learn new skills.”

[37:06] "You can be an expert of one single thing, but you can be actually an expert of many things. So when it comes to industry, that actually resonates very well, especially for the job that I do. I need to be an expert of many things in order to educate, create awareness, be helpful to my fellow internal teams.”

[38:15] "Look for the potential in others and actually pull it out. I think I would not be here if someone didn't see the potential. From the teacher who said You can be a really good scientist...and from my colleague who saw some potential in me during training and said Well, you could be really good in industry."

Trainees and Faculty Honored at 2023 GEPA Awards

Wednesday, November 8, 2023


David Figlio speaks during the GEPA during the GEPA Awards and Philosophy Meeting

SMD’s Office for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs held their annual GEPA Awards and Philosophy Meeting on October 30, 2023. With SMD and Medical Center leadership in attendance, trainees and faculty were recognized for their outstanding work in research and mentoring.

University of Rochester Provost David Figlio acknowledged the crucial role the GEPA community plays in helping URMC reach its vision of being a preeminent biomedical research institution.

“Our learners and postdocs are the lifeblood of our research enterprise. You’re here to get an education, but you give the University so much in return,” he said.

Below is the full list of GEPA awardees.



Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull University Fellowship Akhil Bandreddi
Caio Tabata Fukushima
Provost’s Fellowship Dylan Fredrick
Raegan Myers
Eli Sun
Graduate Alumni Fellowship Award Aiesha Anchan
Merritt and Marjorie Cleveland Fellowship Amelia Hines
J. Newell Stannard Graduate Student Scholarship Carl Berggren
Irving L. Spar Fellowship Award Nicole Popp
URSMD Meliora Scholarship   Catherine Caballero
Wyatt Fales
Gladys Leitch
Emily Sorensen 
Outstanding Student Mentor Award Linh Le
Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Equity and Inclusion Emily Quarato
Leon L. Miller Graduate Fellowship in Biophysics Nino Kalandadze
Melville A. Hare Award for Excellence in Teaching Sebastian Bosch
Karli Sutton
Melville A. Hare Award for Excellence in Research Michael Lutz, PhD
Outstanding Postdoctoral Mentor Award Michael Isei, PhD
Outstanding Postdoctoral Researcher Award Vikas Arige, PhD
Postdoctoral Appointee Award for Excellence in Equity and Inclusion Jahaira Capellan, PhD
Outstanding Graduate Program Director Award Joshua C. Munger
Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award Marissa E. Sobolewski, PhD
Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring Award Kirsi Järvinen-Seppo, MD, PhD
Outstanding T32 Program Director Award Patricia M. White PhD & Craig Morrell, DVM, PhD
Jacques Robert, PhD & Tim R. Mosmann, PhD
Graduate Student Society Advocacy Award Nathan A. Smith, MS, PhD,
Graduate Student Society Mentoring Award Anna Majewska, PhD
Graduate Student Society Recognition Award Odyssey Harrington


Meet Our Next Generation of Researchers and Health Professionals

Monday, November 6, 2023

infographic of 2023 graduate students

David Simon (’07) on Making Unique Mistakes

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Listen on YouTube music.

David Simon, PhD, a graduate of our Microbiology and Immunology program, offers an inspiring journey from academia to real-world impact in the latest episode of The Next Step. Completing his PhD in 2007, David's early career saw him delve into postdoctoral research, but a transformative realization at the NIH drove him to think beyond the bench.

David’s contributions came to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic when he led teams at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine distribution, earning a presidential commendation in 2021.

As prospective grad students consider their paths, David's trajectory serves as a testament to the possibilities beyond traditional academia. His roles at the Department of Defense and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) emphasize opportunities to apply academic learning to critical real-world challenges.

His recent transition to the startup world further showcases the diverse avenues available to trainees.


Leverage the Problem-Solving Skills Acquired During Education: Having a PhD is not just about the specific field of study but about the analytical and problem-solving skills you've developed. It's about "how can you think about problems" as a scientist and adapt to new situations. So, irrespective of your specialization, always highlight your ability to approach and solve problems critically and innovatively.

Embrace Your Strengths and Work on Your Weaknesses: It's essential to acknowledge areas where you might not naturally excel and consciously work towards improving them. At the same time, lean into your strengths and make them central to your professional identity.

Learn to Collaborate: Graduate school will introduce you to diverse groups of people with differing opinions. Embrace this diversity and learn how to work harmoniously with everyone. It's essential to understand how to disagree without being disagreeable. The key is to foster an environment of discussion, debate, and, sometimes, dissension but always in a productive manner.

Acknowledge Others: As you progress in your career and possibly receive accolades or recognitions, always remember the contributions of those who supported you. Whether it's a team or a mentor, their input is invaluable, and recognizing their efforts promotes a healthy professional environment. Remember that individual accomplishments are often the result of collective efforts.

Always Ask Questions: Don't hesitate to ask questions when in doubt. There's a good chance someone else in the room might have the same question but is hesitant to voice it. Speaking up and seeking clarity is essential, both in an educational setting and in life. Remember, there's no harm in seeking understanding.

Seek Mentorship from Fellow PhDs: Seek guidance from fellow PhD holders. They've been through similar journeys and can provide advice, support, and insights based on their experiences. It's a mutual understanding, as many have felt the same uncertainties and challenges.

Bonus Advice - Make Unique Mistakes: David recalls a piece of advice from his mentor, John Frelinger: always strive to make unique mistakes. This concept encourages growth, innovation, and learning from one's experiences, which is pivotal for both personal and professional development.


1. [03:21] “PhDs in my experience love helping other PhDs. I mean, if you go on to grad school, you want to help other people who are coming out of grad school, because my experience has always been nobody knows necessarily what they're going to do or what is available to be done…”

2. [09:10] "It's how can you think about problems in general as a scientist and have basic information and understanding and how to, more importantly, how to learn.”

3. [11:26] "... It might be 30 years, 40 years, or what people consider impossible. And I bring it to now, how can I put together the right team with the right technology to revolutionize…what is going on in science?"

4. [20:22] "I think that is also an important thing, how to learn, how to work with all kinds of people. I mean, in grad school, you will meet all kinds of people and often you agree with them, you disagree with them, or you don't like talking to them…those people are all going to be in your crew, in your life. So, you might as well get used to it.”

5. [30:23] “If you want ideas about what to do or how to break into something, just reach out. It's okay. We all have felt that way. We all felt lost at some point. And so, we always need the other PhDs to help us."

SMD GEPA Welcomes New Director of Learner Life and Wellness

Monday, October 30, 2023

Dr. SHarma
Amber Rivera, Director
of Learner Life and Wellness

SMD’s Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) office is pleased to welcome Amber Rivera as the new Director of Learner Life and Wellness. Amber brings over 15 years of experience in counseling, social work, and higher education, with a focus on mental wellness and supporting marginalized communities.

In her new role, Amber will be responsible for developing new wellness programming for our trainees as well as organizing events like orientation, commencement, and the GEPA awards.

She joins us from the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center at SUNY Brockport, where she counseled high school students
and those from marginalized communities in setting up their academic foundations and goals so they
could pursue opportunities in higher education.

Amber believes that a feeling of connection is essential for mental wellness, and she’s committed to developing programs and initiatives that will help our learners not only successfully transition to graduate school but thrive while they’re here.

“When we're talking about mental wellness, connection and belonging are a real focus of mine. It's hard to be successful in any endeavor when you don't feel that you belong or when it's not an inclusive environment for you,” she says. “I want to make sure that everyone feels like they have a place here.”

Dr. SHarma
May the 4th celebrations
at the Rivera house.

Outside of work, Amber spends most of her time with her husband and three children. They love the Strong Museum of Play, and they all share a love for Star Wars.

“My kids have more anticipation for May the 4th than some of the major holidays,” Amber said. “We have a whole day planned out with movies, games, and food.”

 If you see her on campus, be sure to say ‘hello’ — or better yet, ‘May the force be with you.’

Monique Mendes (’20) Talks Authenticity, Diverse Experiences, and Continuous Learning

Friday, October 6, 2023

Listen on YouTube music.

Meet Monique Mendes, Ph.D.: a passionate neuroscientist and advocate for underrepresented voices in the world of science. From delving into adult stroke studies as an undergrad to neonatal stroke questions and hemorrhagic stroke approaches, her diverse research projects have equipped her with a multi-faceted perspective.

Monique is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. She received her doctorate from our Neuroscience Graduate Program in 2020, making her the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Rochester, something that comes with rewards as well as challenges.

In this episode of The Next Step podcast, she talks about the responsibility that comes with being the first.

She also emphasizes the importance of research experience over GPAs when considering graduate admissions, suggesting that hands-on involvement and diverse research exposure are invaluable.

Monique fondly recalls her attendance at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), an event that not only boosted her confidence but also offered unparalleled networking opportunities. She met mentors, presented her work for the first time, and gained insightful feedback that shaped her further studies.

Later transitioning from the East Coast to the West Coast, Monique faced the challenges of cultural shifts, institutional differences, and balancing the demands of postdoc life.

Despite these challenges, her key takeaway for upcoming scientists is to be unapologetically genuine. In spaces often dominated by mainstream voices, Monique believes in the power and relief of being true to oneself.

Whether you're a budding scientist or just finding your footing, Monique's journey underscores the significance of authenticity, diverse experiences, and continuous learning.


1. Value of Research Experience: GPA is important, but hands-on research experience often holds more weight in graduate admissions. Being able to discuss diverse research projects and their findings can set you apart.

2. Network: Attending conferences like ABRCMS can offer invaluable networking opportunities, introduce you to cutting-edge science, and boost your confidence in the academic world.

3. Embrace Independence and Challenges: Postdoc roles demand a higher degree of independence in research. While this can be challenging, it's also an opportunity to hone your skills and take charge of your career.

4. Mentorship Matters: As you progress in your career, making time to mentor younger students or peers becomes essential. It not only contributes to the academic community but also enhances your understanding of your field.

5. Stay Authentic: In academic spaces, it's essential to remain true to yourself. Authenticity can help in overcoming challenges and ensures that you make a unique contribution to your field.


1.  "I've always been fascinated with the brain. There are just so many unanswered questions, and I was eager to just dive into this world after that research experience. So, I decided to kind of move forward in that trajectory of pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience." (4:15)

2.  " was scary. I'll be honest, and I know there are several people who are trying to make this decision, ‘do I stay home where I have family and I have the support system, or do I move to a completely different place with a different culture?’ And I have to say, I don't regret it." (6:44)

3.  "I had a vague idea of what graduate school was supposed to be like and it was going to be hard, but I really did not understand the scope of it at all." (8:03)

4.  “I don't know when it clicked for me that I started to be just unapologetically myself, you know, regardless of like what people think or what people say. I just started showing up as 100% me." (15:30)

5.  “I think a combination of being a first-generation student and also being the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. contributed to those feelings of being an imposter. ... And I think I walked into the next neuroscience seminar; next time and was like, ‘Well, I don't think everyone in this room expects me to know every single thing about every topic in neuroscience.’" (22:30)

6.  "I think the biggest thing, it goes back to the hesitation of being yourself. I would say I would encourage people to just be, you know, unapologetically themselves, especially underrepresented as women and students and people in the neurosciences and sciences in these spaces.”

A Springboard to Success: Carissa Childs (’05) on the Power of Alumni Networks and Hands-On Experience

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Listen on YouTube Music.

Meet Carissa Childs, Ph.D., J.D.: once an aspiring marine biologist, now the Senior IP Counsel at Amgen, a biopharmaceutical powerhouse.

Her responsibilities include developing global patent strategies, counseling clients, and assessing possible IP rights infringements.

How did she traverse from marine biology to toxicology at the University of Rochester to the intricate world of intellectual property? The catalyst: an internship at the university's tech transfer office, which dealt with patenting and commercializing university-developed technologies. There, the allure of patenting and tech commercialization took hold.

Carissa began her journey as a patent agent, crafting and championing patent applications. To further her opportunities, Childs took the plunge into law school. Emerging as a patent attorney, she tackled responsibilities far beyond those of an agent. Every day, she dives deep, interacting with an array of technologies, emphasizing the beauty of lifelong learning.

For ambitious graduate students charting their courses, Carissa offers golden advice: tap into alumni networks for invaluable insights and immerse in as much hands-on experience as possible. And if IP intrigues you? A university tech transfer office might just be your springboard to success.

Top Takeaways

  1. Maximize Relevant Experience: Engage with university tech transfer offices. Volunteering in areas like patent application reviews or conducting prior art searches can set you apart in the job market.
  2. Leverage Science in Other Fields: Deep scientific understanding, combined with diverse field exposure, empowers individuals to translate intricate research into various other sectors and applications.
  3. Explore Biopharma's Flexibility: The biopharma sector is adaptable. With a solid base in science, transitioning to roles in legal, business development, or alliance management is very attainable.
  4. Harness the Power of Networking: Events and alumni connections are invaluable. Building relationships and seeking advice from experienced individuals can provide unmatched career insights and advantages.
  5. Recognize and Pursue Strengths: While foundational training is crucial, identifying and capitalizing on personal strengths and passions can lead to a more fulfilling and dynamic career path.


"My career path has been very windy, but as I like to think of it, it's been one where I've kept my eyes open to different opportunities." (04:29)

"I learned going through academia that future in academia probably wasn't right. So I was certainly seeking out other opportunities." (07:06)

"Every day I learn something new in the realm of science, which I love because I'm learning all of this cutting edge science, but I'm not at the bench trying to do it myself because I wasn't the best at that. You have to find your strengths and you have to go with your strengths." (17:37)

"I think that our alumni are just a really valuable resource for trying to make decisions based on where you want to your next career. Move yourself." (19:57)

Toxicology Celebrates 50 Years of Training

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The latest cohort of Toxicology Ph.D. students

Matt Rand, Ph.D., co-director of the Toxicology program (left), with 3rd-year trainee Ryan Owens.

2022Martha Susiarjo, Ph.D., associate professor of Environmental Medicine, hosted Toxicology trainees at her home in October 2022 to celebrate the start of fall with a pumpkin carving party.

In August, our Toxicology Ph.D. program’s T32 training grant was renewed for another five years, bringing them to 50 consecutive years teaching the next generation of trainees. Alums of the program have gone on to make important contributions in toxicology, environmental health, and public policy, dating all the way back to the Manhattan Project. Co-program director Alison Elder, Ph.D., says, “If this program was picked up and moved to another university, I’m not so sure it would have the same success.”

Toxicology Ph.D. program leaders credit the emphasis on interdisciplinary training and a strong sense of community for the program’s success. Students are exposed to a wide range of disciplines, including biochemistry, pharmacology, neuroscience, and epidemiology, which prepares them to address the complex challenges of the field. This, and the close-knit trainee cohorts, have been the program's backbone for five decades now.

“There's a willingness of our faculty and trainees to cross silos to get good science done, which benefits everyone," says Elder, associate professor of Environmental Medicine. “Toxicology is an applied science because trainees borrow from different fields to understand the impact of various stressors on living systems. The interdisciplinary training we give them is crucial.”

Faculty who support the program aren’t ‘jack of all trades’ scientists, as Elder likes to say. They lean on the expertise of colleagues, as well as their own, to bring everyone up to a higher level of rigor and discovery, including the trainees.

This also contributes to another key piece to the program's success, which is the camaraderie that’s felt from the moment you set foot on campus.

"We're fortunate to have small but tight cohorts of students," says Matt Rand, Ph.D., co-director of the program and an associate professor of Environmental Medicine since 2012. "I could feel it right away when I got here."

Even before prospective trainees accept, they’re invited to dinners at faculty homes during the interview process, creating a congenial and relaxed atmosphere for incoming students to get a sense of the type of people who conduct research and mentor trainees at SMD.


And when trainees eventually leave campus, they stay connected. For instance, the program recently developed a new course in risk assessment with input from alumni, several of whom serve as lecturers in the course.

"We send them out into the world, then they come back and help us," says Elder.

The field of toxicology has evolved significantly over the years, from evaluating very fundamental endpoints of toxic exposures, like birth defects or mortality, to more sensitive and widely applicable endpoints of, for example, behavioral deficits associated with neurological and/or developmental toxic insults.

Widening the lens even more is the move away from mortality and organ-specific toxicological endpoints towards a more holistic and mechanisms-driven approach that better enables translation to humans, always keeping in mind the central tenet of the field—it is the dose that makes something relatively more or less dangerous than something else.

Alumni regularly return to campus to give career and other lectures, serve as outside mentors for trainees, and are a great bridge for the program in staying on top of research trends, ultimately creating a better experience for the trainees.

Other longstanding training programs within the School of Medicine and Dentistry include:

Post-bacc Research Program Builds Community and Boosts Confidence for Students Attending Graduate School

Friday, July 14, 2023

2002 group from left to right: Jose Reynoso, Jacob Cody Naccarato, Hunter Houseman-Eddings, Aaron Huynh, Lourdes Marianna Caro-Rivera, Jackie Agyemang

Aaron Huynh with mentors Annalynn Williams Ph.D. (left) and Michelle Janelsins, Ph.D. (right).

Jackie Agyemang presents her research project during the end-of-year PREP symposium

Congratulations to our 2023 graduating URMC-PREP Cohort! On June 13, they presented their research at the annual end-of-year symposium. 
The Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) offers a one-year biomedical research training opportunity to students from historically excluded and underrepresented groups who want to pursue a research doctorate. 
Our goal is to prepare students for successful entry into competitive PhD programs, as well as for careers as outstanding research scientists and leaders in the biomedical community. 
We're proud to say that many of our students will be pursuing various research opportunities here at the University of Rochester. 

"What I think I'll remember most about my time in PREP is the compassion, patience, and support that I received from everyone," says Aaron Huynh, who will soon be pursuing a Ph.D. in our Neuroscience Graduate Program. "The goals I set for myself and with my mentors and the program directors were surpassed, and I am ecstatic to be able to stay at such a community that the University of Rochester has provided me these past five years." 

In addition to community, Jackie Agyemang, who is sticking around to pursue a Ph.D. in Toxicology, says PREP boosted her confidence in attending graduate school. 

"My PREP experience gave me a preview of graduate school. I had the opportunity to work on an intensive research project of interest while balancing my academics, and establishing myself as a budding scientist all in a year," she says. "Overall, I have reassured confidence that I am capable and qualified to be a successful graduate student." 

As one group completes the program, we're excited to bring in our next cohort, who officially started on July 5.  

From left to right: Jacob Morales mentored by Dr. John Lueck, Alesandra Martin mentored by Dr. Farran Briggs, Evelyn Pineda mentored by Dr. Benjamin Suarez-Jimenz,

Pavel Rjabtsenkov mentored by Dr. Wendi Cross, Lily Mussallem mentored by Dr. Minsoo Kim, Hunter James Houseman-Eddings mentored by Dr. Brian Ward, and Maeve Noel Sheehy mentored by Dr. Lauren Hablitz.

July 11, 2023: Research Update from Steve Dewhurst

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Steve DewHurst

Dear colleagues, 

This past week, I’ve been thinking about two federal holidays—July 4th, which we just celebrated, and the prior Juneteenth holiday, which we celebrated on June 19. In fact, the two holidays have much in common since Juneteenth “marks our nation’s second independence day,” and is also known as “Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day”.  

Juneteenth is especially on mind because of a recent Commentary in Cell that was co-authored by 52 Black scientists—including our own Nathan A. Smith and School of Medicine and Dentistry Ph.D. alumnus, Blanton Tolbert. Their article notes that “the date stands not for the ideals of where diversity in science should be but rather where they are. Work is required to get science to where it should be—a truly equitable space. It is not a matter of knowing what to do, as this has been clearly elucidated by countless individuals. Rather, it is one of deciding whether we will take the steps needed to achieve the ideals Juneteenth sets out.”  

The article is important both as a roadmap of where we need to go and as a call for action at both the institutional and individual levels. I encourage everyone to read it if you haven’t done so already.

Major Advances in Muscular Dystrophy

One of the long-standing interdisciplinary research strengths at URMC is our program in neuromuscular disease, which brings together faculty from Neurology, Pediatrics, Pharmacology and Physiology, Biostatistics, and Computational Biology, the Center for Health and Technology (CHeT), and several other departments and centers.  

What’s new, and remarkable, is that we now find ourselves with “a historically unique opportunity to establish targeted treatments for genetic neuromuscular diseases” (in the words of a group of pioneering URMC faculty members, led by David Herrmann). What they are referring to is a wave of ongoing or planned clinical trials that will determine the effectiveness of multiple new therapies for neuromuscular diseases that have previously proved very difficult to treat. If successful, these treatments will represent a “bona fide revolution of neuromedicine care….the ripples (of which) will reach far into the future.”  

For many of our neuromuscular disease researchers, including Emma Ciafaloni and Charles Thornton, that revolution represents the fruit of literally decades of painstaking scientific and clinical work. Work that, for example, led to URMC’s participation as one of the first three sites in the nation to start dosing patients in a recent phase 3 clinical trial for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)—and ultimately led to the June 22 approval of the first gene therapy for the treatment of this disease.

IT Security – Protecting our House 

At this point, most of us are familiar with the requirement to protect sensitive data and information used in research. However, cybersecurity isn’t just about HIPAA.  It’s about the security of our entire information technology network and our entire community.  

Any cyber or ransomware attack affects all of us—and threatens not only clinical data, but also financial data, research data, and even the very ability to conduct research in the first place.

This consideration is driving changes in IT security at universities and academic health centers across the nation, including URMC. Widely implemented measures include steps to decrease or eliminate the use of insecure portable devices such as unencrypted USB devices, as well as evolving IT security guidelines for international travel (which also serve to mitigate the risk of loss, seizure, or tampering with laptops, phones or other mobile devices during travel).  

Importantly, the Office of Research IT is a key partner in the development of policies that may affect the research community, and a key source of guidance/assistance as they are implemented. If you have questions, comments or concerns, I encourage you to share them with Research IT and to help us develop policies that keep our community safe, but that have the least possible impact on our ability to do research.

Steve Dewhurst, PhD 
Vice Dean for Research, SMD
Vice President for Research, UR 

Childhood Hearing Loss Associate with Adverse Childhood Experiences

Friday, June 30, 2023

A new retrospective study led by Wyatte Hall, PhD, assistant professor of Public Health Sciences, and Shazia Siddiqi, MD, MPH, staff scientist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, suggests a link between factors associated with childhood hearing loss and adverse childhood experiences. Demographic factors of less severe hearing loss (16–55 dB), having a cochlear implant, and/or never having attended a school with signing access increased the likelihood of deaf adults reporting multiple adverse childhood experiences.

Study authors believe these factors may reflect societal pressures for deaf children to “pass for hearing” in ways that impact their language development and ongoing education.

Hall, Siddiqi, and co-author Timothy Dye, PhD, call for early interventions to support healthy home environments for deaf children. Hall and Siddiqi are former Rochester Postdoc Partnership fellows who completed their three year fellowships under the Dye’s mentorship.

Read More: Childhood Hearing Loss Associate with Adverse Childhood Experiences

Summer Scholars Cohort Arrives at SMD: A Bright Future Ahead

Monday, June 5, 2023

Scholars supported by SMD programs pause for a photo above Flaum Atrium following orientation on May 30, 2023.

summer scholars
Scholars supported by the American Heart Association
will be working at our Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute.

The School of Medicine and Dentistry is thrilled to welcome our 2023 Summer Scholars. Working under the direct supervision of faculty mentors, these 30 undergraduate students are joining us from all over the country for the next 10 weeks to gain research experience and professional development opportunities.  The Summer Scholars Program is a diversity pathway building program designed to provide research and professional development opportunities to students from groups historically underrepresented in biomedical fields. 

"Our program has been an excellent model for providing young aspiring scientists a hands-on research experience," says Elaine Smolock, Ph.D., co-director of the Summer Scholars Program and director of writing services and training grant development at SMD. 

Through partnerships with the Rochester Institute of Technology and the City College of New York through our NeURoCity program, as well as our Medical Science Training ProgramAab Cardiovascular Research Institute, and NanoBuddies, which provides a training experience in the field of pharmacology, the program is able to offer a rich plethora of research experiences. Previous scholars have gone on to participate in various post-baccalaureate PREP programs here at the University and around the country, research fellowships and internships.

The program culminates in a poster session on August 3, 2023, which is open to the entire University of Rochester community. 

Welcome to the 2023 Summer Scholars participants!

View list of 2023 Summer Scholars

Celebrating SMD Faculty Awards

Friday, May 26, 2023

Steve Dewhurst and Edith WilliamsVice Dean for Research Steve Dewhurst (right) congratulates Edith Williams, MD, PhD on being appointed Dean’s Associate Professor in Health Equity Research.


Congratulations to all of our faculty members who received mentoring awards, named professorships, and teaching fellow awards. They were honored in a celebration in Flaum Atrium on May 17, 2023. The full list of awardees is below.

SMD Faculty Mentoring Awards
Thomas Caprio, MD – Faculty Academic Mentoring Award
Carla Casulo, MD – Trainee Academic Mentoring Award in Clinical Programs
Yeates Conwell, MD – Lifetime Mentoring Award
Toru Takimoto, DVM, PhD – Trainee Academic Mentoring Award in Basic Science

John Foxe and Kuan Hong Wang
John Foxe, Ph.D., (left) director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, congratulates Kuan Hong Wang, PhD on being appointed Dean’s Professor.

Named Professorship Recognition
Anna Majewska, PhD - Dean’s Professor
Dennis Z. Kuo, MD, MHS – Purcell Family Distinguished Professor
Matthew D. McGraw, MD – George Washington Goler Chair in Pediatrics
Karen M. Mustian, PhD, MPH – Dean’s Professor
Joseph A. Nicholas, MD, MPH – William and Sheila Konar Professor in Geriatrics, Palliative Medicine and Person-Centered Care
James Palis, MD – Northumberland Trust Professorship in Pediatrics
Douglas S. Portman, PhD – Donald M. Foster, M.D. Professorship in Biomedical Genetics
M. Patricia Rivera, MD – C. Jane Davis & C. Robert Davis Distinguished Professor in Pulmonary Medicine
Lainie Friedman Ross, MD, PhD – Dean’s Professor of Health Humanities and Bioethics
Michael A. Scharf, MD – Mark and Maureen Davitt Distinguished Professor in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
David M. Siegel, MD, MPH – Northumberland Trust Professorship in Pediatrics
Laurie Ann Steiner, MD – Lindsey Distinguished Professorship for Pediatric Research
Kuan Hong Wang, PhD - Dean’s Professor
Edith M. Williams, MD, PhD – Dean’s Associate Professor in Health Equity Research

Recognition of Dean’s Teaching Fellow Awards
Anne Nofziger, MD
Rita Dadiz, MD
Szilvia Arany, DMD, PhD- EIOH
Grace Black, MD – Pediatrics
Francis Coyne, MD – Internal Medicine and Pediatrics
Chris Tarolli, MD - Neurology

Raven Osborn, Ph.D. Delivers Graduate Student Address at Commencement

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Raven OsbornRaven Osborn, Ph.D., (middle row third from left), celebrates with her family during the Ph.D. Award Presentation and Reception on Thursday, May 11. Raven received The Leadership Award for Excellent in Equity and Inclusion.

Raven Osborn, a Translational Biomedical Science Ph.D. graduate, gave the graduate student address at this year's commencement.

Her research focuses on developing network and statistical models to understand how the virus that causes COVID-19 evades the innate immune system. She co-founded and eventually presided over the University of Rochester's chapter of the Alliance for Diversity in Science and Engineering.

During her time here, she won two awards recognizing her research and five awards recognizing her commitment to inclusion in STEM fields.

In her speech, she talked about overcoming self-doubt, as well as the importance of community.

“You will go further if you lock arms with the people around you, and you teach others to do the same through actions first. And finally, if you don't remember anything else from this speech, please remember to pick up the phone for the people you love.”

Check out the full speech on YouTube.

Nicole Wilson, M.D., Ph.D. Looks at Long-term Psychological Effects of Childhood Trauma

Friday, April 14, 2023

Nicole Wilson, M.D., Ph.D
Nicole Wilson, M.D., Ph.D.

Nicole Wilson, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the departments of Surgery, Pediatrics, and Biomedical Engineering led a study of young adults who were victims of violent injuries as children and found significantly higher levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in this group than the general population.

The study surveyed 24 respondents who were victims of gunshot, stab, or assault wounds as children between the years of 2011 and 2020. Of the participants, 15 suffered a gunshot wound, eight suffered a stab wound, and one was assaulted. Respondents were primarily teenagers at the time of injury, with a median age of 16.6 years. An average of six years had passed from the initial injury to the time respondents were contacted for the study.

Read the full article in the URMC Newsroom.

Nathan Smith, Ph.D. says stars in the brain may be information regulators

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Nathan Smith
Nathan Smith, Ph.D.

Long thought of as “brain glue,” the star-shaped cells called astrocytes—are members of a family of cells found in the central nervous system called glial that help regulate blood flow, synaptic activity, keep neurons healthy, and play an important role in breathing. Despite this growing appreciation for astrocytes, much remains unknown about the role these cells play in helping neurons and the brain process information.

“We believe astrocytes can add a new dimension to our understanding of how external and internal information is merged in the brain,” said Nathan Smith, MS, PhD, associate professor of Neuroscience at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester.

He and fellow authors from the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Copenhagen highlight this in an opinion article in Trends in Neuroscience.

Read the full article in the URMC Newsroom.

The Misunderstood Reason Deaf Children Fall Behind: Rhode Island PBS Weekly

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

deaf student

Many students arrive at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf, which serves students from preschool through high school, with little to no language. Wyatte Hall, Ph.D., an expert of language deprivation and assistant professor of Public Health Sciences at the URMC, knows that delayed language acquisition causes other problems, and is preventable. "We already know how to prevent these problems: You give deaf children sign language... Options are framed as 'or' -- that you have to pick ASL or English spoken language… It does not have to be that way. It can be 'and.' You can have ASL and English."

Hall was also the first graduate of the Rochester Postdoc Partnership, a one-of-a-kind postdoctoral training program for deaf or hard-of-hearing scientists run jointly by URMC and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT.

Watch the full story from Rhode Island PBS Weekly.

April 11, 2023: Research Update from Steve Dewhurst

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Dear colleagues, 

Last week (April 2- April 8) was graduate student appreciation week, a national celebration of graduate students and the many essential contributions they make to academic and research communities across the country – including this medical center.   

A highlight was the finals of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, at which students from across the University summarized their doctoral research in a three minute presentation. I was blown away, not only by the quality of the speakers and their research, but also by the sheer breadth of their scholarship. The overall winner, Fatma (Betul) Zeyrek, spoke about her work on early childhood moral development and the complex reasons that kids agree to do what their parents ask them to (most of the time…).  Two SMD students also received awards – Gabrielle Kosoy, who won 2nd place overall, and Sara Blick-Nitko, who was the joint winner of the People’s Choice Award

Graduate Education and the 2030 UR Strategic Plan 

Graduate students are also at the core of the UR’s 2030 Strategic Plan. While the plan is still being refined based on feedback from the University community, its five overarching goals are clear. One of these is to re-imagine undergraduate and graduate education and to ensure that all students “feel a sense of belonging” and have “access to high-impact learning experiences” that prepare them for their future careers. 

One step towards this is a new partnership between the office of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) and Archer Career, which will assist learners with preparing for networking opportunities, internships, job shadowing, job searches, and more.  Eric Vaughn in GEPA made this happen with the help of a Burroughs-Wellcome grant he secured (thank you, Eric!) and a first cohort started last month. A second cohort will start in May; if you’re interested, please contact Eric

More About the 2030 UR Strategic Plan and How it Relates to the Medical Center 

The cornerstone of the 2030 UR Strategic Plan is to enhance our research enterprise and our global reputation by investing in areas of distinction that provide opportunities for innovation, discovery, and transdisciplinary collaboration. Medical Center researchers will play key roles in the following areas: 

A Last Thought: Commencement  

Finally, the University’s 173rd Commencement Ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students from all schools will be held on Friday, May 12 and kicks off a weekend of graduation ceremonies and celebrations that continue through Sunday, May 14. 

For the students who’ll be walking across a stage next month, in front of family and friends, I offer my congratulations and my appreciation: For the countless hours you put into your research; for the difficult times when things weren’t going well, but you stuck it out and made it work; for the support you both gave and received along the way.   

Take a moment to savor what you’ve achieved. 

Steve Dewhurst, PhD 
Vice Dean for Research 


Wyatte Hall Joins Congressional Briefing on Language Access for Deaf Children

Friday, February 24, 2023

Wyatte Hall, Ph.D., presenting at the Education and Advocacy Summit.
Wyatte Hall, Ph.D., presenting at the
Education and Advocacy Summit

Wyatte Hall, Ph.D., assistant professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), took part in a congressional briefing at the U.S. Capitol on February 22 to advocate for earlier and better language access for deaf children. The briefing was part of the eighth annual Education and Advocacy Summit hosted by the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf.  

Hall, who is also an assistant professor in Neurology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, and the Center for Community Health & Prevention at URMC, has studied the prevalence and impact of language deprivation on deaf children and adults for almost 10 years. While most children share a common language with their parents and have access to that language from infancy, the majority of deaf children are born into hearing families that use spoken language and many have delayed access to language. 

Read the full article.

Paula Vertino Named Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Paula Vertino
Paula M. Vertino, Ph.D.

Paula Vertino, Ph.D., an accomplished cancer research scientist and leader at the Wilmot Cancer Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has been appointed senior associate dean for Basic Research effective February 1, 2023.

Vertino was recruited to Wilmot in 2018 to transform its research endeavors by breaking down silos and promoting collaboration and team science. She enjoys identifying commonalities and bringing people together in a “grass roots” approach.

She sees her new role as an opportunity to interact more broadly across the Medical Center to enhance cross-programmatic communication; to work with institutional leadership to create an environment that fosters faculty and trainee success; and to further integrate the basic and clinical research enterprise – something that’s been top-of-mind since she joined the University.

Read the full article in the URMC Newsroom.

January 27, 2023: Research Update from Steve Dewhurst

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Traditionally, as a new year starts, we take a moment to reflect on the year that just ended – and on the year to come. As we come to the end of this first month of 2023, it seems timely to do so now. 

Jeff Koslofsky in Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs created this terrific infographic which presents some of the key facts and figures around our research mission in 2022. What isn’t captured in this image is the tremendous amount of creativity, innovation, hard work and passion that faculty, staff, and learners pour into their science. 

For many of us, research is also deeply personal. If you have a few minutes, this inspiring December news piece on Arielle Sheftall’s research is exemplary of that.   

Sheftall, a 2022 recruit in the department of Psychiatry, recently received one of only four NIH Director’s Transformative Research Awards; the $4M grant will fund her research on using digitally enabled peer-to-peer support, as well as at-home nerve stimulation, as early intervention approaches for teenagers at high risk for suicide.    

Another theme that emerges from the year-in-review is that of mentoring, and its critical importance to the success of all members of our SMD research community. In October, Nikesha Gilmore, a faculty member in the Wilmot Cancer Institute (Wilmot) and the department of Surgery coauthored a guest editorial for The Hematologist, together with two colleagues at Duke University and the University of North Carolina. The article addresses the unique challenges faced by Black faculty in academia, and the negative impact of systemic racism and bias. It also identifies mentorship as an important part of the solution. As Gilmore notes, mentorship “can keep people from saying – ‘I’m done. I’m not doing this anymore.’” In a November news feature on this article, Gilmore adds that:  

“You need a mentor to say, ‘I have faith in you. You can do this.'”   

I couldn’t agree more.   

Importantly, Gilmore also credits her own mentors at the U of R for the positive effect they have had on her career success, including Jacques Robert (her PhD mentor), as well as Michelle Janelsins-Benton and Supriya Mohile, scientific leaders within Wilmot, and key contributors to her subsequent growth as an early stage faculty member. That’s making a positive difference, and something we can all aspire to. 

Looking to the year ahead, we’ll be continuing with hybrid work in many venues, but in others, we’ll be moving to increasing levels of in-person participation. As many of us know first-hand, in-person professional scientific meetings are back, as are in-person social gatherings, as exemplified by the December SMD Philosophy meeting, which was a celebratory gathering of our research community. That community building effort needs to continue and redouble, particularly for those who have recently joined the SMD research family and who have not (yet) had opportunities to build in-person peer connections and support networks.  

Over the next several months, University-wide strategic planning efforts will also continue to move forward. A central aspect of the plan will be to strengthen our reputation as a leading global research University, while also: providing outstanding educational opportunities for our learners; investing in health and healthcare; supporting the success and well-being of our people; and continuing our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, across all the University’s missions. 

In the short-term, our PhD applicant interview weekends are just around the corner, on February 3-4 and March 3-4. I encourage you to participate actively in that process, and to help our interviewees understand what’s special about doing research here. 

Finally, I want to thank each of you for the little things you do every day to make this place better; the small gestures or kind words that make others around you feel valued and welcome. It’s those small details that linger in the heart. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

- Maya Angelou  

Steve Dewhurst, PhD 
Vice Dean for Research 

PHOTOS: GEPA December 2022 Philosophy Meeting

Tuesday, January 17, 2023


E’Lissa Flores, Ph.D (’18) Talks Authenticity, Moving from L.A. to Rochester, and Keys to Networking

Wednesday, January 4, 2023


"What sets you apart is who you are and how you work with others."

E'Lissa Flores, Ph.D., a 2018 graduate of our Translational Biomedical Science program, credits being her authentic self as a big reason she's in a career she loves today.

Flores recently joined us for a live LinkedIn career discussion to talk the importance of authenticity, as well as:

  • Her role as scientific program manager at the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) and what it's like working in the non-profit sector
  • How our PREP program helped launch her into her Ph.D.
  • Overcoming imposter syndrome through the help of mentors
  • The importance of networking and not just re-connecting with colleagues when you need something
  • What she did to get better at science communications
  • Moving from Los Angeles to Rochester, and more

Check out the full replay on our LinkedIn page.