Students, faculty and staff gathered on September 10 for the 8th annual Driskill Day, a celebration of the Walter S. and Lucienne Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences. They welcomed new students to campus and showcased the program’s strengths in scholarship and scientific investigation, highlighting standout projects and distinguished students and faculty.
“It’s a special day in the academic year when we gather to celebrate the students and the DGP,” said Nicholas Cianciotto, PhD, director of the Driskill Graduate Program (DGP) and professor of Microbiology-Immunology. “On this day we aim to reaffirm our commitment and enthusiasm for education, learning, training and mentoring.”
The event began with presentations from four Driskill Research Award winners, including William Putzbach, ’19 PhD, postdoctoral associate at the University of Illinois-Chicago, who completed his dissertation in the laboratory of Marcus Peter, PhD, the Tom D. Spies Professor of Cancer Metabolism.
Putzbach, along with other members of the Peter laboratory, defined a new mechanism by which small ribonucleic acids (RNAs) can kill cancer cells, a mechanism that may have evolved millions of years ago to protect the body from cancer.
“This involves processing of mRNA species that were never thought to be processed before,” Putzbach said. “This is on the cutting edge of our knowledge of how our cells are able to protect our bodies against cancer.”
Next, students and faculty were recognized with Service and Dean’s Teaching awards. The Student Service award went to Daniel Giraldo Perez, a fifth-year student who studies under Richard Longnecker, PhD, the Dan and Bertha Spear Research Professor in the Department of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology.
Giraldo Perez has served as president of the Student Assisted Mentoring Program (StAMP) since 2018, and has organized a variety of social activities, wellness seminars and happy hours for DGP students as part of his role on the DGP student council.
“I’ve always enjoyed things like mentoring, so it’s a natural fit,” Giraldo Perez said. “I’ve tried to be involved in this program in a variety of aspects, so it’s humbling to be recognized for that.”
Driskill Research Award Winners
- Recent Graduates
- Teerawat Wiwatpanit, ’18 PhD, recent alumnus who investigated the genetics of hair cells responsible for human hearing in the laboratory of Jaime Garcia-Anoveros, PhD, professor of Neurology in the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology, and of Anesthesiology and Physiology
- William Putzbach, ’19 PhD, postdoctoral associate at the University of Illinois-Chicago, who completed his thesis in the laboratory of Marcus Peter, PhD.
- Current Students
- Madeleine Rollins, a fifth-year student who studies viral protein production in the laboratory of Derek Walsh, PhD, professor of Microbiology-Immunology.
- Christie Sze, a seventh year student who studies histone methylation in the lab of Ali Shilatifard, PhD, chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, the Robert Francis Furchgott Professor, director of the Simpson Querrey Center for Epigenetics and a professor of Pediatrics.
- Student Service Award
- Daniel Giraldo Perez, a fifth-year student who studies under Richard Longnecker, PhD, for his work on the DGP student council and leading StAMP.
- Faculty Service Award
- Constadina Arvanitis, PhD, research associate professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, for her efforts teaching cell biology.
- Elizabeth Bartom, PhD, assistant professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, for her work teaching data science.
- Faculty Service Awards
- Kathleen Green, PhD, the Joseph L. Mayberry, Sr., Professor of Pathology and Toxicology, for her longtime educational support of the DGP, helping shape it’s curriculum while teaching courses.
All award winners were nominated by faculty and selected by the program committee.
Peter is also a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Longnecker is also a professor of Microbiology-Immunology and Green is also a professor of Dermatology. Peter, Longnecker, Garcia-Anoveros and Green are members of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.