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Celebrating the Next Generation of Scientists

Four recipients are honored with this year’s Best Research Awards

Research is a cornerstone of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Through hands-on studies and analysis, students and faculty advance medical science and technology to improve and save lives.

Cameron Bader.

Each year, thanks to the generosity of the Medical Faculty Association (MFA) at the Miller School, four exceptional graduate students are recognized for their pursuit of new scientific ideas through the Best Research Awards — an honor that supports their work toward a Ph.D. in basic medical research. The 2020 winners of the award were recently announced.

“The Best Research Awards celebrate the remarkable and innovative work of Miller School graduate students whose research shows outstanding potential in biomedical science,” said Charles A. Lowman, executive director of the Office of Graduate Studies. “We are grateful for the support of the Medical Faculty Association in recognizing the groundbreaking research of the recipients and supporting them as they pursue their work in the lab and the clinical setting.”

The MFA is a group of dedicated and generous medical school faculty members and their significant others who have supported medical, nursing, and graduate students at Miller School since 1954. In 2000, the MFA created an endowment to provide monetary awards and scholarships for medical school students.

Sze Kiat Tan.

Until earlier this year, the awards program was championed by long-time MFA member William J. Whelan, Ph.D., D.Sc., FRS, who passed away June 5. Dr. Whelan was a retired professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and chairman emeritus of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Miller School. His late wife, Margaret Whelan, was a former president of the MFA and initiated the graduate student research and travel awards.

A shared passion for discovery science

Dr. Whelan shared his passion for advancing discovery science and the careers of the next generation of researchers with Kristin Podack. Podack previously worked in a research lab alongside her husband, the late Eckhard Podack, M.D., Ph.D., a renowned lung cancer researcher and distinguished professor at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Miller School.

“Basic medical science is the foundation for understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms for disease,” Podack said. “The MFA acknowledges the importance of basic medical science. We applaud these outstanding graduate students who have been selected based on their talent, devotion, and hard work.”

Clara Troccoli.

“Those who have worked in a basic science lab know that cells do not know if it is the weekend or a holiday,” Podack added. “Those who are likely to succeed must not only devote countless hours, but they must also be thoughtful hours based on curiosity, intellect, the knowledge which has come before, and well-conceived experiments to test the hypothesis for what has yet to be proven.”

The MFA also funds three additional annual awards: three nursing scholarships, the Medical Faculty Association Compassion Award, and the Medical Faculty Association Jay W. Weiss Award for global health.

“To those students who are selected, we congratulate you and wish you every future success and fulfillment in your work,” Podack said.

Top graduate scholars in biomedical science

The Best Research Award recipients are recognized as the top graduate scholars in biomedical science at the Miller School, said Chris Presley, M.Ed., manager of the Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences Program in the Office of Graduate Studies. “We received many nominations from faculty, and MFA award winners truly represent the diversity of experiences, research agendas and demographics of the entire Miller School of Medicine graduate student body.”

Recipients may allocate their award toward investing in additional research opportunities, joining professional associations, presenting at national and international conferences, and purchasing software and equipment related to their research.

Because of the pandemic, last year’s winners were not announced. Here are the 2020 and 2019 Best Research Awards recipients:

 2020 Best Research Award recipients
  • First place: Cameron Bader, Microbiology and Immunology Program. Dissertation title: The Contribution of the Innate Immune Sensor STING in GVHD and GVL following Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation.
  • Second place: Sze Kiat Tan, Cancer Biology Program. Dissertation title: Adipokine Mediated Metabolic Rewiring Drive Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma.
  • Third place: Clara Troccoli, Cancer Biology Program. Dissertation title: Redox Vulnerabilities as Therapeutic Targets in Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer.
  • Fourth place: Rosamary Ramentol, Physiology and Biophysics Program. Dissertation title: Gating Mechanism of HCN Pacemaker Channels.
2019 Best Research Award recipients
  • First place: Nadine Kerr, Neuroscience Program. Dissertation title: Traumatic Brain Injury-Induced Acute Lung Injury: Evidence for a Neural-Respiratory-Inflammasome Axis.
  • Second place: Kristin Sanders, Neuroscience Program. Dissertation title: Characterization and Optogenetic Manipulation of the Affective Itch Circuit in Mouse Models of Itch.
  • Third place: Hyun Kim, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program. Dissertation title: Role of GTPase MTG1 in Mitochondrial Translation and Heart Disease.
  • Fourth place: Bharya Ravi, Neuroscience Program. Dissertation title: Development and Regulation of Two-State Patterned Activity in a Model Serotonin.

If you would like to donate to the MFA’s Student Fund, visit Medical Faculty Association Medical Student Fund.

Tags: Best Research Awards, Medical Faculty Association