Oct. 20, 2021 — As doctoral candidates in the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences prepare for careers of scientific research and discovery, they are matched with faculty mentors who will guide their efforts.
The cohort of second-year Ph.D. candidates, who were recently matched with their mentors, celebrated this important milestone at an event held in the George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building earlier this month.
Thomas C. Rowe, Ph.D., the UF College of Medicine’s associate dean for graduate education, said the event was a long time coming for the students, who began their studies at the beginning of an unprecedented pandemic.
“This is a celebration of the accomplishments these students have made during their first year,” Rowe said. “Their mentor is an expert whose goal is to pass their knowledge down and enable their mentee to become an independent researcher. They are the strongest advocates for these students.”
Colleen Koch, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., dean of the UF College of Medicine, also shared remarks, congratulating the students on their successes during the first year of their program.
“This is just the beginning, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about your research,” she said.
Ph.D. candidate Joyce Morales, who previously obtained her undergraduate and master’s degrees from UF, will be working with Stephanie Karst, Ph.D., a professor in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology, to research cell culture systems for norovirus. Morales’ concentration will be in immunology and microbiology.
“I’m interested in studying pathogens and the way they interact with hosts,” she said. “One reason is because I previously had dengue fever, a mosquito-borne viral disease.”
She said she’s looking forward to working with Karst’s lab because her team publishes high-impact research.
“She expects her team to work hard, and that compels me to push forward,” Morales said. “I want to have a career where I’m seen as a reliable source of information for others, someone who others turn to with difficult questions they need answered.”
Ph.D. candidate Mario Chang chose a concentration in biochemistry and molecular biology, working with his mentor, Matthew Merritt, Ph.D.
Chang will study a cancer drug that has a lot of adverse side effects to find solutions that will minimize those complications while still providing effective treatment. The topic is top of mind for Chang, whose father died due to complications from stomach cancer while he was in high school.
Chang, a double Gator who received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from UF in biochemistry and molecular biology, said he’s looking forward to a career in science.
“My goal is to do something that will help people,” he said. “I’m not sure about the details of it yet, but that’s the overall hope.”