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PhD Thesis Guide

This phd thesis guide will guide you step-by-step through the thesis process, from your initial letter of intent to submission of the final document..

All associated forms are conveniently consolidated in the section at the end.

Deadlines & Requirements

Students should register for HST.ThG during any term in which they are conducting research towards their thesis. Regardless of year in program students registered for HST.ThG in a regular term (fall or spring) must meet with their research advisor and complete the  Semi-Annual PhD Student Progress Review Form to receive credit.

Years 1 - 2

  • Students participating in lab rotations during year 1, may use the optional MEMP Rotation Registration Form , to formalize the arrangement and can earn academic credit by enrolling in HST.599. 
  • A first letter of intent ( LOI-1 ) proposing a general area of thesis research and research advisor is required by April 30th of the second year of registration.
  • A second letter of intent ( LOI-2 ) proposing a thesis committee membership and providing a more detailed description of the thesis research is required by April 30th of the third year of registration for approval by the HST-IMES Committee on Academic Programs (HICAP).

Year 4 

  • Beginning in year 4, (or after the LOI-2 is approved) the student must meet with their thesis committee at least once per semester.
  • Students must formally defend their proposal before the approved thesis committee, and submit their committee approved proposal to HICAP  by April 30 of the forth year of registration.
  • Meetings with the thesis committee must be held at least once per semester. 

HST has developed these policies to help keep students on track as they progress through their PhD program. Experience shows that students make more rapid progress towards graduation when they interact regularly with a faculty committee and complete their thesis proposal by the deadline.

Getting Started

Check out these resources  for finding a research lab.

The Thesis Committee: Roles and Responsibilities

Students perform doctoral thesis work under the guidance of a thesis committee consisting of at least three faculty members from Harvard and MIT (including a chair and a research advisor) who will help guide the research. Students are encouraged to form their thesis committee early in the course of the research and in any case by the end of the third year of registration. The HST IMES Committee on Academic Programs (HICAP) approves the composition of the thesis committee via the letter of intent and the thesis proposal (described below). 

Research Advisor

The research advisor is responsible for overseeing the student's thesis project. The research advisor is expected to:

  • oversee the research and mentor the student;
  • provide a supportive research environment, facilities, and financial support;
  • discuss expectations, progress, and milestones with the student and complete the  Semi-Annual PhD Student Progress Review Form each semester;
  • assist the student to prepare for the oral qualifying exam;
  • guide the student in selecting the other members of the thesis committee;
  • help the student prepare for, and attend, meetings of the full thesis committee, to be held at least once per semester;
  • help the student prepare for, and attend, the thesis defense;
  • evaluate the final thesis document.

The research advisor is chosen by the student and must be a faculty member of MIT* or Harvard University and needs no further approval.  HICAP may approve other individuals as research advisor on a student-by-student basis. Students are advised to request approval of non-faculty research advisors as soon as possible.  In order to avoid conflicts of interest, the research advisor may not also be the student's academic advisor. In the event that an academic advisor becomes the research advisor, a new academic advisor will be assigned.

The student and their research advisor must complete the Semi-Annual PhD Student Progress Review during each regular term in order to receive academic credit for research.  Download Semi Annual Review Form

*MIT Senior Research Staff are considered equivalent to faculty members for the purposes of research advising. No additional approval is required.

Thesis Committee Chair

Each HST PhD thesis committee is headed administratively by a chair, chosen by the student in consultation with the research advisor. The thesis committee chair is expected to:

  • provide advice and guidance concerning the thesis research; 
  • oversee meetings of the full thesis committee, to be held at least once per semester;
  • preside at the thesis defense; 
  • review and evaluate the final thesis document.

The thesis committee chair must be well acquainted with the academic policies and procedures of the institution granting the student's degree and be familiar with the student's area of research. The research advisor may not simultaneously serve as thesis committee chair.

For HST PhD students earning degrees through MIT, the thesis committee chair must be an MIT faculty member. A select group of HST program faculty without primary appointments at MIT have been pre-approved by HICAP to chair PhD theses awarded by HST at MIT in cases where the MIT research advisor is an MIT faculty member.**

HST PhD students earning their degree through Harvard follow thesis committee requirements set by the unit granting their degree - either the Biophysics Program or the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

** List of non-MIT HST faculty approved to chair MIT thesis proposals when the research advisor is an MIT faculty member.

In addition to the research advisor and the thesis committee chair, the thesis committee must include one or more readers. Readers are expected to:

  • attend meetings of the full thesis committee, to be held at least once per semester;
  • attend the thesis defense; 

Faculty members with relevant expertise from outside of Harvard/MIT may serve as readers, but they may only be counted toward the required three if approved by HICAP.

The members of the thesis committee should have complementary expertise that collectively covers the areas needed to advise a student's thesis research. The committee should also be diverse, so that members are able to offer different perspectives on the student's research. When forming a thesis committee, it is helpful to consider the following questions: 

  • Do the individuals on the committee collectively have the appropriate expertise for the project?
  • Does the committee include at least one individual who can offer different perspectives on the student's research?  The committee should include at least one person who is not closely affiliated with the student's primary lab. Frequent collaborators are acceptable in this capacity if their work exhibits intellectual independence from the research advisor.
  • If the research has a near-term clinical application, does the committee include someone who can add a translational or clinical perspective?  
  • Does the committee conform to HST policies in terms of number, academic appointments, and affiliations of the committee members, research advisor, and thesis committee chair as described elsewhere on this page?

[Friendly advice: Although there is no maximum committee size, three or four is considered optimal. Committees of five members are possible, but more than five is unwieldy.]

Thesis Committee Meetings

Students must meet with their thesis committee at least once each semester beginning in the fourth year of registration. It is the student's responsibility to schedule these meetings; students who encounter difficulties in arranging regular committee meetings can contact Julie Greenberg at jgreenbe [at] mit.edu (jgreenbe[at]mit[dot]edu) .

The format of the thesis committee meeting is at the discretion of the thesis committee chair. In some cases, the following sequence may be helpful:

  • The thesis committee chair, research advisor, and readers meet briefly without the student in the room;
  • The thesis committee chair and readers meet briefly with the student, without the advisor in the room;
  • The student presents their research progress, answers questions, and seeks guidance from the members of the thesis committee;

Please note that thesis committee meetings provide an important opportunity for students to present their research and respond to questions. Therefore, it is in the student's best interest for the research advisor to refrain from defending the research in this setting.

Letters of Intent

Students must submit two letters of intent ( LOI-1 and LOI-2 ) with applicable signatures. 

In LOI-1, students identify a research advisor and a general area of thesis research, described in 100 words or less. It should include the area of expertise of the research advisor and indicate whether IRB approval (Institutional Review Board; for research involving human subjects) and/or IACUC approval (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee; for research involving vertebrate animals) will be required and, if so, from which institutions. LOI-1 is due by April 30 of the second year of registration and and should be submitted to HICAP, c/o Traci Anderson in E25-518. 

In LOI-2, students provide a description of the thesis research, describing the Background and Significance of the research and making a preliminary statement of Specific Aims (up to 400 words total). In LOI-2, a student also proposes the membership of their thesis committee. In addition to the research advisor, the proposed thesis committee must include a chair and one or more readers, all selected to meet the specified criteria . LOI-2 is due by April 30th of the third year of registration and should be submitted to HICAP, c/o Traci Anderson in E25-518.

LOI-2 is reviewed by the HST-IMES Committee on Academic Programs (HICAP) to determine if the proposed committee meets the specified criteria and if the committee members collectively have the complementary expertise needed to advise the student in executing the proposed research. If HICAP requests any changes to the proposed committee, the student must submit a revised LOI-2 for HICAP review by September 30th of the fourth year of registration. HICAP must approve LOI-2 before the student can proceed to presenting and submitting their thesis proposal. Any changes to the thesis committee membership following HICAP approval of LOI-2 and prior to defense of the thesis proposal must be reported by submitting a revised LOI-2 form to HICAP, c/o tanderso [at] mit.edu (Traci Anderson) . After final HICAP approval of LOI-2, which confirms the thesis committee membership, the student may proceed to present their thesis proposal to the approved thesis committee, as described in the next section.

Students are strongly encouraged to identify tentative thesis committee members and begin meeting with them as early as possible to inform the direction of their research. Following submission of LOI-2, students are required to hold at least one thesis committee meeting per semester. Students must document these meetings via the Semi- Annual PhD Student Progress Review form in order to receive a grade reflecting satisfactory progress in HST.ThG.

Thesis Proposal and Proposal Presentation

For MEMP students receiving their degrees through MIT, successful completion of the Oral Qualifying Exam is a prerequisite for the thesis proposal presentation. For MEMP students receiving their degrees through Harvard, the oral qualifying exam satisfies the proposal presentation requirement.

Proposal Document

Each student must present a thesis proposal to a thesis committee that has been approved by HICAP via the LOI-2 and then submit a full proposal package to HICAP by April 30th of the fourth year of registration. The only exception is for students who substantially change their research focus after the fall term of their third year; in those cases the thesis proposal must be submitted within three semesters of joining a new lab. Students registering for thesis research (HST.THG) who have not met this deadline may be administratively assigned a grade of "U" (unsatisfactory) and receive an academic warning.

The written proposal should be no longer than 4500 words, excluding references. This is intended to help students develop their proposal-writing skills by gaining experience composing a practical proposal; the length is comparable to that required for proposals to the NIH R03 Small Research Grant Program. The proposal should clearly define the research problem, describe the proposed research plan, and defend the significance of the work. Preliminary results are not required. If the proposal consists of multiple aims, with the accomplishment of later aims based on the success of earlier ones, then the proposal should describe a contingency plan in case the early results are not as expected.

Proposal Presentation

The student must formally defend the thesis proposal before the full thesis committee that has been approved by HICAP.

Students should schedule the meeting and reserve a conference room and any audio visual equipment they may require for their presentation. To book a conference room in E25, please contact Joseph Stein ( jrstein [at] mit.edu (jrstein[at]mit[dot]edu) ).

Following the proposal presentation, students should make any requested modifications to the proposal for the committee members to review. Once the committee approves the proposal, the student should obtain the signatures of the committee members on the forms described below as part of the proposal submission package.

[Friendly advice: As a professional courtesy, be sure your committee members have a complete version of your thesis proposal at least one week in advance of the proposal presentation.]

Submission of Proposal Package

When the thesis committee has approved the proposal, the student submits the proposal package to HICAP, c/o Traci Anderson in E25-518, for final approval. HICAP may reject a thesis proposal if it has been defended before a committee that was not previously approved via the LOI-2.

The proposal package includes the following: 

  • the proposal document
  • a brief description of the project background and significance that explains why the work is important;
  • the specific aims of the proposal, including a contingency plan if needed; and
  • an indication of the methods to be used to accomplish the specific aims.
  • signed research advisor agreement form(s);
  • signed chair agreement form (which confirms a successful proposal defense);
  • signed reader agreement form(s).

Thesis Proposal Forms

  • SAMPLE Title Page (doc)
  • Research Advisor Agreement Form (pdf)
  • Chair Agreement Form (pdf)
  • Reader Agreement Form (pdf)

Thesis Defense and Final Thesis Document

When the thesis is substantially complete and fully acceptable to the thesis committee, a public thesis defense is scheduled for the student to present his/her work to the thesis committee and other members of the community. The thesis defense is the last formal examination required for receipt of a doctoral degree. To be considered "public", a defense must be announced to the community at least five working days in advance. At the defense, the thesis committee determines if the research presented is sufficient for granting a doctoral degree. Following a satisfactory thesis defense, the student submits the final thesis document, approved by the research advisor, to Traci Anderson via email (see instructions below).

[Friendly advice: Contact jrstein [at] mit.edu (Joseph Stein) at least two weeks before your scheduled date to arrange for advertising via email and posters. A defense can be canceled for insufficient public notice.]

Before the Thesis Defense 

Committee Approves Student to Defend: The thesis committee, working with the student and reviewing thesis drafts, concludes that the doctoral work is complete. The student should discuss the structure of the defense (general guidelines below) with the thesis committee chair and the research advisor. 

Schedule the Defense: The student schedules a defense at a time when all members of the thesis committee will be physical present. Any exceptions must be approved in advance by the IMES/HST Academic Office.

Reserve Room: It is the student's responsibility to reserve a room and any necessary equipment. Please contact imes-reservation [at] mit.edu (subject: E25%20Room%20Reservation) (IMES Reservation) to  reserve rooms E25-140, E25-141, E25-119/121, E25-521. 

Final Draft: A complete draft of the thesis document is due to the thesis committee two weeks prior to the thesis defense to allow time for review.  The thesis should be written as a single cohesive document; it may include content from published papers (see libraries website on " Use of Previously Published Material in a Thesis ") but it may not be a simple compilation of previously published materials.

Publicize the Defense:   The IMES/HST Academic Office invites the community to attend the defense via email and a notice on the HST website. This requires that the student email a thesis abstract and supplemental information to  jrstein [at] mit.edu (Joseph Stein)  two weeks prior to the thesis defense. The following information should be included: Date and time, Location, (Zoom invitation with password, if offering a hybrid option), Thesis Title, Names of committee members, with academic and professional titles and institutional affiliations. The abstract is limited to 250 words for the poster, but students may optionally submit a second, longer abstract for the email announcement.

Thesis Defense Guidelines

Public Defense: The student should prepare a presentation of 45-60 minutes in length, to be followed by a public question and answer period of 15–30 minutes at discretion of the chair.

Committee Discussion:  Immediately following the public thesis presentation, the student meets privately with the thesis committee and any other faculty members present to explore additional questions at the discretion of the faculty. Then the thesis committee meets in executive session and determines whether the thesis defense was satisfactory. The committee may suggest additions or editorial changes to the thesis document at this point.

Chair Confirms Pass: After the defense, the thesis committee chair should inform Traci Anderson of the outcome via email to tanderso [at] mit.edu (tanderso[at]mit[dot]edu) .

Submitting the Final Thesis Document

Please refer to the MIT libraries  thesis formatting guidelines .

Title page notes. Sample title page  from the MIT Libraries.

Program line : should read, "Submitted to the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, in partial fulfillment of the the requirements for the degree of ... "

Copyright : Starting with the June 2023 degree period and as reflected in the  MIT Thesis Specifications , all students retain the copyright of their thesis.  Please review this section for how to list on your title page Signature Page: On the "signed" version, only the student and research advisor should sign. Thesis committee members are not required to sign. On the " Accepted by " line, please list: Collin M. Stultz, MD, PhD/Director, Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology/ Nina T. and Robert H. Rubin Professor in Medical Engineering and Science/Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The Academic Office will obtain Professor Stultz's signature.

Thesis Submission Components.  As of 4/2021, the MIT libraries have changed their thesis submissions guidelines and are no longer accepting hard copy theses submissions. For most recent guidance from the libraries:  https://libguides.mit.edu/mit-thesis-faq/instructions  

Submit to the Academic Office, via email ( tanderso [at] mit.edu (tanderso[at]mit[dot]edu) )

pdf/A-1 of the final thesis should include an UNSIGNED title page

A separate file with a SIGNED title page by the student and advisor, the Academic Office will get Dr. Collin Stultz's signature.

For the MIT Library thesis processing, fill out the "Thesis Information" here:  https://thesis-submit.mit.edu/

File Naming Information:  https://libguides.mit.edu/

Survey of Earned Doctorates.  The University Provost’s Office will contact all doctoral candidates via email with instructions for completing this survey.

Links to All Forms in This Guide

  • MEMP Rotation Form (optional)
  • Semi-Annual Progress Review Form
  • Letter of Intent One
  • Letter of Intent Two

Final Thesis

  • HST Sample thesis title page  (signed and unsigned)
  • Sample thesis title page  (MIT Libraries)

Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library

Search for theses.

  • Orbis , Yale Online Catalog Search for all Yale theses using Orbis by including the words "Yale" and  "thesis" as keywords in your search.  Items cataloged in Orbis will have both a call number and a "handle" URL for the catalog record. Please include both if if you make an email inquiry about access.  
  • Dissertations & Theses - Full Text  Digital Dissertations contains more than 1.6 million entries with information about doctoral dissertations, including Yale MD/PhD dissertations. It is the same database as Dissertation Abstracts, but with the significant advantage that titles published since 1997 are available in PDF digital format.  
  • Yale Medicine Thesis Digital Library Project Starting in 2006, each YSM graduating class is required to deposit an electronic thesis. Theses from 2011-onward are also accessible through Dissertations & Theses - Full Text . Note: If a medical student selects a temporary or permanent embargo for campus-only access, the full-text will not be available in the Proquest system during the embargo. Thesis abstracts should be available in either EliScholar or Proquest.  
  • EliScholar Alumni theses can be found in Yale University’s institutional repository. If you would like to have your thesis added to EliScholar, please complete this form .

Theses in the Library

The Medical Library receives one copy of each Yale School of Medicine thesis and two copies of each School of Nursing thesis. School of Public Health theses are in the Medical Library through 2008. In 2009, SPH theses are electronic only and available in the Proquest Dissertations & Theses - Full Text  product. Each thesis is cataloged with author and subject entries for Orbis, the Yale online catalog. In addition, a historical list of theses arranged by year , indicating the call numbers for requesting the thesis, is shelved in the Medical Library Information Room. To view a print thesis, thesis request forms are available at the Circulation Desk. Theses from 1974 to the present are shelved within the Medical Library and are retrieved twice a day, at 11:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Earlier theses are stored in the Library Shelving Facility (LSF). Theses at LSF may be delivered to the Medical Library via the campus library delivery service. The second copy of the School of Nursing theses may be checked out for home use, but all other theses must be used in the Library. For more information, please call the Circulation Desk 203-785-5354.

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Writing a medical thesis: tips for post-graduate students.

Writing a Medical Thesis Tips for Post-Graduate Students

What is a medical thesis?

A medical thesis is the written work resulting from an original research in the field of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and other health and life sciences. It is submitted by the students in order to obtain a higher degree from the University.

However, keep this in mind! The purpose of submitting a medical thesis is not limited to the achievement of a doctoral or post-graduate degree. It is a medium to organize the scientific knowledge in a way to make further progress in the field.

That’s the reason why the experts in  medical thesis writing  stress on the importance of choosing the right topic for your thesis. You must be able to address a genuine problem or series of problems through your medical thesis. Choose a topic that aligns with your interest and where you can offer a fresh perspective through your research study.

Writing your medical thesis

After choosing the topic for your research study, collaborate with your supervisor to design your research study and its goal. Collect all the information and data pertaining to your research before proceeding with your clinical trials.

Now, you are ready with your research data and clinical findings. You just need to pen down your findings in your medical thesis.

That sounds easy, isn’t it?

In reality, it’s not so. But, you need not worry!  Writing a medical thesis  becomes easy and fun if you follow the given steps with competence:

1.Outline the structure of medical thesis

Prepare an outline of the thesis in accordance with the following sections:

  • Introduction: Why did you start your study?
  • Methods Used
  • Results of the study
  • Discussion of results

List the major sections and chapters in each. Do a section at a time. Assemble all the figures and tables and organise them into a logical sequence.

2.Writing a title of the thesis

The title reflects the content of your thesis. For writing a perfect thesis title:

  • Be concise and accurate. The title must neither be too long nor too short
  • Avoid unnecessary words and phrases like “Observation of” or “A study of”
  • Do not use abbreviations
  • Avoid grammatical mistakes

3.Writing an Introduction

The purpose of writing an Introduction is to provide the reader with sufficient background information on the topic and help him understand and evaluate the results of the present study, without needing to refer to the previous publications on the topic.

  • Give this background information in brief in the first paragraph
  • Include the importance of the problem and what is unknown about it in the second paragraph
  • State the purpose, hypothesis, and objective of your study in the last paragraph

Cite the research papers written on your research topic

  • Include unnecessary information other than the problem being examined
  • Include the research design, data or conclusion of your study
  • Cite well-known facts
  • Include information found in any textbook in the field

4.Writing the section of “Methods Used”

This section must be so written that the reader is able to repeat the study and validate its findings.

Write a detailed exposition about the participants in the study, what materials you used and how you analyzed the results

  • Give references but no description for established methods
  • Give a brief description and references for published but lesser known methods
  • Give detailed description of new methods citing the reasons for using them and any limitations if present
  • Include background information and results of the study
  • Refer to animals and patients as material
  • Use trade name of the drugs; instead, use their generic names
  • Use non-technical language for technical statistical terms

5.Writing your Results

Keep in mind the objective of your research while writing the “Results” section. The findings of the research can be documented in the form of:

  • Illustrative graphs

Use text to summarize small amounts of data. Do not over-use tables, figures, and graphs in your paper. Moreover, do not repeat information presented in the table or figure in the text format. Text must be a summary or highlight of the information presented in tables or figures.

6.Discussing your Results

Good medical theses have a targeted discussion keeping it focused on the topic of the research. Include:

  • Statement of the principal findings. Make it clear to show that your thesis includes new information
  • Strengths and weaknesses of your study
  • Strengths and weaknesses in relation to the other studies
  • A take-home message from your study for clinicians and policymakers
  • Any questions that are left unanswered in your study to propose new research

How to conclude your medical thesis?

The conclusion of your research study must comprise of:

  • The most important statement or remark from the observations
  • Summary of new observations, interpretations, and insights from the present study
  • How your study fills the knowledge gap in its respected field?
  • The broader implications of your work
  • How can your work be improved by future research?

However, avoid any statement that does not support your data.

With these tips, write your thesis like a pro and don’t let it delay your doctoral award!

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The Mayo Graduate School theses are shelved alphabetically by author and can be accessed by requesting them at the Library Circulation Desk on Plummer 12. Theses produced beginning in 2009 will be available online through ProQuest in the future, though will still be searchable in the Library catalog. You can approach the thesis by subject in at least three ways:

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thesis medicine

New thesis explores cancer treatment that can prevent relapse

M adeleine Lehander from the Hematology Unit/HERM, at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge (MedH), is defending her thesis "Exploring T Cell Mediated Immunotherapy against Therapy Resistant Leukemic Stem Cells," on 24 May 2024. The main supervisor is Petter Woll (MedH).

What is the main focus of your thesis?

Relapse following initial treatment efficacy remains a major clinical challenge for many cancers. The focus of my thesis has been to explore the therapeutic impact of immune cells in patients with blood cancer (leukemia), by first investigating which cells escape the immune mediated effect of stem cell transplantation and secondly exploring how modified T cells can be used as an effective treatment against different types of leukemic cells, including the relapse initiating leukemic stem cells.

Which are the most important results?

We show that rare patient leukemic stem cells evade the otherwise therapeutic donor-derived immunity after a stem cell transplantation, thus mediating leukemic relapse. We therefore explored a new type of immunotherapy, where the receptor that is expressed on T cells which is normally used to protect us against virus and bacteria, is exchanged with a receptor that specifically recognizes and kills cancer cells.

We have explored two types of cancer-specific receptors; one that recognizes normal proteins that are over expressed by the cancer cells, and one that recognizes proteins with a certain generic abnormality, a so-called mutation which is restricted to the cancer cells. By using these modified T cells in mouse models, our studies have shown an almost complete elimination of leukemic cells from different patients, while healthy cells are not targeted.

With these exciting findings, we are now investigating if we can modify the T cells to specifically target the rare leukemic stem cells that we already have shown are difficult to eliminate with current clinical strategies.

How can this new knowledge contribute to the improvement of people's health?

Despite many improvements in cancer treatment in recent years, there are still many patients who relapse following treatment. The identification of therapy resistant leukemic stem cells allows new studies that can reveal new biological insight into why these cells are so difficult to eliminate in patients with leukemia, thereby identifying potential new targets that can be exploited clinically.

The development of T cells that can target cancer-specific proteins can facilitate precision medicine approaches tailored to specific patient groups and enhance the clinical effect of immune cell-based therapies. In particular, our focus is on the leukemic stem cells, with the ambition to identify targeted therapy for them that can be used to prevent, or treat a relapse at an early stage.

What are your future ambitions?

I want to continue to explore cancer immunotherapy, which I will get the opportunity to do during a post doc. Globally, we are only in the beginning of the therapeutic journey utilizing T cell-based immunotherapy, and I am very excited to see where this field will be in 10 years.

More information: Exploring T cell mediated immunotherapy against therapy resistant leukemic stem cells: openarchive.ki.se/xmlui/handle/10616/49103

Provided by Karolinska Institutet

Acute myelocytic leukemia (AML). Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

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2023/2024 PhD Recipients Thesis Titles

2022-2023 PhD Thesis Titles    2021-2022 PhD Thesis Titles    2020-2021 PhD Thesis Titles   

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2015-2016 PhD Thesis Titles    2013-2014 PhD Thesis Titles    2012-2013 PhD Thesis Titles   

2011-2012 PhD Thesis Titles  

Candidates for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy

Solomon abiola, b.s. princeton university, m.s. carnegie mellon university; translational biomedical science.

Thesis: The Rise of Temperature and Fall of Fever: A 21st-Century Translational Science Approach to Infectious Disease Forecast using Machine Learning Transformers, mHealth Application Node and Wearable Device Edge

Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Miller  

Sara Ali, B.S. Rochester Institute Of Technology, M.S. University of Rochester; Biophysics

Thesis: A Bioinformatics Pipeline for Identifying Structurally Conserved ncRNAs: From Prediction to Validation

Advisor: Dr. David Mathews  

Naemah Alkhars, B.S. Kuwait University, M.S. University of Rochester; Translational Biomedical Science

Thesis: Three-dimensional Maternal influence on Children at High Risk of Severe Early Childhood

Advisor: Dr. Jin Xiao  

Katherine Andersh, B.S. University Of Arizona, M.S. University of Rochester; Neuroscience

Thesis: The role of proinflammatory cytokines in glaucomatous neurodegeneration

Advisor: Dr. Richard Libby  

Uday Baliga, B.S. Colorado State University, M.S. University of Rochester; Pathology

Thesis: Gene Delivery:  Multigenic approaches

Advisor: Dr. David Dean  

Sara Blick-Nitko, B.S. Rochester Institute of Technology, M.S. University of Rochester; Pathology

Thesis: Platelet Ido1 in Plasmodium yoelii Uncomplicated Malaria Infection

Advisor: Dr. Craig Morrell  

Zachary Brehm, B.M. SUNY College Potsdam, M.S. SUNY College Potsdam; Statistics

Thesis: Statistical Methods for the Analysis of Complex Tissue Bulk RNA-seq Data

Advisor: Dr. Matthew McCall  

Tina Bui-Bullock, B.S. The University Of Texas At Austin, M.S. University of Rochester; Microbiology and Immunology

Thesis: Elucidating Host Factors That Modulate Staphylococcus aureus Osteomyelitis Severity in Obesity-Related Type 2 Diabetes

Advisor: Dr. Steven Gill  

Kimberly Burgos Villar, B.A. Daemen College, M.S. University of Rochester; Pathology

Thesis: Expression and Function of SPRR1A, a Novel Marker of the Ischemic Cardiac Border Zone

Advisor: Dr. Eric Small  

Wesley Chiang, B.S. University Of California-Irvine, M.S. University of Rochester; Biophysics

Thesis: Nano for Neuro: Developing Hybrid Quantum Dot Nano-Bio Assemblies to Probe Neuroinflammatory Activation

Advisor: Dr. Todd Krauss  

Jessica Ciesla, B.S. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, M.S. University of Rochester; Biochemistry

Thesis: Mechanisms Through Which Metabolism and the Human Cytomegalovirus UL26 Protein Contribute to Anti-Viral Signaling

Advisor: Dr. Joshua Munger  

Martin Cole, B.E. The Open University, M.S. University of Rochester; Statistics

Thesis: Scratching the Surface: Surface-Based Cortical Registration and Analysis of Connectivity Functions

Advisor: Dr. Xing Qiu  

Luke Duttweiler, B.A. Houghton College, M.A. SUNY Brockport, M.A. University of Rochester; Statistics

Thesis: Spectral Bayesian Network Theory: Graph Theoretic Solutions to Problems in Bayesian Networks

Advisor: Dr. Sally Thurston and Dr. Anthony Almudevar  

Esraa Furati, M.B.B.S. University of Dammam, M.S. University of Rochester; Pharmacology

Thesis: Insights into the Roles of Aging and Chemokine Signaling During Neuromuscular Regeneration

Advisor: Dr. Joe Chakkalakal

Erin Gibbons, B.S. University Of Connecticut, M.S. University of Rochester; Microbiology and Immunology

Thesis: Investigation of mTORC1-mediated genes Neutrophil Elastase and Glycoprotein-NMB  Demonstrates Tumor Promotion and GPNMB as a Serum Biomarker for  Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM)

Advisor: Dr. Stephen Hammes  

Christie Gilbert Klaczko, B.S. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Translational Biomedical Science

Thesis: Oral Cross-kingdom Bacterial-fungal Interactions in a Cross-sectional Pregnant Population Living in Low Socioeconomic Status in Rochester, New York

Jimin Han, B.S. Duquesne University, M.S. University of Rochester; Pathology

Thesis: Investigating the role of CLN3 in retinal pigment epithelium dysfunction in CLN3-Batten

Advisor: Dr. Ruchira Singh  

Jarreau Harrison, B.S. CUNY Medgar Evers College, M.S. University of Rochester; Pharmacology

Thesis: HSPB8 Attenuates Pathological Tau Accumulation

Advisor: Dr. Gail Johnson  

Alicia Healey, B.S. Simmons College, M.S. University of Rochester; Microbiology and Immunology

Thesis:Aryl hydrocarbon receptor activation modulates monocytic cell responses during respiratory viral infection

Advisor: Dr. B. Paige Lawrence  

Omar Hedaya, B.S. Kuwait University, M.S. University of Rochester; Biochemistry

Thesis: uORF-mediated Translational Regulation of GATA4 in the Heart

Advisor: Dr. Peng Yao  

Emma House, B.S. Wayne State University, M.S. University of Rochester; Pathology

Thesis: Investigating the Role of CD4+ T Cells in Flavorings-Related Lung Disease

Advisor: Dr. Matthew D. McGraw  

Yechu Hua, B.A. Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Health Services Research and Policy

Thesis: Did Greater Price Transparency of Hospital Care Lower Health Care Costs?

Advisor: Dr. Yue Li  

Feng Jiang, B.S. Wuhan University, M.S. University of Rochester; Biochemistry

Thesis: The Molecular Mechanism and Biological Impact of Cis-acting Elements and Trans-acting Factors in mRNA Translation Regulation

Amber Kautz, B.S. Cornell University, M.S. Boston University; Epidemiology

Thesis: Maternal Non-Adherence to the Dietary Fat Recommendations During Pregnancy and Neonatal Adiposity and Infant Weight Gain: The Role of Inflammation

Advisor: Dr. Diana Fernandez  

Gabrielle Kosoy, B.S. SUNY College At Geneseo, M.S. University of Rochester; Biophysics

Thesis: Understanding vaccine antibody response: high throughput measurements of equilibrium affinity constants for influenza, cross-reactivity of SARS antibodies, and asthmatic response

Thomas Lamb Jr., B.S. St Josephs College, M.S. University of Rochester; Toxicology

Thesis: Chemical Characterization and Lung Toxicity of Humectants and Flavored E-cigarettes

Advisor: Dr. Irfan Rahman  

Linh Le, B.S. Truman State University, M.S. Truman State University, M.S. University of Rochester; Neuroscience

Thesis: The effects of microglial adrenergic signaling and microglial renewal on Alzheimer’s disease pathology

Advisor: Dr. Ania Majewska  

Jiatong Liu, B.S. Huazhong University of Science and Technology, M.S. University of Rochester; Pathology

Thesis: The Role of Senescent Cells in Aging Fracture Healing

Advisor: Dr. Lianping Xing  

Daniel Lopez, B.A. University Of California-Los Angeles, M.A. Stanford University. MPH Cuny Hunter College; Epidemiology

Thesis: The Neurobiological Correlates of Problematic Gaming Behaviors in Adolescents

Advisor: Dr. Edwin van Wijngaarden  

Ferralita Madere, B.S. Xavier University Of Louisiana, M.S. University of Rochester; Microbiology

Thesis: Elucidating Complex Transkingdom Interactions in the Female Reproductive Tract Microbiome in Health and Disease

Advisor: Dr. Cynthia Monaco  

Courtney Markman, B.S. Rochester Institute Of Technology, M.S. University of Rochester; Pathology

Thesis: The role(s) of JAG1 during Embryonic Cochlear Development

Advisor: Dr. Amy Kiernan  

Andrew Martin, B.S. North Adams State College, M.S. University of Rochester; Microbiology

Thesis: Mechanism and Consequence of IFN--mediated Loss of Tissue Resident Macrophages on Host Immunity to Toxoplasma gondii

Advisor: Dr. Felix Yarovinsky  

Alyssa Merrill, B.S. Nazareth College Of Rochester, M.S. University of Rochester; Toxicology

Thesis: Pregnancy-dependent Cardiometabolic Effects of Anti-estrogenic Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

Advisor: Dr.Marissa Sobolewski and Dr. Deborah Cory-Slechta  

Briaunna Minor, B.S. Xavier University Of Louisiana, M.S. University of Rochester; Microbiology

Thesis: Implications for Targeting Tumor Associated Neutrophils to Attenuate Estrogen Mediated Lymphangioleiomyomatosis Progression

Mostafa Mohamed, M.S. Alexandria University, M.D. Alexandria University; Epidemiology

Thesis: Association Between Chemotherapy Dosing, Treatment Tolerability, and Survival Among Older Adults with Advanced Cancer

Advisor: Dr. David Rich  

Adrián Moisés Molina Vargas, B.S. University of Alcala, M.S. University of Rochester; Genetics

Thesis: Developing Design Strategies for Efficient and Specific CRISPR Cas13 RNA-Targeting Applications

Advisor: Dr. Mitchell O'Connell  

Teraisa Mullaney, B.S. Rochester Institute Of Technology, M.S Rochester Institute Of Technology, M.S. University of Rochester; Health Services Research and Policy

Thesis: Understanding the Role of Navigation Capital in Health Services and Social Determinants of Health: A Health Capability Explanation

Advisor: Dr. Peter Veazie  

Daxiang Na, B.S. Peking University, M.S. Peking University, M.S. Brandeis University, M.S. University of Rochester; Genetics

Thesis: An Investigation of the Relationship between Auditory Dysfunctions and Alzheimer’s Disease Using Amyloidosis Mouse Models

Advisor: Dr. Patricia White  

Thomas O'Connor, B.S. SUNY University at Buffalo, M.S. University of Rochester; Genetics

Thesis: Adaptive and Protective Responses of Skeletal Muscle to Endurance Exercise in the Context of Aging, Juvenile Radiotherapy, and Tubular Aggregate Myopathy

Advisor: Dr. Robert Dirksen and Dr. James Palis  

Raven Osborn, B.A. University Of Missouri-Columbia; Translational Biomedical Science

Thesis: Single-cell gene regulatory network analysis reveals cell population-specific responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection in lung epithelial cells

Advisor: Dr. Juilee Thakar and Dr. Stephen Dewhurst  

Emily Przysinda, B.A. Skidmore College, M.S. University of Rochester; Neurobiology and Anatomy

Thesis: Social processing and underlying language deficits in schizophrenia during naturalistic video viewing

Advisor: Dr. Edmund Lalor  

Emily Quarato, B.S. University Of Alabama At Birmingham, M.S. University of Rochester; Program

Thesis: High levels of mesenchymal stromal cell efferocytosis induces senescence and causes bone loss

Advisor: Dr. Laura Calvi  

Zahíra Quiñones Tavárez, B.S. Pontificial Catholic University Mother and Teacher, M.P.H. University of Rochester; Translational Biomedical Science

Thesis: Linking Exposure to Flavors in Electronic Cigarettes and Coughing

Advisor: Dr. Deborah Ossip  

Matthew Raymonda, B.S. University Of North Carolina At Wilmington, M.S. University of Rochester; Biochemistry

Thesis: Identifying Metabolic Vulnerabilities Associated with Viral Infections

Savanah Russ, B.A. SUNY Geneseo, M.P.H Yale University; Epidemiology

Thesis: Association Between Community-Level Socioeconomic Status and Spatiotemporal Variation in COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake

Advisor: Dr. Yu Liu  

Cooper Sailer, B.S. University at Buffalo, M.A. University at Buffalo, M.S. University of Rochester; Pathology

Thesis: Characterization of CAR-T cell phenotypes to augment response against solid tumors

Advisor: Dr. Minsoo Kim  

Jishyra Serrano, B.S. Universidad Adventista De Las Antillas; Translational Biomedical Science

Thesis: Prenatal Maternal Stress and Inflammation: Association to Childhood Temperament

Advisor: Dr. Thomas O'Connor  

Yuhang Shi, B.A. Henan Agricultural University, M.S. University of Rochester; Microbiology

Thesis: Interactions Between Viruses and the Innate Antiviral Factors SERINC5, BST2 and BCA2

Advisor: Dr. Ruth Serra-Moreno  

Anjali Sinha, B.E. PES Institute of Technology, M.S. University at Buffalo, M.S. University of Rochester; Neuroscience

Thesis: Role of mAChR signaling and M-current in EVS mediated responses of mammalian vestibular afferents

Advisor: Dr. J. Chris Holt  

Celia Soto, B.S. SUNY Geneseo, M.S. University of Rochester; Pathology

Thesis: Elevated Lactate in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Bone Marrow Microenvironment Dysfunction

Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Frisch  

Michael Sportiello, B.S. University Of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, M.S. University of Rochester; Microbiology

Thesis: Investigating CD8 T cell tissue resident memory phenotype, function, metabolic activity, and differentiation

Advisor: Dr. David Topham  

Kumari Yoshita Srivastava, B.S. National Institute of Science Education And Research, M.S. National Institute of Science Education And Research, M.S. University of Rochester; Biophysics

Thesis: Structure and Function Analysis of Bacterial Riboswitches that Control Translation

Advisor: Dr. Joseph Wedekind  

Kathryn Toffolo, B.S. SUNY College at Buffalo, M.S. University of Rochester; Neuroscience

Thesis: Semantic Language Processing: Insight into Underlying Circuitry and Development using Neurophysiological and Neuroimaging Methods

Advisor: Dr. John J. Foxe  

Megan Ulbrich, B.S. University Of Pittsburgh, M.S. University of Rochester; Microbiology and Immunology

Thesis: The Activity of Vibrio cholerae Effector VopX Targets Host Cell Pathways that Reorganize the Actin Cytoskeleton

Advisor: Dr. Michelle Dziejman  

Erik Vonkaenel, B.S. Slippery Rock University Of Pennsylvania, M.A. University of Rochester; Statistics

Thesis: Methods for Microglia Image Analysis

Amanda Wahl, B.S. Saint John Fisher College, M.S. University of Rochester; Pharmacology

Thesis: Redefining the function of salivary duct cell populations utilizing a structural, functional, and computational approach

Advisor: Dr. David Yule  

Yunna Xie, B.S. Sichuan University, M.S. Universität Heidelberg; Health Services Research & Policy

Thesis: Is Physician Expertise Working as a Barrier to the Implementation of New Clinical Interventions? A Neural Network Approach

Shen Zhou, B.S. Shanghai University, M.S. Brandeis University, M.S. University of Rochester; Genetics

Thesis: The Study of c-Cbl in Clear Cell Sarcoma

Advisor: Dr. Mark Noble

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Beyond Biomimicry: The Synthesis and Characterization of precision polymers inspired by nature

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UB Awards 320 Biomedical Science Degrees; 35 Earn PhDs

Commencement 2024.

Lauryn Alexandria Scott.

Lauryn Alexandria Scott, a biomedical sciences undergraduate student, is all smiles as she walks across the stage during the May 19 biomedical sciences commencement ceremony.

By Dirk Hoffman

Published May 29, 2024

Thirty-five doctoral, 76 master’s and 209 baccalaureate candidates were eligible to receive degrees in biomedical science fields during the May commencement ceremony.

2024 Commencement Video

2024 Biomedical Sciences Commencement Video

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  • Commencement Program
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Six graduate students and nine senior undergraduates were singled out for special honors, including four graduates who received a Chancellor’s Award, the highest State University of New York undergraduate honor.

Graduates completed work in 14 departments or programs of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences :

  • biochemistry
  • biomedical informatics
  • biomedical sciences
  • biotechnical and clinical laboratory sciences
  • genetics, genomics and bioinformatics
  • medical physics
  • microbiology and immunology
  • natural sciences interdisciplinary
  • neuroscience
  • nuclear medicine technology
  • pathology and anatomical sciences
  • pharmacology and toxicology
  • physiology and biophysics
  • structural biology

Graduates also completed the following programs offered in alliance with the  Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Graduate Division : cancer pathology and prevention, cancer sciences, immunology, and molecular pharmacology and cancer therapeutics.

Fifteen of the doctoral degrees and eight of the master’s degrees were awarded in Roswell Park’s programs.

Allison Brashar, MD, MBA.

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, congratulates the Class of 2024.

Lessons Learned From Recent Solar Eclipse

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA , UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, welcomed attendees to the May 19 event at UB’s Center for the Arts and addressed the graduates.

“It fills my heart with immense joy to see all of you gathered here today,” she said.

“In the face of the challenges that have beset us in recent times, these bright scholars and scientists have exhibited extraordinary resilience, determination and perseverance in their academic endeavors. I am confident that these qualities will serve as guiding lights as they embark upon their journeys in their respective fields.”

She noted that biomedical science is one of the broadest areas of medical science and underpins much of modern medicine.

“Biomedical scientists are at the heart of multidisciplinary teams in health care. Biomedical research looks at ways to prevent and treat disease,” Brashear said. “Your innovative approaches and unwavering dedication will continue to push the boundaries of scientific discoveries and technology, leading to a brighter and healthier future for all of us.”

In his address, UB President Satish K. Tripathi, PhD, told the graduates they could learn a lot from the recent solar eclipse that generated excitement in Western New York in early April.

“Allow me to share three tips of advice gathered from the path of totality,” he quipped.

“Reconnect with the natural world, as often as possible. Instead of taking selfies, take time for self-reflection,” he said. “When you give wide berth to the stressors of modern life, you allow yourself space to find both your place in the world and your responsibility to it.”

“Do not regret circumstances beyond your control,” Tripathi added, noting the sunny days leading up to the eclipse, but the extreme cloudiness that persisted over much of WNY on April 8, the day of the event. “Notwithstanding the uncooperative weather, we all experienced a breathtaking moment. Magnify your disappointments and you miss occasions for learning, enrichment and wonder.”

“Lastly, use your expertise for the greater good. When you apply what you have learned for others’ benefit, you put your UB education to its highest purpose,” he said.

Mark O’Brian, Haley Hobble and John Panepinto.

Doctoral graduate Haley Victoria Hobble won two separate graduate awards for her research and dissertation. She is flanked by Mark R. O’Brian, PhD, left, and John C. Panepinto, PhD.

Outstanding Graduates Recognized

Biochemistry graduate student research achievement award.

Doctoral graduate Haley Victoria Hobble was honored for research that received national or international recognition and for being selected to give an oral presentation at a major national or international meeting.

Dissertation: “Intrafamily Heterooligomerization of the N-Terminal Methyltransferase METTL11A”

Mentor: Christine E. Schaner-Tooley, PhD , associate professor of biochemistry

Roswell Park Graduate Division Award for Excellence in Research

Doctoral graduate Abigail Cornwell was the recipient of this award for outstanding research for her dissertation titled “Impact of Benzodiazepines on the Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Tumor Microenvironment”

Mentor: Michael Feigin, PhD, associate professor of oncology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Dean’s Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research

Doctoral graduate Haley Victoria Hobble was the winner of this award that recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

She was honored for her dissertation: “Intrafamily Heterooligomerization of the N-Terminal Methyltransferase METTL11A”

Mentor:  Christine E. Schaner-Tooley, PhD , associate professor of  biochemistry

The Microbiology and Immunology Award for Excellence in Dissertation Research in Memory of Dr. Murray W. Stinson

Doctoral graduate Katherine Shannon Wackowski was honored for her dissertation “Cooperation of RESC Proteins in Trypanosome RNA Editing and Holoenzyme Dynamics”

Mentor: Laurie K. Read, PhD , professor of microbiology and immunology

Dennis Higgins Award for PhD Dissertation Research in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Doctoral graduate Shirley Xu was honored for her dissertation “Troponin-Mediated Autoimmune Mechanisms of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor-Induced Myocarditis”

Mentor: Umesh Sharma, MD, PhD , associate professor of medicine

Bishop Neuroscience Thesis Award

Doctoral graduate Richard Adam Seidman was honored for his dissertation “Oscillatory Calcium Mediated Regulation of Human Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Cells”

Mentor: Fraser J. Sim, PhD , professor of pharmacology and toxicology

The Structural Biology Award for Excellence in Dissertation Research in Memory of Dr. Robert H. Blessing

Doctoral graduate Nicholas David Clark was honored for his dissertation “Structure/Function Studies of Virulence Factors from Periodontal Pathogens and Membrane Sphingolipid Hydroxylases”

Mentor: Michael G. Malkowski, PhD , professor and chair of structural biology

Four SUNY Chancellor’s Award winners with Jennifer Surtees, PhD.

The four undergraduate SUNY Chancellor’s Award winners, from left, Bryan R. Renzoni, Lea Kyle, Rachel Esther Sanyu and Sarah Bukhari, along with Jennifer A. Surtees, PhD.

SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

Sarah Bukhari, Lea Kyle, Bryan R. Renzoni and Rachel Esther Sanyu were recognized with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award. It recognizes students for their integration of academic excellence with other aspects of their lives that may include leadership, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts, entrepreneurship or career achievement.

Bukhari graduates with a bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry. She is an undergraduate researcher in the lab of  Jennifer A. Surtees, PhD , professor of  biochemistry . Bukhari secured funding from the Experiential Learning Network and a Mentored Research micro-credential.

Beyond academics, the Grand Island, New York, native is deeply involved in community engagement, serving as both the volunteer coordinator and vice president of the largest student-run pre-health organization, the Association of Pre-Medical Students, and was awarded a Community Engagement micro-credential and gathering 500+ volunteer hours.

With dual roles as dance coach and social media coordinator for the Pakistani Student Association, she fosters a network of communities to embrace diversity and celebrate traditions.

A native of Martville, New York, Kyle is a University Honors College Scholar who graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry with minors in both physics and public health.

She has been a Student Association, Recreation Department, Student Engagement and TASS Center employee. She also is the current president of UB Rotaract, a volunteering club on campus.

Kyle is also a student researcher in the  Department of Microbiology and Immunology ,  Elizabeth A. Wohlfert, PhD , associate professor of microbiology and immunology, focusing on the effects of chronic inflammation on muscle function due to chronic infection..

Renzoni, of East Amherst, New York, graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry. He is a University Honors College Presidential Scholar and Honors College Ambassador.

A BioXFEL Scholar, he has received multiple research internship positions and worked in two different laboratories, contributing to work on the development of novel organic and organometallic compounds with applications as cancer therapies.

Renzoni has also served as a co-chair of the G14 Leadership Summit, president and executive adviser of UB ChemClub, and both assistant music director and music director of The Enchords, UB’s all-gender a cappella group.

Sanyu, an international student from Uganda, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology and toxicology.

She is an Honors College Scholar who conducted oncology research within the lab of Wendy Huss, PhD, at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and at Johnson & Johnson, where she earned the 2023 Inspire Spotlight Award.

Sanyu has also worked as a student assistant in the Office of Interprofessional Education and an honors peer mentor. 

She is a founder of a health care app and is involved with the community through her work with Suubi Cancer Relief and Hillside Family of Agencies.

Sanyu also loves to dance and was a member of the UBMystique and 8-Count dance teams.

Undergraduate Outstanding Senior Awards

The following awards honor high academic performance and involvement in the campus community and external organizations:

Biochemistry Sarah Bukhari

Biomedical Sciences Alexis Krayevsky

Biotechnology Tanvi Dixit

Medical Technology Eva Wisniewski

Neuroscience Leah Heiler

Nuclear Medicine Technology Kelly Mahan

Pharmacology and Toxicology Rachel Esther Sanyu

Styliani-Anna E. Tsirka, PhD.

Commencement speaker Styliani-Anna (Stella) E. Tsirka, PhD, tells the graduates to never lose sight of the wonder and awe that first drew them to the biomedical sciences.

Keynote Theme One of Compassion, Resilience

Commencement speaker Styliani-Anna (Stella) E. Tsirka, PhD, the Miriam and David Donoho Distinguished Professor of pharmacological sciences and vice dean for faculty affairs at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, spoke about empathy and persistence.

“Beyond the technical skills and academic achievements that you have earned and will continue to earn, what will set you apart is your capacity for empathy, for compassion, your ethical responsibility,” she said.

“In the pursuit of scientific advancement, try not to lose sight of the human element and the living organisms whose lives may be impacted by our work.”

Tsirka noted that biomedical scientists have a serious duty to use their expertise to make society better, alleviate suffering and to promote the health and well-being of all people, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status.

“If you decide to further pursue scientific inquiry, do remember that you will need persistence and resilience,” she said. “Experimental science is not for the faint of heart.”

She remarked that her lab members often talk about the fact that it is called “research” instead of just “search.”

“The majority of our experiments will not be successful, but the ones that provide that ‘eureka moment’ will last a lifetime,” Tsirka assured the graduates. “Remember that setbacks are valuable lessons that shape the way for future success.”

Tsirka encouraged the graduates to embrace the idea of lifelong learning.

“To remain at the forefront of your field, you must remain curious and receptive of new ideas,” she said.

“Importantly, science is also delicate. Continue to approach it with integrity and rigor.”

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Selecting a thesis topic: A postgraduate’s dilemma

Rajiv k. saini.

Department of Psychiatry, Command Hospital (EC) Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Mohan Issac

1 Department of Psychiatry, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

K. J. D. Kumar

2 Department of Psychiatry, Military Hospital, Pathankot, Punjab, India

Suprakash Chaudhury

3 Department of Psychiatry, D. Y. Patil Medical College, Dr. D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pimpri, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Rachit Sharma

4 Department of Psychiatry, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Ankit Dangi

5 Department of Psychiatry, Command Hospital, Panchkula, Haryana, India

It is said that well begun is half done. Choosing a thesis topic and submitting a research protocol is an essential step in the life cycle of a postgraduate resident. National Medical Commission of India mandates that all postgraduate trainees must submit at least one original research work (dissertation), one oral paper, one poster, and one publication to be eligible for final year examination. It is the duty of the faculty to ensure that trainees take active interest and submit their theses on time. However, their journey is often marred by multiple challenges and hurdles. The literature was searched from year 2000 onwards till 2011 using Pubmed, ResearchGate, MEDLINE, and the Education Resources Information Centre databases with terms related to residency training, selecting thesis topic, challenges or hurdles, and conversion of thesis into journal article. Existing literature on the subject matter is sparse. Current article advocates promotion of ethical and original research during postgraduation and proposes a checklist for residents before submission of their proposals.

INTRODUCTION

Residency is an extremely important period in the life cycle of a modern medical graduate. During this period, a resident learns to practice and acquire proficiency in a subject under guidance of a teacher. Along with acquiring new skills, it is also expected that they learn to critically analyze clinical scenarios and reach a rational conclusion. They are also expected to formulate and conduct original research which is submitted in form of a dissertation or thesis. Research work by a postgraduate should eventually translate into a scientific publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal, which helps in dissemination of thesis findings to the community and scientists. It is essential toward furthering medical knowledge, clinical practice, and the progression of science.[ 1 ] The National Medical Commission has stated the aims of completing this task as “Writing the thesis is aimed at contributing to the development of a spirit of inquiry, besides exposing the candidate to the techniques of research, critical analysis, acquaintance with the latest advances in medical science and the manner of identifying and consulting available literature.”[ 2 ]

CHOOSING THE TOPIC

The most intriguing question while conducting research is “How do I choose the right topic and will I be able to find the right answer?” Starting off with fire in the belly gives the best chance of seeing one’s work through. So, it is important to choose something that entices one’s mind and promises a gratifying result. Existing literature on the topic suggests that the journey of choosing the right topic is often marred by multiple challenges and dilemmas at various stages of this tumultuous journey. There are constraints of time, availability of resources, and support network.[ 3 ]

Therefore, students must remain open to suggestions from within and outside their minds. It is also important to allow the research area to simmer inside their mind for some time so that they can analyze various facets of the chosen area. It is at deeper layer of learning where higher order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation reside. This then justifies the longer period it takes to arrive at a meaningful thesis title as it represents the highest order of cognitive reasoning referred to as “create” stage.[ 2 ] Short of this, novice researchers operate at lower order and remain “copy-paste” type of researchers.[ 4 ]

Lord “Dhanwantri” also known Physician of Gods brought “ Amrit ” elixir of life after “Samudra Manthan,” which was the result of intensive deliberations.[ 5 ] A systematic stepwise approach for answering any research question offers the best chance of finding the right answer. Succeeding paragraphs in this article shall delve into an enriching scientific journey toward zeroing onto a suitable thesis title.

Area of interest

A journey into an area of one’s interest is bound to be fulfilling. It is a good idea to review one’s past works and experiences, which may be intriguing. A frank and one-to-one discussion with the guide further helps in unravelling novel ideas. Starting with an open and fertile mind promises novel ideas and helps to sustain long-term interest and enthusiasm.[ 6 ] Tendency to merely replicate similar studies should be avoided as they fail to ignite the zest for newer information.[ 7 ] Think about why you got into your field of study. Consider what you like to read about in your free time, especially things related to your field.

From general to specific

A dissertation topic in medicine needs to be captivating and must intrigue the reader to look closer into the research work.[ 8 ] At the outset, it is a good strategy to just define a broad area and a dissertation topic need not be very specific or restrictive. The defined general area must be studied thoroughly and all its facets analyzed in detail. Look for gaps in knowledge which offer an avenue for research. For example, while studying factors responsible for relapse in alcohol dependence, doing a research on employment status of the spouse may be a good idea as it may not have been studied as extensively as other factors. It is needless to say that the student must first be familiar with the disease and all the variables which define its long-term trajectory. Medical science is an evolving field . There are factors of significance that can crop up during course of the study. Therefore, some scope for minor modifications must be kept for unexpected spinoffs. Most of the institutional review board permit minor revision of the protocols though they adhere to their own standards to safeguard interests of the patients. Authors conducted a survey and found that out of 184 submitted, 96 (52%) received requests for minor revision of research protocols. The acceptance resulted in further refinements in research methodology and outcomes.[ 9 ] Therefore, while submitting any protocol, some scope for minor change with probable reasons must be endorsed so that there are no complications while submitting final draft. After discussion with the guide, a suitable title can be given to the research proposal. Selection of the title should be such that it reflects the gist of the whole research and must attract attention of the reader. The title has a long shelf life and may be the first (and many a times, also the only) part of an article that readers see or read. Based on their understanding of the title, readers decide if the article is relevant to them or not.[ 8 ]

Do not bite more than you can chew

The average time allotted for completion of the MD/MS/DNB thesis is 2 years. It may be further reduced due to administrative delays like allotment of thesis guides and selection of topic. It is safe to assume that it takes around 1 month to finalize and submit the protocol and 2 months to write, print, and submit the complete thesis. That leaves just around year and nine months for actual and adequate data collection. All these facts must be kept in mind to ensure genuineness of data.[ 10 ]

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush

Modern medical science thrives on multispecialty approach, and it is not uncommon that students may end up with a research topic involving more than one department or more than one facility of the institution. Studies conducted during Covid pandemic are perfect examples owing to multiple facets of the illness in terms of prevention, pathophysiology, and long-term sequele.[ 11 ] A realistic check for the available resources in terms of infrastructure, availability of study materials, and support from affiliated departments must be done before finalizing the research topic. It is highly unlikely that your thesis is the first or the last research work in a particular area. Negotiating with other department/institution to regularly avail their facilities is often challenging. It is because of the difference in timing, priorities, work culture, and administrative barriers. One way to deal with it is to have a co-guide from that facility/institution. Dissertation reviewers have noticed that students often select topics that become unmanageable during course of their study. It can lead to development of stress and uncertainty about findings at the time of analysis. It was found that institutional support in terms of guidance, access to other departments, and statistical guidance improved overall performance of students and led to timely submission of thesis for publication in journals.[ 12 ]

Avoid controversy

Getting into controversy during initial years of residency is bound to raise stress levels and may dissuade the worker from continuing the research work. Field of medicine is fast evolving on the wheels of technology. Moral and ethical boundaries are slowly getting blurred. Many a times, laws are not revised and many laws are land specific. Therefore, it is a sound practice to familiarize oneself with existing laws and to take care that they are not violated. Central Drug Standard and Control Organization is the regulatory authority responsible for clinical trial oversight, approval, and inspections in India. It functions under Director General of Health Servicesand part of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The information is available online on their website and it is updated regularly. It is a good idea to visit the website and familiarize oneself about the existing laws before undertaking any research work. The website also gives information about National Ethical Guidelines for biomedical and health research involving human participants. Similarly, informed consent needs to be spelt out quite clearly and should be devoid of incomplete information or concealment of vital health related information. It is now mandatory that all research proposals be vetted by institutional ethical committee prior to submission to the university.[ 13 - 15 ]

Conformation with national health policy

Young medical professionals can contribute immensely by their research designs and valuable inputs in ratifying existing health-related measures or to suggest further refinements. This concept must always be kept in mind while formulating any research designs. Researchers of today are planners for tomorrow and their work is reflection of their goal toward health of the nation. In a comprehensive report, it was found that merely 0.5% of the 4230 thesis citations were quoted in policy decision.[ 16 ] The figures may be even lower for this country. The figures are abysmal compared to the magnitude of the research undertaken in centers of higher learning. The success of National Iodine Deficiency Disorder Control Program in India owes credit to sound scientific inquiries beginning in 1956. Despite stiff opposition and cultural bias, the program gained strength and helped in significantly reducing burden of iodine deficiency disorders.[ 17 ] The findings led to significant policy change and legislation supporting sale of only iodized salt in the country.

Scope for publication

Any research work is considered futile if it does not reach the stage of publication in a reputed journal. A genuine research must eventually translate into a research article. It has become increasingly difficult to translate thesis into a scientific publication in an indexed journal due to stringent standards and peer review. In a retrospective analysis of 85 theses, it was found that the conversion rate to peer-reviewed publication was 32.5%. The most common reasons for not publishing were a lack of originality and poor design. The authors further encouraged publication of full length articles as it helped residents in long term.[ 18 ] Originality of research, sound methodology, and analysis of data besides cogency in manuscript writing have been defining factors that promote acceptance of an article in a reputed journal.[ 19 ] Lure of quick publishing in a predatory journal can be damaging in the long run. Young and inexperienced authors publishing in a predatory journal must be aware of the damage of their reputation, of inadequate peer-review processes and that these journals might get closed any time for variety of reasons. Such publishing harms the scientific community in the long run, and hence such an approach is best avoided.[ 20 ] It is prudent practice to check whether an intended journal is predatory or not from the https://predatoryjournals.com/journals/or Beall’s list (https://beallslist.net/). Similarly, increasing the score by “salami” publication is unethical and should be avoided.

Familiarization with research methodology

Imagine you are gifted a do-it-yourself kit to build a plane which can fly. It is meant for an age group of 18 years or more and should take 1 h to assemble. It has all the wheels, gears, levers, motors, wires, motherboard, etc., required to assemble it into a functioning plane. The kit also has a manual. How long should it take to assemble? 60 min? Now imagine trying to assemble without the manual. It may be extremely difficult if not impossible to assemble the plane and is surely bound to take much longer. Research methodology is exactly like a manual for research. A major confounding factor in medical research is student’s conceptual understanding and comfort level with research methodology.[ 21 ] Findings indicate that there were noticeable differences in perspectives regarding what constitutes research methodology and its utility at least during the first year of residency.[ 21 ] Familiarizing with basic research methods is now mandated for all the medical postgraduates before they submit their research proposals, and free certificate online courses are available on their website. Writing a thesis during MD/MS and DNB courses, without having a correct research methodology planning, is practically impossible. Some of the prominent causes of rejection of submitted manuscripts are poor methodology, small sample size, and poor statistical analysis.[ 22 ] Furthermore, postgraduate students choose research methodology based on a number of factors such as familiarity with a method, methodological orientation of the primary supervisor, the domain of study, and the nature of research problems pursued. Participants reported key challenges that they faced in understanding research methodology include framing research questions, understanding the theory or literature and its role in shaping research outcomes, and difficulties in performing data analysis.[ 23 ]

Motivation level of the researcher

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, former president of India, quoted that “Dream is not that you see in sleep but it is something that doesn’t let you sleep.” No research work will reach its logical conclusion till the time a researcher has strong motivation to pursue it. Another factor that defines sustained interest in thesis topic is motivation. As described by David Langford, there exists a continuum from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.[ 24 ] Extrinsic motivation basically refers to a situation wherein the students are ordered (to study). As we move along this continuum, the quality of learning improves consistently with the maturing of the relationship between teacher and student. The culmination of the relationship occurs when the teacher becomes an enabler while the student becomes an active self-learner (intrinsic motivation). The process involves a definitive element of mentorship. In traditional Indian context, Gurukul envisages a firm and enduring relationship between “Guru” (teacher) and “Shishya” (student). Vedas in ancient times were combined with prepared commentaries in the form of “Upanisads.” The term upanisad refers to “Sitting down near a teacher in order to learn.” Though many students have inherent intrinsic motivation, a dynamic “Guru” can really shape the “Shishya.” Though the concept is old, it still remains relevant in modern times because learning medical practice is both art and science and best habits are still passed on to the next generation by trained and experienced teachers.[ 25 ]

WHAT CAN HELP POSTGRADUATE THESIS SELECTION?

The authors of this article put their minds together to devise a questionnaire that can act as a checklist for the residents before they actually submit their draft proposal for submission [ Table 1 ]. The checklist contains 10 questions and the responses can be marked from strongly disagree to strongly agree on a five-point likert scale. The checklist can be self-administered and the responses will give an insight into the lacunae. The residents can gradually work on these lacunae so that they feel at ease during the fantastic journey of scientific research and publication.

Postgraduate thesis topic selection questionnaire

Note: Rate your responses after regular intervals while preparing your research proposal and work on areas that feel difficult

Choosing thesis topic and submitting the protocols is an important milestone in the career of a postgraduate resident. However, its importance cannot be undermined from the fact that it is usually the first scientific pursuit of a medical graduate. Challenges and hurdles are expected but can be overcome with sustained and systematic effort. The authors of this article reviewed the literature concerning this topic and found some key areas which a resident must familiarize with before finalizing their research topic. The postgraduate thesis selection questionnaire can further act as a checklist to facilitate the process.

Financial support and sponsorship

Minds United for Health Sciences & Humanity Trust, IToP STEPS program grant.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

Acknowledgment

Minds United for Health Sciences & Humanity Trust, IToP STEPS program grant for financial support and motivation.

IMAGES

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    Estimating The Comparative Effect Of Loop Diuretics Using Traditional Pharmacoepidemiological And Precision Medicine Statistical Learning Methods. 2022. https: ... Deposit your senior honors thesis. Scholarly Journal, Newsletter or Book. Deposit a complete issue of a scholarly journal, newsletter or book. If you would like to deposit an article ...

  26. UB Awards 320 Biomedical Science Degrees; 35 Earn PhDs

    She noted that biomedical science is one of the broadest areas of medical science and underpins much of modern medicine. "Biomedical scientists are at the heart of multidisciplinary teams in health care. Biomedical research looks at ways to prevent and treat disease," Brashear said. ... Bishop Neuroscience Thesis Award .

  27. Dissertations and Theses

    Dissertations and theses are rigorous reports of original research written in support of academic degrees above the baccalaureate level. Although some countries use the term "thesis" to refer to material written for a doctorate, the term in this chapter is reserved for work at the master's level, while "dissertation" is used for the doctorate.

  28. Genetic Counseling

    Genetic Counseling. There's never been a better time to be a genetic counselor. Opportunities abound in any number of university, hospital, laboratory, research and industry settings.

  29. Selecting a thesis topic: A postgraduate's dilemma

    A dissertation topic in medicine needs to be captivating and must intrigue the reader to look closer into the research work. At the outset, it is a good strategy to just define a broad area and a dissertation topic need not be very specific or restrictive. ... Choosing thesis topic and submitting the protocols is an important milestone in the ...

  30. Breaking into medicine

    Her interest piqued again while pursuing a master's in bioethics at Pitt between her third and final years of medical school. (She expects to defend her thesis and earn that degree this summer.) Her Pitt advisor, Jack Rozel (Res '02, Fel '05), an MD professor of psychiatry and adjunct professor of law, is a forensic psychiatrist.