The Cancer Biology Graduate Program Announces the Convocation of Their First Two Graduates

Allison Lytle

In 2016, President Obama included a 215 million dollar investment into his yearly fiscal budget as part of a precision medicine initiative to focus primarily on oncology. The goals of this project were to advance biomedical research and provide clinicians the tools to offer cancer patients a treatment plan personalized for their disease. Physicians would have the ability to use molecularly targeted therapies tailored to an individual’s cancer based on genetic mutations as well as molecular changes. 

   The doctoral program in Cancer Biology (CB) here at Emory University has answered the call accepting their first class of students back in 2011. The CB program has recruited diverse faculty members with backgrounds in both basic science and clinical research, providing a learning platform for their students with excellent multidisciplinary training opportunities. The goal of the CB program is to produce exceptional leaders in the field, with a strong foundation in cancer biology and basic research techniques. The program is also based out of the Winship Cancer Institute, offering students outstanding opportunities to participate in translational research. Recently, the Cancer Biology program had the privilege of announcing the graduation of their first two doctoral candidates from the inaugural class of 2011. 


   Gina Alesi earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan. With a personal connection to cancer, Dr. Alesi was motivated to pursue a career in research and joined the laboratory of Dr. Sumin Kang in 2011. She was a recipient of an NRSA award and has several middle author papers focusing on the molecular mechanisms of tumorigenesis and tumor growth. In April of 2016, Dr. Alesi published a first author paper in Oncogene focusing on microtubule dysregulation and its role in cancer cell invasion and tumor cell metastasis. She will be pursuing a career in the private sector and has accepted a consulting position at the prestigious firm The Boston Consulting Group here in Atlanta. 

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   Scott Wilkinson received his Bachelor of Science degree from Berry College in 2009. He was also a recipient of an NRSA award and joined the laboratory of Dr. Adam Marcus who studies tumor escape and metastasis. Dr. Wilkinson has a first author paper in Molecular Biology Of The Cell that focuses on defective kinase activity and its role in cancer cell invasion, with a second manuscript currently under review. He is actively involved in cancer education through both the Biology department and the Pre-College Program here at Emory. Additionally, he volunteers for Students for Science, a community outreach organization that brings science education to elementary schools. Dr. Wilkinson has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship position at the NIH in the laboratory of Dr. Adam Sowalsky, focusing on genomic changes in prostate cancer that contribute to cancer progression and drug resistance.

   Both Dr. Alesi and Dr. Wilkinson are exemplary of the hard work and effort the CB program has invested in their students. Their achievements and future opportunities reflect the outstanding research and training opportunities available to PhD candidates. We are excited to see what future graduates will achieve as they complete the Cancer Biology graduate program here at Emory.