Commencement 2022

Commencement speaker Daniel J. Kosman, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of biochemistry, addresses the Class of 2022.

UB Awards 295 Biomedical Science Degrees; 28 Earn PhDs

Published June 7, 2022

story by bill bruton

Twenty-eight doctoral, 62 master’s and 205 baccalaureate candidates were eligible to receive degrees in biomedical science fields during the May commencement ceremony.

2022 Commencement Video


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

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, implores the graduates to make an impact with their research.

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, congratulated the graduates for their achievements while also remembering those killed in the horrific mass shooting at the Tops Friendly Market just 1.5 miles from the Jacobs School building.

“As our bewildered society watched the headlines about the worldwide pandemic and racial injustices, you pressed on, and you responded with strength, perseverance and flexibility. Most recently we were shocked when hate, bigotry and racism infiltrated our own community,“ Brashear said. "This happened in our own backyard. We are part of the Buffalo community. These are our neighbors, our patients, our friends, our family.”

“As current and future scientists, it is our duty to fight the hatred and falsehoods that indoctrinate others and give them false purpose to commit such acts,“ Brashear added. “Racism, bigotry and hatred must not be allowed to stand. We must raise our voices as one and make clear, by our words and by our actions, that hate has no place here.”

She highlighted the collaborative efforts the graduates embraced that they will carry with them in their future schooling or careers.

“At UB, you learned that teamwork is essential, that a diverse group working together finds better solutions to some of the most complex problems. It’s that type of collaboration that drives scientific advances to better help our world,” Brashear said. “That important team-science collaboration gives us hope for better days to come. I truly believe that team science is why we are able to assemble here like we are today. Without teamwork, we would not have so quickly addressed the issues of the pandemic. It was that collaborative team science that advanced testing, vaccines and treatment. We know that diversity of thought contributes to better solutions.”

Brashear implored the graduates to make an impact with their research.

“Today’s graduates are integral to finding answers for pressing research questions in biology, medicine and public health. In this audience, new treatments for cancer, aging, addiction and infectious disease — among many others — will be found. I am confident we will see UB graduates making a difference in the scientific community,” Brashear added.

A. Scott Weber, PhD, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, conferred the degrees during the May 22 event at UB’s Center for the Arts.

“In the time you’ve been at UB, our country and the world have experienced many challenges. Graduates, you are our hope for the future. You have proven that you are courageous, tenacious and incredibly resilient,” Weber said. “Each of you takes the capacity to change the world going forward, and I urge you to take what you have learned and apply it for the betterment of society.”

Outstanding Graduates Recognized

Doctoral graduate Rasheen Gartrell DeMille Powell II has his hands full after winning the Dennis Higgins Award and the Dean’s Award.

Biochemistry Dissertation Research Recognition Award

Doctoral graduate Alyssa Lyn Kearly 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: “Regulation of Ets1 Expression in Mouse and Human B Cells”

Mentor: Lee Ann Garrett-Sinha, PhD, professor of biochemistry

Dennis Higgins Award for PhD Dissertation Research in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Doctoral graduate Rasheen Gartrell DeMille Powell II won this award, which recognizes dissertation research that has culminated in presentations at national and international meetings, publications, research grant fellowships and awards of excellence. Recipients are committed to community service and collegiality within the scientific community.

Dissertation: “Nococeptor Endocytosis Regulates Inflammatory Pain”

Mentor: Arin Bhattacharjee, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology

Roswell Park Graduate Division Award for Excellence in Research

Doctoral graduate Sean Henry Colligan was the recipient of this award for outstanding research for his dissertation titled “Mitigating Myeloid-Driven Pathways of Immune Suppression to Enhance Cancer Immunotherapy Efficacy.”

Mentor: Scott Abrams, PhD, professor of oncology

The Dean’s Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research

Doctoral graduates Rasheen Gartrell DeMille Powell II and Jamal B. Williams were the winners of this award that recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

Powell’s dissertation: “Nococeptor Endocytosis Regulates Inflammatory Pain”

Powell’s mentor: Arin Bhattacharjee, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology

Williams’ dissertation: “Transcriptomic and Epigenomic Analysis Reveals Convergent Synaptic Deficits in Alzheimer’s Disease”

Williams’ mentor: Zhen Yan, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of physiology and biophysics

The Bishop Neuroscience Thesis Award

MD/PhD graduate Tom Avraham Fuchs received the award, which recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

Fuchs was honored for his dissertation “Conscientiousness, Cognitive Reserve, and the Human Brain Connectome in Multiple Sclerosis.”

Mentors: Ralph H. Benedict, PhD, professor of neurology, and Michael G. Dwyer III, PhD, associate professor of neurology and biomedical informatics

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

Doctoral graduate Anna Kathleen Stovall was honored for her dissertation “The Role of the eIF2 Kinase Gcn2 in Nitrogen Metabolism and Virulence Factor Production in Cryptococcus neoformans.”

Mentor: John C. Panepinto, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology

SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

Siana Jacobs of Wheatfield, New York, and Diana Olivares-Salazar of Brooklyn, New York, were recognized with the 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.

Jacobs graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in music performance with nutrition and mathematics minors.

Jacobs is a University Honors College Scholar who is a teaching assistant, tutor and peer mentor who serves as vice president of community service for UB’s chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

She was a member of the choir, orchestra and flute ensemble, and previously worked as a research assistant in a smoking research lab. Jacobs also works as a pharmacy technician and volunteers at a pediatric urgent care.

Olivares-Salazar graduates with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts in biomedical sciences and Spanish, respectively.

She has studied abroad three times, been a chemistry and Spanish tutor, and worked as a medical paralegal and as a Spanish interpreter for a law firm.

Olivares-Salazar is a health care specialist in the U.S. Army National Guard and conducts military funeral honors for deceased veterans.

She also now works at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center as a pharmacy technician.

Undergraduate Outstanding Senior Awards

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

Sarah L. Comer

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Biomedical Informatics
Morgan L. Mitchell

Biomedical Sciences
G. Reid Minier

Bradley B. Balk

Medical Technology
Jim Michael Bertulfo

Alexander Paul Gennaro

Nuclear Medicine Technology
Connor Hileman

Pharmacology and Toxicology
Caitlin Pontonio

Kosman is Commencement Speaker

Commencement speaker Daniel J. Kosman, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of biochemistry, told the graduates to find more joy in their lives.

“Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is a response to an external outcome — getting a raise at work or seeing the face of your newborn — happiness is a conditional if/then thing,” Kosman said. “But joy is something you feel when you are doing something you are meant to do. Follow your bliss. Work to discover what you enjoy, and do more of it.”

“My goal here today is to offer a mindful take on this occasion,” said Kosman, who wove thoughts and quotes from such seemingly disparate personalities as Marv Levy, Muhammad Ali, Matthew McConaughey, original Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe and even Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Woods from the film “Legally Blonde” to make his points.

  • “Comparing yourself to others is the most pointless thing ever. Really, where does that get you?”
  • “You can’t please everyone, and why would you even try?”
  • “Self-awareness is important. Without it, you forfeit your life choices to other people. Trust yourselves to be your own guide.”
  • “There is an expiration date for blaming the past. Wouldn’t striving for the future be more productive than dwelling on the past?”
  • “Being different is cool.”

Kosman, a nationally known brain researcher, also extolled the virtues of mindfulness and a quiet mind.

“The quiet mind hears that urge for fight or flight, but doesn’t let it dictate the conversation. Thoughts and emotions will rise without being asked,” said Kosman, a 2009 recipient of the Jacobs School’s prestigious Stockton Kimball Award. “Mindfulness can be thought of as a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings and surrounding environment, with the absence of expectation or judgment. One of the most powerful aspects of mindfulness is helping you to identify patterns or habits that aren’t working in your life, and to fix them. Define your own success. Don’t let others do it for you.”

Kosman and the researchers in his lab have studied in detail the role of the amyloid precursor protein and alpha-synuclein in iron and manganese trafficking and how these functions are related to these proteins‘ roles in neurodegenerative disease.

Kosman earned a doctoral degree from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College — both in chemistry.