Commencement 2018

UB Awards 235 Biomedical Science Degrees; 20 Earn PhDs

Published May 25, 2018 This content is archived.

story by bill bruton

Twenty doctoral, 42 master’s and 173 baccalaureate candidates were eligible to receive degrees in biomedical science fields during the May commencement ceremony.

2018 Commencement Video


Five graduate students and eight senior undergraduates were singled out for special honors, including three graduates who received Chancellor’s Awards, the highest State University of New York undergraduate honor.

Graduates completed work in 11 departments or programs of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences:

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

Charles F. Zukoski, PhD, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, conferred the degrees during the event at the Center for the Arts on the North Campus.

Outstanding Graduates Recognized

Graduate Dissertation Research Awards

Biochemistry Dissertation Research Recognition Award

Doctoral graduate Michelle Kathleen Scotland 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: “Deciphering the Mechanisms of DNA Polymerase Switching in Escherichia Coli”

Mentor: Mark Sutton, PhD, professor of biochemistry

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

Doctoral graduate Michaelle Chojnacki received this award for her outstanding dissertation research; related publications and presentations; and overall academic achievement.

Dissertation: “Functional Interactions of HPV DNA Replication Proteins E1 and E2 With Cellular DNA Polymerase Epsilon”

Mentor: Thomas Melendy, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology and biochemistry

Dean’s Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research
Dennis Higgins Award for PhD Dissertation Research in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Doctoral graduate Justin Nicholas Siemian won both awards for his dissertation, “Further Characterization of Imidazoline I2 Receptor Agonist-Induced Antinociception.”

The Higgins Award 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. The Dean’s Award recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

Mentor: Jun-Xu Li, MD, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology

The Bishop Neuroscience Thesis Award

Doctoral graduate Maulasri Bhatta was honored for her dissertation “The Role of Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Angiogenic Progenitor Cell-Mediated Vascular Repair in Diabetes.”

The award recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

Mentor: Sarah X. Zhang, MD, professor of ophthalmology

SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

Three students — one who earned a doctorate and two who earned bachelor’s degrees — 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.

Mary K. Canty of Buffalo graduates with a doctorate of philosophy in biomedical engineering. A Western New York Prosperity Fellow, Canty received the Woman in Technology Award at InfoTech WNY’s 2017 Buffalo Emerging Technology Awards Showcase.

She was a Presidential Fellow in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, where she conducted research on preventing orthopaedic implant infections as part of the Kenneth A. Krackow, MD, Orthopaedic Research Laboratory.

Mikayla C. Fayo of Washingtonville, New York, graduates with a bachelor of science degree in biomedical sciences and a bachelor of arts in psychology.

Fayo is a community assistant and a mentor for the Leadership House living-learning community. In addition, she has been a Leadership House resident adviser, a research assistant for the Department of Psychology and a teaching assistant for the Department of Biological Sciences. She also served as vice president of UB Amnesty International and was an active member of the UB Choir.

Katherine R. Ups of Wollongong, Australia, graduates with a bachelor of science in biomedical sciences.

A member of the UB women’s basketball team, Ups helped lead the Bulls to the Sweet 16 following upset victories in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. In addition, she helped her team win the 2016 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship and made the MAC’s Distinguished Scholar List multiple years.

Twice named to the All-MAC Academic Team, Ups was a 2016 nominee and 2017 winner of the Chrisy Dickerson Unsung Hero Award. She has consistently been involved in community service in the Buffalo area.

Undergraduate Outstanding Senior Awards

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

Andrulisa Z. Jones

Biomedical Sciences
Arsalan Haghdel

Chelsea Marie Cotter

Medical Technology
Alison Claire Jarvi

Nuclear Medicine Technology
Fletcher James Macomb

Pharmacology and Toxicology
Sierra Blaise D’Ettorre

COPD Expert is Commencement Speaker

Lauren O. Bakaletz, PhD, director of the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, was the commencement speaker. 

Bakaletz and her team study the molecular mechanisms that underlie polymicrobial infections of the respiratory tract, including otitis media (ear infections), sinusitis, exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis.

Bakaletz is also vice president of basic sciences, holds the Tillie E. Coleman Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research and was named an Ohio State University College of Medicine Distinguished Professor in 2013. She is a professor of pediatrics and otolaryngology.

The Bakaletz laboratory’s long-standing interest has been the design and testing of vaccine candidates for the prevention and resolution of otitis media and exacerbations of COPD, including developing a method to effectively immunize against ear infections noninvasively by placing an adhesive bandage onto the skin just behind the ear. 

The lab also studies biofilms, which are communities of highly resistant bacteria that are believed responsible for the majority of chronic and recurrent human and animal diseases, in an attempt to identify novel targets for biofilm disruption and disease resolution.