Commencement 2019

UB Awards 219 Biomedical Science Degrees; 29 Earn PhDs

Published June 5, 2019 This content is archived.

story by bill bruton

Twenty-nine doctoral, 36 master’s and 154 baccalaureate candidates were eligible to receive degrees in biomedical science fields during the May commencement ceremony.

2019 Commencement Video


Five graduate students and eight senior undergraduates were singled out for special honors, including two 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, molecular and cellular biophysics, molecular pharmacology and cancer therapeutics, and immunology.

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 Sriganesh Ramachandra Rao 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: “Studies on the Role of Sterol and Non-Sterol Isoprenoids in Retinal Health and Disease”

Mentor: Steven J. Fliesler, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Meyer H. Riwchun Endowed Chair Professor of ophthalmology and UB Distinguished Professor of biochemistry

Dennis Higgins Award for PhD Dissertation Research in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Kerri Damion Pryce, PhD ’18, 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: “The Regulation of Ion Channels by Magi-1: Implications in Pain”

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

Roswell Park Graduate Division Award for Excellence in Research

Kelly L. Singel, PhD ’17, was the recipient of this award for outstanding research for her dissertation titled “Mature Neutrophils Suppress T Cell Immunity in the Tumor Microenvironment of Advanced Epithelial Ovarian Cancer”

Mentor: Brahm H. Segal, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases

The Dean’s Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research

Doctoral graduate Lucie Kafkova won this award that recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

Dissertation: “Functional Characterization of T. Brucei Protein Arginine Methyltransferase 1”

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

The Bishop Neuroscience Thesis Award

Doctoral graduate Lakeisha A. Lewter was honored for her dissertation “Characterization of Novel Alpha2/Alpha3 Subtype-Selective GABAa Positive Allosteric Modulators.”

The award recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

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

SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

Two students 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.

Jacob M. Bleasdale of Depew, New York, graduates with a bachelor of science degree in biomedical sciences with minors in pharmacology and toxicology, as well as public health.

Bleasdale is a University Honors College scholar and has conducted research at the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, as well as the Erie County Medical Center.

He served as a teaching assistant in UB’s Department of Biological Sciences and University Honors College, an intern in the UB Intercultural and Diversity Center, and a health educator with the Erie County Department of Health.

Katherine O’Donnell of Williamsville, New York, graduates with a bachelor of science degree in biomedical sciences and a minor in nutrition.

A University Honors College scholar, O’Donnell is a published author, president of the Association of Pre-Medical Students and a tour guide for UB’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

She has presented her research on nutrition and exercise topics at the annual conference of the American College of Sports Medicine. O'Donnell is also an artist and a teaching assistant at Buffalo String Works.

Undergraduate Outstanding Senior Awards

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

Stephen D. Carro

Biomedical Sciences
Lauren A. Smith

Lindsey J. Carlsen

Medical Technology
Gabrielle N. Cervo

Nuclear Medicine Technology
Priscilla V. Bencebi

Pharmacology and Toxicology
Morgan B. Nalesnik

NINDS Branch Chief is Commencement Speaker

The commencement speaker was Kenneth H. Fischbeck, MD, National Institutes of Health Distinguished Investigator and chief of the Neurogenetics Branch of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

His research group is identifying the causes and studying the mechanisms of hereditary neurological and neuromuscular diseases with the goal of developing effective treatment for these disorders.

Fischbeck received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Harvard University and his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University. After a medical internship at Case Western Reserve University and a neurology residency at the University of California at San Francisco, he did postdoctoral research on muscular dystrophy at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1982, he joined the faculty in the Neurology Department at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. In 1998, he became Neurogenetics Branch chief at NINDS.

He received the Cotzias Award from the American Academy of Neurology and the Jacoby Award from the American Neurological Association, and he was elected to the Institute of Medicine.