Commencement 2021

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, offers congratulations to this year’s graduates who earned degrees in biomedical science fields.

UB Awards 278 Biomedical Science Degrees; 33 Earn PhDs

Published June 7, 2021

story by bill bruton

Thirty-three doctoral, 61 master’s and 184 baccalaureate candidates were eligible to receive degrees in biomedical science fields during the May commencement ceremony.

2021 Commencement Video


Five graduate students and eight senior undergraduates were singled out for special honors, including one graduate 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:

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

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, lauded the graduates for their achievements in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that is still with us.

“You are a unique group of health science experts and biomedical scientists. You, unlike your predecessors, have directly experienced early in your careers the horrific impact of such a global menace on the public health, on your own health, and on our daily lives,” Cain said.

“All of us inside and outside the health science professions will never be the same. To the Class of 2021, more than ever, my heartfelt congratulations. You are already seasoned professionals and scientists who understand better than most the leadership roles you must now expect. We look forward and expect you to continue to have leadership roles in American and international biomedical science and research,” Cain added.

A. Scott Weber, PhD, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, conferred the degrees during the May 16 event at UB’s North Campus.

“This last year has presented the world with unprecedented challenges and has highlighted more clearly than at any other time in recent memory how critical medical research and professionals are to our society. As we continue to battle the pandemic and start to return to normal, you will be graduating into professions that need you now more than ever,” Weber said. “Your UB education has prepared you to be flexible and responsive to shifting needs, to meet challenges head on, be lifelong learners and take advantage of opportunities. We are incredibly proud of you and all your achievements.”

Outstanding Graduates Recognized

Biochemistry Dissertation Research Recognition Award

Doctoral graduate Gustavo Della Flora Nunes 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: “Elucidating the Role of Schwann Cell Mitochondria in Myelin Maintenance”

Mentor: M. Laura Feltri, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of biochemistry and neurology and acting director of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute

Dennis Higgins Award for PhD Dissertation Research in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Doctoral graduate Samantha Lee VanEtten 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: “Telomeres and Mitochondria as Potential Targets for the Toxicity of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)”

Mentor: James R. Olson, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology

Roswell Park Graduate Division Award for Excellence in Research

Doctoral graduate Emily Oakley was the recipient of this award for outstanding research for her dissertation titled “Finite Element Guided Dosimetry for Interstitial Photodynamic Therapy”

Mentor: Gal Shafirstein, DSc

The Dean’s Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research

Doctoral graduate Benjamin A. Rein won this award that recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

Dissertation: “Part I: Synaptic and Molecular Mechanisms in 16p11.2 Copy Number Variations; Part II: Advancement of Behavioral Assays for Sociability”

Mentor: Zhen Yan, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of physiology and biophysics

The Bishop Neuroscience Thesis Award

Doctoral graduates Dejan Jakimovski and Benjamin A. Rein received the award, which recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

Jakimovski was honored for his dissertation “The Effect of Cardiovascular Health on Multiple Sclerosis Disease Outcomes”

Mentor: Robert Zivadinov, MD, PhD, professor of neurology

Rein was honored for his dissertation “Part I: Synaptic and Molecular Mechanisms in 16p11.2 Copy Number Variations; Part II: Advancement of Behavioral Assays for Sociability”

Mentor: Zhen Yan, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of physiology and biophysics

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

MD/PhD graduate Daniel Jaremko was honored for his dissertation “Identifying Critical Interactions in the Unique Trypanosoma brucei 5S Ribonucleoprotein Complex and Their Role in Ribosome Biogenesis”

Mentor: Noreen Williams, PhD, professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology

SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

Jacqueline Hannan of Poughkeepsie, New York, was 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.

Hannan graduates with a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering with a minor in human factors.

Hannan served as president of the Honors Student Council for two years, a student leader for first-year engineering courses, a peer mentor for multiple campus groups, and as an undergraduate researcher in four laboratories.

After leading a major research study about fairness perceptions and bias in algorithm decision-making, she was first author of a research publication submitted to Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society (AIES) 2021, a top computer science and ethics conference.

She also dedicated multiple months to raising more than $6,000 for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center while at the same time training for the TCS New York City Marathon. She completed the world’s largest marathon as the youngest finisher of the race. 

Undergraduate Outstanding Senior Awards

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

Kathryn Maraszek

Biomedical Sciences
Ali Muhammad Khan

Laurel J. Kastner

Medical Technology
Katrina Elizabeth Fritzinger

Emma Melissa Buckler

Nuclear Medicine Technology
Christopher J. Wintermute

Pharmacology and Toxicology
Alaina Marie Wojciechowski

Campagnari is Commencement Speaker

Commencement speaker Anthony A. Campagnari, PhD, senior associate dean for research and graduate education, told the graduates to find their passion, something he discovered later than many researchers do.

While working in retail two years after graduating from St. Bonaventure University with a bachelor’s degree in biology, he applied for a research laboratory position at the VA Medical Center in Buffalo that changed his life.

“From the moment I walked in that lab, something changed for me. It was like a light went on. Scientific research was exciting, challenging. I could not wait to wake up every morning and go to work. Both academics and research became a passion for me,” Campagnari said. “I began to wonder if it would be possible for me to run my own research lab someday. The only way to find out, was to go back to school, and that’s exactly what I did.”

That started an association at UB that has spanned four decades, first as a student and later as a faculty member.

“I realized that I had the opportunity to discover something, to help someone, to teach, to train and possibly make a difference. And that desire still drives me to this very day,” Campagnari said. “It certainly took me awhile to find my calling, but there’s nothing better than waking up every morning knowing no matter what challenge lies ahead, you get to do something you truly love.”

“Today, I challenge you to use your talent to make a difference. The people here today, they need you. Society needs you. The world needs you. So please, use your talent to make a difference, no matter where it is. I sincerely hope I have used mine to make a difference,” Campagnari added.

A SUNY Distinguished Professor of microbiology and immunology as well as medicine, Campagnari completed his master’s degree in natural science, a doctoral degree in tumor immunology and a postdoctoral fellowship in infectious diseases.

Campagnari is responsible for facilitating research and graduate education in the basic biomedical sciences. He also oversees and supports the doctoral program in biomedical sciences, which is the program in the Jacobs School.

His research focuses on bacterial virulence factors and biofilm-associated components expressed by two human pathogens: Moraxella catarrhalis and Streptococcus pneumoniae. More recently he has established collaborative projects involving novel antimicrobial therapies for challenging infections that do not respond to current treatments.