Commencement 2024

Lauryn Alexandria Scott.

Lauryn Alexandria Scott, a biomedical sciences undergraduate student, is all smiles as she walks across the stage during the May 19 biomedical sciences commencement ceremony.

UB Awards 320 Biomedical Science Degrees; 35 Earn PhDs

By Dirk Hoffman

Published May 29, 2024

Thirty-five doctoral, 76 master’s and 209 baccalaureate candidates were eligible to receive degrees in biomedical science fields during the May commencement ceremony.


2024 Commencement Video

Six graduate students and nine senior undergraduates were singled out for special honors, including four graduates 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: cancer pathology and prevention, cancer sciences, immunology, and molecular pharmacology and cancer therapeutics.

Fifteen of the doctoral degrees and eight of the master’s degrees were awarded in Roswell Park’s programs.

Allison Brashar, MD, MBA.

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, congratulates the Class of 2024.

Lessons Learned From Recent Solar Eclipse

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, welcomed attendees to the May 19 event at UB’s Center for the Arts and addressed the graduates.

“It fills my heart with immense joy to see all of you gathered here today,” she said.

“In the face of the challenges that have beset us in recent times, these bright scholars and scientists have exhibited extraordinary resilience, determination and perseverance in their academic endeavors. I am confident that these qualities will serve as guiding lights as they embark upon their journeys in their respective fields.”

She noted that biomedical science is one of the broadest areas of medical science and underpins much of modern medicine.

“Biomedical scientists are at the heart of multidisciplinary teams in health care. Biomedical research looks at ways to prevent and treat disease,” Brashear said. “Your innovative approaches and unwavering dedication will continue to push the boundaries of scientific discoveries and technology, leading to a brighter and healthier future for all of us.”

In his address, UB President Satish K. Tripathi, PhD, told the graduates they could learn a lot from the recent solar eclipse that generated excitement in Western New York in early April.

“Allow me to share three tips of advice gathered from the path of totality,” he quipped.

“Reconnect with the natural world, as often as possible. Instead of taking selfies, take time for self-reflection,” he said. “When you give wide berth to the stressors of modern life, you allow yourself space to find both your place in the world and your responsibility to it.”

“Do not regret circumstances beyond your control,” Tripathi added, noting the sunny days leading up to the eclipse, but the extreme cloudiness that persisted over much of WNY on April 8, the day of the event. “Notwithstanding the uncooperative weather, we all experienced a breathtaking moment. Magnify your disappointments and you miss occasions for learning, enrichment and wonder.”

“Lastly, use your expertise for the greater good. When you apply what you have learned for others’ benefit, you put your UB education to its highest purpose,” he said.

Mark O’Brian, Haley Hobble and John Panepinto.

Doctoral graduate Haley Victoria Hobble won two separate graduate awards for her research and dissertation. She is flanked by Mark R. O’Brian, PhD, left, and John C. Panepinto, PhD.

Outstanding Graduates Recognized

Biochemistry Graduate Student Research Achievement Award

Doctoral graduate Haley Victoria Hobble 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: “Intrafamily Heterooligomerization of the N-Terminal Methyltransferase METTL11A”

Mentor: Christine E. Schaner-Tooley, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry

Roswell Park Graduate Division Award for Excellence in Research

Doctoral graduate Abigail Cornwell was the recipient of this award for outstanding research for her dissertation titled “Impact of Benzodiazepines on the Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Tumor Microenvironment”

Mentor: Michael Feigin, PhD, associate professor of oncology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Dean’s Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research

Doctoral graduate Haley Victoria Hobble was the winner of this award that recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

She was honored for her dissertation: “Intrafamily Heterooligomerization of the N-Terminal Methyltransferase METTL11A”

Mentor: Christine E. Schaner-Tooley, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry

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

Doctoral graduate Katherine Shannon Wackowski was honored for her dissertation “Cooperation of RESC Proteins in Trypanosome RNA Editing and Holoenzyme Dynamics”

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

Dennis Higgins Award for PhD Dissertation Research in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Doctoral graduate Shirley Xu was honored for her dissertation “Troponin-Mediated Autoimmune Mechanisms of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor-Induced Myocarditis”

Mentor: Umesh Sharma, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine

Bishop Neuroscience Thesis Award

Doctoral graduate Richard Adam Seidman was honored for his dissertation “Oscillatory Calcium Mediated Regulation of Human Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Cells”

Mentor: Fraser J. Sim, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology

The Structural Biology Award for Excellence in Dissertation Research in Memory of Dr. Robert H. Blessing

Doctoral graduate Nicholas David Clark was honored for his dissertation “Structure/Function Studies of Virulence Factors from Periodontal Pathogens and Membrane Sphingolipid Hydroxylases”

Mentor: Michael G. Malkowski, PhD, professor and chair of structural biology

Four SUNY Chancellor’s Award winners with Jennifer Surtees, PhD.

The four undergraduate SUNY Chancellor’s Award winners, from left, Bryan R. Renzoni, Lea Kyle, Rachel Esther Sanyu and Sarah Bukhari, along with Jennifer A. Surtees, PhD.

SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

Sarah Bukhari, Lea Kyle, Bryan R. Renzoni and Rachel Esther Sanyu were recognized with the SUNY 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.

Bukhari graduates with a bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry. She is an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Jennifer A. Surtees, PhD, professor of biochemistry. Bukhari secured funding from the Experiential Learning Network and a Mentored Research micro-credential.

Beyond academics, the Grand Island, New York, native is deeply involved in community engagement, serving as both the volunteer coordinator and vice president of the largest student-run pre-health organization, the Association of Pre-Medical Students, and was awarded a Community Engagement micro-credential and gathering 500+ volunteer hours.

With dual roles as dance coach and social media coordinator for the Pakistani Student Association, she fosters a network of communities to embrace diversity and celebrate traditions.

A native of Martville, New York, Kyle is a University Honors College Scholar who graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry with minors in both physics and public health.

She has been a Student Association, Recreation Department, Student Engagement and TASS Center employee. She also is the current president of UB Rotaract, a volunteering club on campus.

Kyle is also a student researcher in the Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyElizabeth A. Wohlfert, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, focusing on the effects of chronic inflammation on muscle function due to chronic infection..

Renzoni, of East Amherst, New York, graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry. He is a University Honors College Presidential Scholar and Honors College Ambassador.

A BioXFEL Scholar, he has received multiple research internship positions and worked in two different laboratories, contributing to work on the development of novel organic and organometallic compounds with applications as cancer therapies.

Renzoni has also served as a co-chair of the G14 Leadership Summit, president and executive adviser of UB ChemClub, and both assistant music director and music director of The Enchords, UB’s all-gender a cappella group.

Sanyu, an international student from Uganda, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology and toxicology.

She is an Honors College Scholar who conducted oncology research within the lab of Wendy Huss, PhD, at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and at Johnson & Johnson, where she earned the 2023 Inspire Spotlight Award.

Sanyu has also worked as a student assistant in the Office of Interprofessional Education and an honors peer mentor. 

She is a founder of a health care app and is involved with the community through her work with Suubi Cancer Relief and Hillside Family of Agencies.

Sanyu also loves to dance and was a member of the UBMystique and 8-Count dance teams.

Undergraduate Outstanding Senior Awards

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

Sarah Bukhari

Biomedical Sciences
Alexis Krayevsky

Tanvi Dixit

Medical Technology
Eva Wisniewski

Leah Heiler

Nuclear Medicine Technology
Kelly Mahan

Pharmacology and Toxicology
Rachel Esther Sanyu

Styliani-Anna E. Tsirka, PhD.

Commencement speaker Styliani-Anna (Stella) E. Tsirka, PhD, tells the graduates to never lose sight of the wonder and awe that first drew them to the biomedical sciences.

Keynote Theme One of Compassion, Resilience

Commencement speaker Styliani-Anna (Stella) E. Tsirka, PhD, the Miriam and David Donoho Distinguished Professor of pharmacological sciences and vice dean for faculty affairs at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, spoke about empathy and persistence.

“Beyond the technical skills and academic achievements that you have earned and will continue to earn, what will set you apart is your capacity for empathy, for compassion, your ethical responsibility,” she said.

“In the pursuit of scientific advancement, try not to lose sight of the human element and the living organisms whose lives may be impacted by our work.”

Tsirka noted that biomedical scientists have a serious duty to use their expertise to make society better, alleviate suffering and to promote the health and well-being of all people, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status.

“If you decide to further pursue scientific inquiry, do remember that you will need persistence and resilience,” she said. “Experimental science is not for the faint of heart.”

She remarked that her lab members often talk about the fact that it is called “research” instead of just “search.”

“The majority of our experiments will not be successful, but the ones that provide that ‘eureka moment’ will last a lifetime,” Tsirka assured the graduates. “Remember that setbacks are valuable lessons that shape the way for future success.”

Tsirka encouraged the graduates to embrace the idea of lifelong learning.

“To remain at the forefront of your field, you must remain curious and receptive of new ideas,” she said.

“Importantly, science is also delicate. Continue to approach it with integrity and rigor.”