Celebrating IGG Graduates

Please join us in our celebration as we highlight our IGG graduates.
The profiles are sectioned by degree type:

Doctor of Philosophy

Austin Huffman

Austin Huffman
Mentor: Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil

Thesis Title: Immune Dysregulation in Pancreatic Cancer
Research and Lab Description: My thesis described mechanisms by which pancreatic cancer suppresses the immune system and how to reverse them using immunotherapy.  The Vonderheide Lab studies the interaction between the immune system and pancreatic cancer, spanning basic biology, translational studies, and clinical trials. 
Post PhD Plans: I am currently a Consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, where I specialize in Healthcare (pharma, public health, etc).  
Mentor Comment: Austin studied the biology of T cell immunity in cancer, leveraging the power of single cell sorting to find new insight. One of the most highly collaborative and generous students I have had the pleasure to mentor. Austin is also a model for a discerning persistence in science – keeping digging until you find the answer.  Wishing Austin all the best in his next exciting adventure!

Lexus Johnson

Lexus Johnson
Mentor(s): Andy Minn, MD; Carl June, MD

Thesis Title: Cellular Localization of Inflammatory Signaling as a Determinant of Tumor-Immune Biology
Research and Lab Description: My thesis was focused on the role of danger signaling within the tumor microenvironment and integrating these signals into novel CAR-T therapies. The Minn and June labs are wonderful places to grow and provided me amazing opportunities to do science around incredibly inspiring people. When in doubt, the answer is always ISGs.
Post PhD Plans: Post-PhD I'm working on starting a company based (in part) on my thesis work. If that fails, there's always the circus.
Mentor Comment: Lex was a pioneer in the lab. His creativity connected disparate scientific ideas, his ability to work with others brought people together, and his fortitude propelled scientific progress. - Andy

Ruth-Anne Langan Pai

Ruth-Anne Langan Pai
Mentor(s): David Fajgenbaum, MD; Taku Kambayashi, MD, PhD

Thesis Title: Identifying and Targeting Mechanisms of Immune Cell Activation in iMCD-TAFRO

Jacob Paiano

Jacob Paiano
Mentors: Andre Nussenzweig, PhD

Thesis Title: Genome Integrity and Cell Division: Next-Generation Answers to Enduring Questions
Research and Lab Description: My thesis work used innovative next-generation sequencing methods to study endogenous DNA damage during 1) mammalian meiotic recombination and 2) mitosis of stressed human cancer cells. The Laboratory of Genome Integrity at NIH/NCI comprises four independent labs whose interests span diverse topics related to genome function, including cancer, development, stem cells, and telomeres.
Post-PhD Plans: I am currently a postdoc in the Perrimon Lab at Harvard Medical School, where I am using multidisciplinary approaches to study inter-organ communication and organismal stress responses in Drosophila.
Mentor Comment: Jacob is a “scientists” scientist- inquisitive, perseverant, generous, stubborn but open to good ideas, simply unstoppable.

Sophia Reeder

Sophia Reeder
Mentor: David Weiner, PhD
Public Health Certificate Program (PHCP) Certificate

Thesis Title: Vaccine Mediated Immunity to Malaria 
Research and Lab Description: My thesis work focused on the development of DNA vaccines for malaria, and understanding the immunological mechanisms behind them. The Weiner lab develops novel nucleic acid vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases and cancer.       
Post PhD Plans: I am a post-doc with Dr. Alexis Kaushansky at Seattle Children's Hospital.
Mentor Comment: Sophia was a force at the bench developing new approaches for Malaria vaccines and she created many versions to compare and contrast including self assembling DNA forms that protected in animals in challenge.  She also left a mark on the lab through her can do attitude and her insightful discussions.  It was an exceptional experience to have her as a member in the lab and expect her to do great science in Seattle!

Tanner Robertson

Tanner Robertson
Mentor: Janis Burkhardt, PhD

Thesis Title: Lymphocyte Egress Signal Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Promotes ERM-Guided, BLEB-Based Migration



Glendon Wu

Glendon Wu
Mentor: Craig Bassing, PhD
Saul Winegrad Dissertation Award Recipient

Thesis Title: Vb Recombination Signal Sequences Mediate Monoallelic and Monogenic TCRb Gene Assembly: Implications for the TCRb Repertoire and Allelic Exclusion in Health and Disease
Research and Lab Description: To this day, how the phenomenon of antigen receptor allelic exclusion is mechanistically achieved continues to puzzle immunologists. In my thesis work, I found that weak V beta recombination signal sequences represent one mechanism that enforces the stochastic assembly of complete TCR beta genes in a monoallelic fashion, which may have implications for lymphocyte genome stability and lymphomagenesis. The Bassing Lab is interested in uncovering the molecular mechanisms that underpin antigen receptor allelic exclusion and the subsequent physiological consequences when the "one lymphocyte, one receptor" rule is violated.
Post PhD Plans: Currently, I am a post-doctoral fellow in Isaac Chiu's lab at Harvard Medical School where I am investigating the bidirectional crosstalk between peripheral sensory neurons and immune cells. 
Mentor Comment: Glendon is an extremely dedicated and gifted scientist with exceptionally strong skills in the lab designing, implementing, and interpreting experiments and outside the lab in communicating clearly complex and specialized concepts and experiments to a diverse audience of scientists.  The novel independent dissertation research that Glendon conducted has had a major impact on the field, providing unprecedented advances into understanding molecular mechanisms that govern inter-allelic control of antigen receptor gene assembly to create lymphocytes expressing mono-specific receptors for antigens. His work also opens a new approach to answer a 50 years old question in immunology, why is it important for lymphocytes to express only one type of antigen receptor. 

Combined Degree, MD-PhD

Ruth Choa

Ruth Choa
Mentor: Taku Kambayashi, MD, PhD

Thesis Title: Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin Induces Adipose Loss through Sebum Hypersecretion
Research and Lab Description: My thesis work studied the cellular and metabolic mechanisms by which a cytokine called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) causes adipose loss and contributes to skin barrier immunity. The Kambayashi lab studies how immune cell signaling regulates tissue homeostasis and inflammatory disease states.               
Post PhD Plans: Finish medical school and pursue a career in academic medicine.
Mentor Comment: Like many Penn students, Ruth is very smart. She is also an excellent team player. However, what makes Ruth really stand out in my opinion, is her unrelenting drive. She is extremely productive, hard-working, and goal-oriented. When Ruth is in charge of a project, I have nothing to worry about, since I know that it will get done in the most diligent manner. This characteristic will make Ruth be successful at anything she chooses to do in the future. I am excited to continue to see her progress in years to come.

Jeffrey Lin

Jeffrey Lin
Mentor: Bob Vonderheide, MD, PhD

Thesis Title: Type 1 Conventional Dendritic Cells are Systemically Dysregulated Early in Pancreatic Carcinogenesis
Research and Lab Description: My thesis demonstrates a role for IL-6 in dendritic cell dysregulation during pancreatic carcinogenesis and how combination treatment with CD40 agonist and FLT3L potentiates dendritic cell number and function. The Vonderheide Lab is broadly focused on bioinformatic and murine-based approaches to discovering mechanisms of immune dysregulation in T cell-deficient cancers and strategies by which immunotherapy can be extended to their treatment.             
Post PhD Plans: After completing the MD/PhD program, I intend to complete a residency in Internal Medicine, complete a clinical + research fellowship in a subspecialty, and spend my career seeing patients and running my own laboratory.   
Mentor Comment: Jeffrey studied dendritic cells in cancer in an unprecedented way. The depth, rigor, and clarity of logic in the primary publication of his results are stunning. All who meet Jeffrey recognize they are talking with a true scientist who objectively follows the data in the unerring sense of the scientific method. Jeffrey inspires us that clinical breakthroughs emerge from basic scientific insights! So honored to have served as a mentor. Wishing Jeffrey all the best, Bob.

Sushila Toulmin

Sushila Toulmin
Mentor: Laurence Eisenlohr, VMD, PhD

Thesis Title: The Regulation and Function of Major Histocompatibility Complex II on Lung Type II Alveolar Cells
Research and Lab Description: My thesis work was focused on understanding what drives type II alveolar cells of the lung to express MHC class II, and how MHC class II on these cells functions in presenting antigen and contributes to lung immune responses. The Eisenlohr lab is an incredible group of brilliant and kind people studying basic mechanisms of antigen presentation and their implications for host responses to viral infection.            
Post PhD Plans: My immediate post-PhD plans are to finish up medical school and start residency.
Mentor Comment: The day Annie started dissertation work in the lab is the day I started steeling myself for her departure. She is a bona fide superstar. Watch what happens...

Michael Werner

Michael Werner
Mentor: Gerd Blobel, MD, PhD

Thesis Title: Structure-Function Analysis of BET Proteins in Transcription

Combined Degree, VMD-PhD

Rebecca Rosenthal

Rebecca Rosenthal
Mentor: Michael Cancro, PhD

Thesis Title: T-BET Expressing B Cells With Distinct Residency and Functional Characteristics Give Rise to Plasma Cells
Research and Lab Description: In my thesis work, I focused on a memory B cell subset characterized by the transcription factor T-bet and demonstrated that they have a distinct splenic residency and give rise to plasma cells. The Cancro lab has long been a leader in B cell development and I was privileged to be part of such a brilliant and collaborative environment.        
Post PhD Plans: I am currently completing my degree in veterinary medicine.     
Mentor Comment: Rebecca brought her unique perspective and skills from veterinary training to the table, providing the key experiments in our studies of functionally distinct  memory B cells.