Commencement 2020

UB Awards 277 Biomedical Science Degrees

Published May 21, 2020

story by alexandra edelblute

Twenty-seven doctoral, 58 master’s and 192 baccalaureate candidates were eligible to receive degrees in biomedical science fields during the May 17 virtual commencement ceremony.



Five graduate students and six undergraduates were singled out for special honors, including recipients who received Chancellor’s Awards, 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 sciences, cancer pathology and prevention, and cellular and molecular biology.

Outstanding Graduates Recognized

Graduate Dissertation Research Awards

Biochemistry Dissertation Research Recognition Award

Christian B. Gluck, of the MD-PhD program, 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: “ETS1 and Tumor Heterogeneity: Uncovering Novel Roles of ETS1 Within Intrinsic Subtypes of Epithelial Cancers”

Mentor: Satrajit Sinha, PhD, professor of biochemistry

Murray W. Stinson Award for Excellence in Dissertation Research

Christian Ahearn was recognized for outstanding dissertation research in microbiology and immunology.

Dissertation: “Nontypeable Haemophilus Influenzae Genomes Reveal Vaccine Antigen Genetic Diversity and a Novel Host Cell Invasion”

Mentor: Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research

Dennis Higgins Award for PhD Dissertation Research in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Jennifer A. Schieber received 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: “Opiate-Induced Plasticity in the Mesolimbic Dopamine System”

Mentor: David Dietz, PhD, associate professor and chair of pharmacology and toxicology

Roswell Park Graduate Division Award for Excellence in Research

Spencer Rae Rosario received this award for outstanding research.

Dissertation: “Polyamine Biosynthetic Metabolic Dysregulation: Targeting and the Adaptive Response”

Mentor: Dominic J. Smiraglia, PhD, associate professor of oncology

The Dean’s Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research

Richard Mark Jin received this award that recognizes demonstrated excellence in research.

Dissertation: “Implications of Chronic Infection on Skeletal Muscle Immunity, Regeneration, and Function”

Mentor: Elizabeth A. Wohlfert, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology

SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

Four students were chosen to receive the 2020 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, the highest honor SUNY bestows upon its students.

The annual award recognizes and honors students who have best demonstrated and been recognized for integrating academic excellence with accomplishments in the areas of leadership, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts, campus involvement or career achievement.

Daniela Rosa Falcone

Falcone graduates with a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and a minor in Italian. Falcone is a University Honors College Scholar, and she has been a resident adviser, an orientation team leader and a teaching assistant in cellular biology. She traveled abroad to Panama during spring break 2019 to serve on a medical service trip. Falcone also conducts research in a biochemistry laboratory, contributing to advancements in characterizing kidney cancer.

Arsh Issany

Issany graduates with a bachelor of science in biomedical sciences and a bachelor of arts in psychology. Issany has worked as a research assistant in the Department of Nuclear Medicine, as well as in the Maternal and Child Health Lab, where he contributed to publications and grants. He founded the Buffalo chapter of Volunteers Around the World; was vice president of Sub-Board Inc., a multimillion-dollar nonprofit; and he has served as the director of student affairs for the undergraduate Student Association.

Jillian O’Shaughnessy

O’Shaughnessy graduates with a bachelor of science in biotechnology and a bachelor of arts in Spanish. O’Shaughnessy is a University Honors College Scholar. Along with conducting biotechnology research at UB, she co-authored a University of Cambridge Department of Genetics research publication. O’Shaughnessy is a medical assistant, teaching assistant, triathlon champion, president of UB’s Aces Tennis club and a volunteer with Journey’s End Refugee Services. She has been accepted into medical school.

Alyssa Reese

Reese graduates with a bachelor of science in biomedical sciences; a bachelor of arts in the legal studies concentration, Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Program; and a minor in Spanish. A University Honors College Ambassador, Reese has been president of the UB Association of Pre-Medical Students and Mock Trial club and a member of the Royal Pitches a cappella ensemble, Impulse Dance Force and the UB Love Your Melon Crew. She has been involved in 10 research projects and volunteers with Crisis Text Line, the Alzheimer’s Association and Newborns in Need.

Outstanding Undergraduate Degree Candidates

These awards are presented to degree candidates who have maintained a high level of academic performance throughout their undergraduate career. Recipients were chosen based on their involvement in the campus community and external organizations.

Daniela Rosa Falcone

Biomedical Sciences
Alexa Rose Reardon

Jillian O’Shaughnessy

Medical Technology
Harneet Kaur Sandhu

Nuclear Medicine Technology
Lingqiao Chen

Pharmacology and Toxicology
Brandon E. Smith

Rittenhouse-Olson is Commencement Speaker

Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, PhD, professor emeritus in the Department of Biotechnical and Clinical Laboratory Sciences, gave the commencement address.

Rittenhouse-Olson was the founding director of the biotechnology undergraduate program. She also taught biotechnology career preparation and coordinated and mentored students in the biotechnology internship program.

She is a 2008 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and she was honored with the first annual UB Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduates in Research and Creative Activity.

Rittenhouse-Olson has been editor of Immunological Investigations for the past 17 years. She is co-author of the textbook “Contemporary Clinical Immunology and Serology.”

She has studied carbohydrate tumor associated antigens for more than three decades. She has published 67 peer reviewed articles and was the principal or co-investigator on 36 grants.

Rittenhouse-Olson is founder, president and CSO of For-Robin Inc., a biotechnology company. Her team is focused on moving JAA-F11, a highly specific humanized antibody to TF-Ag, to the clinic for breast and lung cancer patients.

She received her master of science degree from the University of Kentucky and her doctoral degree from UB’s microbiology program. Her postdoctoral training was conducted at what is now known as Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.