June Community of Scholars features three noteworthy presenters

Community of Scholars seminars.

From left: Amina Zoubeidi, PhD (June 7); Wei-Zen Wei, PhD (June 21); and Yang Chai, DDS, PhD (June 28).

Published June 1, 2022


The University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Community of Scholars Seminar Series features three distinguished presenters in June, each discussing their groundbreaking research on unique, important topics including prostate cancer, disease prevention, and craniosynostosis.

Community of Scholars Seminar Series speakers are nominated by a CTSI K Scholar, a program offering research mentoring, career and professional development, and funding to outstanding junior faculty and senior fellows transitioning to independent faculty positions.

The three seminars will be held online via Zoom at 1 p.m. on June 7, 2 p.m. on June 21, and 3 p.m. on June 28. Learn more about the expert speakers and their topics below.

June 7: Amina Zoubeidi, PhD

The seminar series begins with Amina Zoubeidi, PhD, Canada Research Chair in Cancer Therapy Resistance; Professor, Department of Urologic Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia; and Senior Scientist, Vancouver Prostate Centre. Zoubeidi will present “Lineage Plasticity in Treatment Resistance Prostate Cancer” at 1 p.m. on June 7; register here.

“The long-term impact of my research on lineage plasticity is to provide unparalleled mechanistic insight into the molecular (genetic and epigenetic) sources that fuel tumor cell plasticity and emergent resistance phenotypes following maximum androgen blockade,” Zoubeidi explains. “Specifically, we are working toward developing strategies to accurately assess emergent cell plasticity earlier in evolution of treatment resistance.”

Zoubeidi says this research “will guide development of novel biomarkers and therapies that target drivers of lineage plasticity and define the contextually-dependent adaptive responses in distinct prostate cancer genomic subtypes that emerge under selective pressure of standard-of-care therapies. Despite potent targeted therapies, tumor cell plasticity and adaptability has hindered our ability to cure cancer with a ‘magic bullet.’”

Nominating Zoubeidi as a Community of Scholars Seminar speaker was 2020 CTSI K Scholar Remi Adelaiye-Ogala, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Jacobs School.

“Dr. Zoubeidi is a national and internationally recognized expert in prostate cancer research,” Adelaiye-Ogala says. “Besides her research excellence, Dr. Zoubeidi is a big advocate of early career investigators and a champion of diversity and equity. She exemplifies what we hope to achieve as a well-rounded independent investigator and an advocate for diversity and equity in the professional space and community.”

Adelaiye-Ogala adds that Zoubeidi’s “track record of research excellence is underscored by numerous accolades including a recently awarded Canada Research Chair Tier 1 in Cancer Therapy Resistance, a prestigious award that recognizes outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields.”

June 21: Wei-Zen Wei, PhD

The series’ second seminar features Wei-Zen Wei, PhD, Professor, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University. Wei will present “Find a Needle in a Haystack — Identify Cancer Regulatory Genes in Diversity Outbred (DO) F1 Mice” at 2 p.m. on June 21; register here.

“During our study of HER2 oncogenesis and vaccine response, it became evident that heritable risk factors beyond oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes have a sizable impact on cancer progression and immune response,” Wei explains. “We decided to meet the challenge by identifying and evaluating cancer modulating molecules using a new discovery platform of oncogene expressing Diversity Outbred mice.” 

Wei notes that these cancer modulating genes can be actionable targets for disease prevention, regardless of the oncogene.

“The challenge is to identify these molecules in an ocean of genes in the tumor microenvironment,” she says. “At the seminar, I will present evidence to support our process of filtering out cancer modulating genes from the whole genome. If this approach proves successful, a new dimension can be added to current cancer intervention strategies.”   

Wei was nominated as a Community of Scholars Seminar speaker by 2020 CTSI K Scholar Kathleen Kokolus, PhD, HRI Scientist, Department of Immunology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Dr. Wei has led an inspiring career in cancer research highlighted by all the things early-stage researchers strive for: impactful publications, consistent funding, recognition as an expert in her field of cancer biology, and a long list of trainees now leading impactful careers of their own,” Kokolus says.

Kokolus can personally attest to Wei’s support of young researchers: “I first met Dr. Wei over a decade ago as a nervous second-year graduate student, terrified that I was selected to give an oral presentation at a conference. She sought me out to offer encouragement and advice, and has remained a strong supporter of my career advancement ever since.”

June 28: Yang Chai, DDS, PhD

The final series seminar features Yang Chai, DDS, PhD, University Professor George and MaryLou Boone Chair in Craniofacial Biology, Director, Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California. Chai will present “Mechanisms of Cranial Suture Regeneration in Mitigating Skull and Neurocognitive Defects in Craniosynostosis” at 3 p.m. on June 28; register here.

Chai will discuss recent scientific advances in craniosynostosis, a condition in which infants are born with skull dysmorphology, increased intracranial pressure, and cognitive impairment, compromising quality of life.

“Through our study, we are gaining a better understanding on how craniosynostosis may affect brain development and function,” Chai explains. “This will have long-term impact on how and when to treat craniosynostosis patients in order to improve their brain function.”

During the seminar, Chai will also discuss the impact of cranial suture regeneration, and outline how it may reverse skull and neurocognitive abnormalities.

“Using stem cells combined with biodegradable scaffold, our cranial suture regeneration will change the way how patients with craniosynostosis are treated and provide a long-term biological solution for these patients,” Chai says. “This tissue regeneration approach can also mitigate the neurocognitive defects associated with craniosynostosis.”

Chai was nominated as a Community of Scholars Seminar speaker by 2020 CTSI K Scholar Hyuk-Jae Edward Kwon DDS, PhD, Department of Oral Biology, School of Dental Medicine.

“I chose Dr. Chai because he is a role model for clinician-scientists pursuing preclinical and translational studies in the dental and craniofacial research field,” Kwon explains. “He is internationally renowned for his research into the genetics, cellular signaling, and development of cranial and facial structures, including the causes of and potential preventive measures for facial deformities such as cleft palate. He is also an award-winning educator and a practicing dentist.”

For questions about the CTSI Community of Scholars Seminar Series, write to scholar1@buffalo.edu or call 716-829-4718.