Rising Stars Symposium

Postdoctoral diversity recruiting event
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Date and time

April 28, 2022

9:00 AM - 5:00 PM PT


Sanford Burnham Prebys

Fishman Auditorium
10901 N. Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA 92037


About the symposium

DEI logo

The Rising Stars Symposium will showcase the biomedical research of exceptional scholars from across the country who have been selected to give oral presentations at Sanford Burnham Prebys based on their academic achievements, research scholarship and general fit with Sanford Burnham Prebys laboratories.

This event is hosted by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Recruiting Committee. We strive to create an inclusive workforce through hiring practices and recruitment and retention strategies that are equitable and result in increased representation.


Symposium Poster



9 - 9:10 am Welcoming Remarks
Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D.
Pauline and Stanley Foster Presidential Chair
Professor, NCI-Designated Cancer Center
9:10 - 10 am Keynote Address
Svasti Haricharan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, NCI-Designated Cancer Center
10 - 10:10 am Break
10:10 - 11:10 am Session 1 Oral Presentations
  • 10:10 Joel Encarnacion-Rosado
  • 10:30 Myron Keith Gibert, Jr.
  • 10:50 Khairunnisa Semesta
11:10 - 11:20 am Break
11:20 am - 12:20 pm Session 2 Oral Presentations
  • 11:20 Chun-Wei Chen
  • 11:40 Tyler DeWitt
  • 12:00 Niyati Borkar
12:20 - 1:10 pm Lunch, open to all attendees, RSVP here
1:10 - 2:10 pm Session 3 Oral Presentations
  • 1:10 Mohamed El-Brolosy, Ph.D.
  • 1:30 Gabriel Luna-Arvizu
  • 1:50 Sedelia Dominguez
2:10 - 2:20 pm Break
2:20 - 3:20 pm Session 4 Oral Presentations
  • 2:20 Jessica Proulx
  • 2:40 Zachary Jackson
  • 3:00 Gabriel Ascui
3:20 - 3:30 pm Closing Remarks
Angelica Rocha, Ph.D.
Diversity Officer
Asst. Dir. Institutional Research & Academic Planning
3:30 - 5 pm Reception and Poster Presentations. RSVP here



Joel Encarnacion-Rosado

Harnessing metabolic dependencies in pancreatic cancers

Joel Encarnacion-Rosado is a Ph.D. candidate at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, conducting his research in Dr. Alec Kimmelman's lab. His research focuses on the metabolism of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), a highly aggressive type of cancer. Specifically, his research aims to identify and target metabolic vulnerabilities in PDAC, which could help identify new therapeutic approaches for the disease.

Myron Keith Gibert, Jr.

Transcribed ultraconserved regions (T-UCRs) in gliomas

Myron Keith Gibert, Jr. is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia conducting his research in Dr. Roger Abounader's lab. His research focuses on a relatively understudied class of “ultraconserved” non-coding RNA and their potential role in glioblastoma (GBM), the deadliest and most common brain tumor. Better understanding the function of these RNAs, which remains uninvestigated in GBM, could pave the way for new therapeutic avenues for these tumors.

Khairunnisa Semesta

A high-throughput discovery and characterization of novel GPCR/cAMP pathway regulators

Khairunnisa Semesta is a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University in Dr. Nikoleta Tsvetanova's lab. Her research focuses on the molecular basis of neuropsychiatric disorders, specifically the factors that govern the activity of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), which are essential to signaling between brain cells. Aberrant GPCRs are implicated in many complex psychiatric disorders, and better understanding their function can help identify druggable targets to treat these illnesses.

Chun-Wei Chen

Srcap mutation promotes lymphoid bias in therapy-related clonal hematopoiesis

Chun-Wei Chen is a Ph.D. candidate at Baylor College of Medicine in Dr. Margaret A. Goodell's lab. His research focuses on exploring the effect of DNA damage and epigenetic modifications on clonal hematopoiesis, a process in which mutated stem cells in the blood multiply and take over the population. Clonal hematopoiesis is an emerging risk factor for heart disease and blood malignancies, and it also occurs as an adverse effect of cancer therapies. Understanding how DNA damage affects this process could help doctors mitigate or prevent it.

Jerry (Tyler) DeWitt

Oncogenic forms of Ras influence cell size control in budding yeast and mammalian 3T3 cells

Tyler DeWitt is a Ph.D. candidate at University of California, Santa Cruz conducting his research in Dr. Doug Kellogg's lab. His research focuses on the effect of cellular signaling on cell size and growth. Defects in cell growth and size control are a nearly universal feature of cancer cells and understanding how these defects occur can help researchers better understand cancer pathology and develop new therapeutics.

Niyati Borkar

Kisspeptin expression and function in the human airway smooth muscle 

Niyati Borkar is a Ph.D. candidate at North Dakota State University, completing her research in Dr. Sathish Venkatachalem’s lab. Her work focuses on the effect of estrogen and testosterone, as well as proteins upstream of these hormones such as kisspeptin, on the pathology of asthma. Asthma is more severe in women than men, and understanding why could help improve asthma treatment.

Mohamed El-Brolosy, Ph.D.

A novel role for mutant mRNA degradation in triggering transcriptional adaptation to mutations

Mohamed El-Brolosy is a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, completing his research in Dr. Jonathan Weissman's lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. His research focuses on transcriptional adaptation, a newly identified mechanism of genetic robustness in which a mutated gene can modulate the expression of related genes through mutant mRNA decay. Revealing how transcriptional adaptation works has implications for our understanding of disease-causing mutations and may hold a therapeutic potential for several genetic diseases.

Gabriel Luna-Arvizu

How cells communicate through fluid flow signals

Gabriel Luna-Arvizu is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oregon conducting his research in Dr. Daniel T. Grimes' lab. His research focuses on cell communication through fluid flow signals, a process that helps cells sense and respond to physiological changes. Because fluid flows are critical for organ development and contribute to host-microbe interactions and cancer metastasis, better understanding the complex dynamics of fluid flow sensation and transduction can provide insight into both healthy human biology and the progression of diseases.

Sedelia Dominguez

Understanding the relationship between bacterial pathogens and host metabolism

Sedelia Dominguez is a Ph.D. candidate at Washington State University conducting her research in Dr. Tom Kawula's lab. Her research focuses on how bacterial pathogens metabolize nutrients during infection. Intracellular bacteria cause a range of human infections and diseases. Understanding their metabolism or how they hijack metabolic signaling can provide insight into how these pathogens are able to bypass the body’s defenses.

Jessica Proulx

Inositol-requiring enzyme 1 alpha (IRE1α) at the int-ER-section of astrocyte dysfunction

Jessica Proulx is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Texas Health Science Center conducting her research in Dr. Kathleen Borgmann's lab. Her research focuses on how HIV-1 infection and methamphetamine exposure affect glial cells of the central nervous system. Her project seeks to evaluate how HIV and methamphetamine regulate cellular stress responses in key neuro-supportive brain cells, which will help identify new therapeutic targets to treat or prevent neurological issues associated with HIV and/or substance use.

Zachary Jackson

TIGIT as a marker of CD19 CAR-T cell dysfunction in patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Zachary Jackson is a Ph.D. candidate at Case Western Reserve University conducting his research in Dr. David Wald's lab. His research focuses on identifying biomarkers to reveal how cancer responds to CAR-T cell therapy, a type of immune cell therapy that works well against certain cancers, but often fails for unknown reasons. Better understanding how and why CAR-T cell therapy fails can help improve treatment strategies and outcomes for patients receiving this treatment.

Gabriel Ascui

Mucosal-associated invariant T cells transcriptomic landscape before and after lung bacterial infections 

Gabriel Ascui is a Ph.D. candidate at University of California, San Diego and is conducting his research at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in Dr. Mitchell Kronenberg’s lab. His research focuses on lung immune responses against bacterial pathogens, exploring how innate T cells could be used as a therapy to confer long-term protection against infections in the lung without risk of being rejected by the body.

Rising Stars Symposium 2022

Celebrating amazing science and scientists