GSK Fourth Biennial Retreat

By Alexandria Woodside and Linda Burnley,

Monday, June 6, 2016

More than 90 students, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered on May 6 and 7, 2016, at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, for the fourth biennial retreat of the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The two-day program featured a mix of formal presentations as well as engaging chalk talks by students and faculty, a student poster session of current research, and a keynote address by Thomas J. Kelly, MD, PhD, former Sloan Kettering Institute Director and GSK Provost. 

The retreat celebrated GSK’s matriculation of 10 classes of students since 2006, when the first class came on board. Several alumni were present; one, James Dowdle, traveled the furthest to join his fellow alumni and current students — all the way from Ohio State University where he is a postdoctoral fellow. Five GSK alumni, including Eric Alonzo, PhD, and Jeffery Smith, PhD, members of the first GSK class, led an alumni discussion panel in which the participants reflected on their individual career trajectories, including positions in academia, industry, and business. Alumni John Maciejowski, PhD, now a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University, and Semanti Mukherjee, PhD, currently transitioning from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to a faculty position at MSK, gave oral presentations of their current research.

Two GSK students, Scott Callahan and Jens Hamann, gave oral presentations of their current research. Four GSK students — Mary Klein, Catherine Konopacki, Danilo Macialinao, and Joseph Pucella — led interactive discussions with chalk talks focused on their research.   Session moderators were GSK students Benjamin Tischler, Christopher Hulton, Michelle Riegman, Steven Albanese, and Nicholas Kuhn, Please see the session talk titles here.

Research presentations were also given by GSK faculty members Danwei Huangfu, PhD, Andrea Schietinger, PhD, Sarat Chandarlapaty, MD, PhD, and Frederic Geissmann, MD, PhD. The final presentations featured two chalk talks. One, by MSK and GSK President Craig B. Thompson, MD, posed provocative questions about cancer metabolism. The other, by GSK Dean Kenneth Marians, PhD, detailed his early work that led to the appreciation that replication fork stalling was a source of genome instability. 

“The retreat was an awesome opportunity to see our alumni and have them share their post-graduate experiences and advice,” said GSK student Emily Casey. “It also offered us a chance to learn about some new and exciting science. Tom Kelly, did a great job telling the story of GSK’s inception and creation. It was very cool to hear about these early times and see how much the school has grown.”    

The retreat also included time for recreation, hiking, and socializing in a bucolic setting overlooking Lake Mohonk in New York’s Hudson Valley.  

The school now has 38 alumni and a current enrollment of 68 graduate students.

The 2016 retreat committee included GSK students Emily Casey and Neel Shah; GSK alumni Moriah Nissan, PhD, and William Walkowicz, PhD; and GSK faculty members Maria Jasin, PhD, and Joseph Sun, PhD.