Three Students Awarded Grants

March 2008 - Three Gerstner Sloan Kettering students — Eric Alonzo, Kim Png, and Ly Vu — have been awarded grants for their potential not only in pursuing meaningful scientific research but in playing a role in such diverse goals as fostering relationships between nations, ensuring a diverse US scientific community, and contributing to a vibrant knowledge base in Singapore.

“We are delighted that the potential of our students’ research has been recognized and that our school is able to play a role in developing and advancing their enthusiasm for science.”
— Kenneth J. Marians, Dean


Eric Alonzo

Eric Alonzo

About the Award

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research from the National Cancer Institute

Eric, a second-year student, was awarded this predoctoral grant to partially support him during his graduate studies. The award’s emphasis is on developing a diverse US community of highly trained scientists contributing their scholarship to global biomedical, behavioral, social, clinical, and health services research, as well as scholarship.

About Eric’s Research

Eric came to Gerstner Sloan Kettering after completing his undergraduate and master’s studies at California State University, San Francisco, where in the fall of 2002 he began his research experience at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) under Dr. Robert Debs. During his first year of research, he studied the antiapoptotic roles of the FKBP gene family and the signaling pathway of a novel antitumor gene.

Eric’s master-level graduate research, under the supervision of Dr. Debs, focused on ways to prolong the expression of plasmid-based shRNAs for non-viral gene delivery in vivo. These “hybrid vectors” explored the use of viral DNA sequences, which enhanced shRNA expression and opposed transcriptional silencing complexes. Eric also examined methods for improving existing vector-based strategies in cancer. To this end, he developed a highly efficient system that coordinately expressed multiple genes and shRNAs selected specifically for destruction of tumors in mouse models of melanoma and breast cancer.

Eric is also the Gerstner Sloan Kettering student representative for the New York City-Minority Graduate Student Network (NYC-MGSN), a non-profit organization that provides a networking group for minority science graduates. The overall aim of NYC-MGSN is to retain and increase the number of minorities who want to pursue a professional degree in the biological and biomedical sciences.

Eric has begun his dissertation work, Elucidating the Role of PLZF in Gamma-Delta T Cell Development, under the mentorship of Derek Sant’Angelo.


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Kim Png

Kim Png

About the Award

The National Science Scholarship (NSS), sponsored by the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore

Kim’s award recognizes zest for science and its potential to change Singapore and the world. The National Science Scholarship program “aims to nurture Singapore’s bright, young, and passionate research talents for the challenges of a research career in science.”

About Kim’s Research

First-year student Kim Png came to Gerstner Sloan Kettering from the Biomedical Engineering Program at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering.

During her last year of study at Duke University, her research focus, pursued under Professor Ashutosh Chilkoti, was the synthesis of a calcium and temperature-sensitive protein from two peptides — calmodulin, a naturally occurring calcium-sensitive protein, and elastin-like polypeptides, temperature-sensitive synthetic polypeptides. The protein is expected to be able to form micelles, which could be used for targeted delivery of cancer drugs to tumor cells.

In the year prior to beginning her PhD studies, Kim’s research, under Assistant Professor Liu Ding Xiang, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore, involved elucidating the immune response to IBV infection. This work extended to identifying and understanding the mechanism by which the coronavirus could “hijack” human proteins to promote infection.

In her first few months at Gerstner Sloan Kettering, she conducted laboratory rotations with faculty members Malcolm Moore and Michel Sadelain.


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Ly Vu

Ly Vu

About the Award

The Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) Fellow

First-year student Ly Vu was named a VEF fellow. The goal of the VEF fellowship is to strengthen the US-Vietnam relationship through educational exchanges in science and technology. More than 2,000 qualified applicants were considered, but only 40 fellowships were awarded.

About Ly’s Research

Ly Vu accomplished her undergraduate studies at the Vietnam National University, Hanoi, College of Natural Science. There, mentored by Professor Tuan Nghia Phan of the Center for Molecular Technology and Cell Technology, she was assigned to a national health initiative. The initiative’s goal was to develop diagnostic kits, affordable to Vietnamese patients, to detect viral pathogens in blood. A single kit to simultaneously diagnose HIV, HCV, and HBV using multiplex PCR was successfully developed through this endeavor. The project’s further goal was to quantify the virus load using real time PCR.

During her first year at Gerstner Sloan Kettering, Ly conducted her laboratory rotations with faculty members Andy Koff and Gary Schwartz.

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