MSK to Recognize 2021 Gerstner Sloan Kettering (GSK) Graduates During Virtual Commencement on May 19, 2021


MSK Tassel Turn 2021

MSK Tassel Turn 2021
Video Details

During a virtual commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at et, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) will recognize seven Gerstner Sloan Kettering (GSK) 2021 graduates and honor Joan Argetsinger Steitz, PhD, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, with the 2021 Honorary Degree and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Biomedical Research. The public can tune in live on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at et to the 2021 Virtual GSK Commencement and MSK Academic Convocation here.

Established in 2004 with a landmark gift from Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., member of the MSK Boards of Trustees and Governing Trustees and chairman of the board of GSK, GSK admitted its first class in the summer of 2006. The school offers the next generation of biomedical scientists an intensive PhD program that trains them to investigate and attack cancer through the twin lenses of basic research and real-life clinical challenges.

GSK faculty are nationally recognized scientists working at the forefront of biomedical research, and the curriculum takes advantage of the unique integration of the basic science and clinical arms of MSK. An intensive lab-work model, along with the opportunity to observe firsthand how research findings are applied, ensures that GSK graduates are well positioned to close the gap between basic and clinical research.

“We are immensely proud of the graduating GSK Class of 2021 and their vast accomplishments and look forward to their bright futures,” said Michael Overholtzer, PhD, Dean, Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School. “Thanks to the generous gift in 2006 from Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., GSK has produced top graduate students in the field of biomedical sciences. Students like this year’s graduating class are no exception, and their hard work and dedication to their research and education are what makes GSK such a success.”

2021 Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduates

Tyler D. Hitchman, PhD
Thesis: Interrogating and Targeting Essential Signaling Pathways in Uveal Melanoma
Mentor: Yu Chen, MD, PhD

Brian Jude Joseph, PhD
Thesis: Cryptic Splice Sites Are Agents of Order and Chaos During Pre-mRNA Splicing
Mentor: Eric C. Lai, PhD

Xiaoyi Li, PhD
Thesis: A Novel Experimental Approach to Map MicroRNA-RNA Interactions In Vivo
Mentor: Andrea Ventura, MD, PhD

Michelle M. E. Riegman, PhD
Thesis: The Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Regulated Cell Death
Mentor: Michael Overholtzer, PhD

Ryan C. Smith, PhD
Thesis: Understanding the Developmental Specificity of the Histone H3.3 K27M Mutation in Pediatric Gliomas
Mentor: Viviane Tabar, MD

Benjamin Yona Tischler, PhD
Thesis: Platelets Are Necessary for Survival and Tissue Integrity in a Murine Model of Aspergillus fumigatus Infection 
Mentor: Tobias M. Hohl, MD, PhD

Zeda Zhang, PhD
Thesis: Investigating Mechanisms of Antiandrogen Resistance in Human Prostate Cancer
Mentor: Charles L. Sawyers, MD

Read more about the 2021 GSK graduates’ investigations at

The ceremony on May 19 will also feature an academic convocation to acknowledge Sloan Kettering Division/Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences students and announce the 2021 research and clinical award winners.

During the event, MSK will recognize 33 Sloan Kettering Division/Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences students who have completed their doctoral dissertation research in Sloan Kettering Institute (SKI) labs. SKI has an ongoing collaboration with the Weill Cornell Medical College to train future generations of biomedical researchers. Additionally, several SKI researchers will be awarded with various research awards for their lab accomplishments and several MSK clinical staff will be awarded with various clinical awards for their work. For a full list of awards and recipients please visit