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Matriculating 2013

  • Peter Cruz-Gordillo

    Peter Cruz-Gordillo

    Peter Cruz-Gordillo is a sixth year MD|PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMassMed) and currently serves as a voting trustee on the UMass Board of Trustees. He is of Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage, raised in San Juan, PR and Miami, FL. He graduated with honors from Duke University in 2011, with a B.S. in Neuroscience and minors in Biology and Chemistry. Before matriculating at the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) of UMassMed in 2013, he worked at the Broad Institute on patient tumor genomics studies of multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and circulating tumor cell tracking. He rotated in the laboratories of Daniel Bolon, PhD and Manuel Garber, PhD. Peter is currently working on his thesis in the laboratory of Michael J. Lee, PhD within the Program of Systems Biology and Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology Department at UMassMed. He is studying how cellular plasticity affords cancer cells the ability to adapt to targeted therapies, leading to tumor resistance. His research training, clinical interests, and desire to work with interdisciplinary teams has instilled a desire to seek a dual career path in interventional radiology and management consulting within the health technology, hospital management, and pharmaceutical development sectors. He enjoys cooking, golfing, swimming, rock climbing, and scuba diving.

    As a medical student, Peter has served as a Student Body Committee Co-President where he organized and led initiatives with the Office of Information Technology and Office of Alumni Relations to improve the user-friendliness of student-group websites and access to the alumni network, respectively. Additionally, seeing a need to invest in a common social-community space for UMassMed students, he led a team to collaborate with the office of the Provost/Dean to renovate the three-schools student lounge. He has served actively as a student representative on the Faculty and Administration Council, Clinical and Research Council, the Student Government Alliance, the Information Technology Committee, and the Council on Scientific & Research Affairs. As a graduate student, he has continued his dedication to improving the student educational experience as a leader in the MSTP’s Student Advisory Committee. In partnership with UMassMed students and faculty, Peter has made a commitment to Worcester community outreach, including leading initiatives in health education, screening, and awareness fairs. Finally, both within and outside the laboratory setting, he has resolved to mentor the next generation of physician-scientists as a regular participant in career & professional development panels for high school and undergraduate students held at UMassMed, the Broad Institute, Harvard University, and the M.I.T.

  • Alec Gramann

    Alec Gramann

    Originally from Austin, TX, Alec moved to New England to attend The University of Massachusetts Amherst where he studied chemical engineering and mathematics as an undergraduate. During his undergraduate education, Alec worked in the labs of Dr. Susan Roberts and Dr. Michael Henson developing mathematical models to optimize production of paclitaxel via plant cell culture and bioreactors. He also participated in multiple internships, including developing high-throughput diagnostic tests at Asuragen, Inc. and designing and implementing new protocols for surgical instrument processing at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

    Since matriculating in 2013, Alec has completed rotations with Dr. Brian Lewis investigating miRNA functions in pancreatic cancer, and with Dr. Craig Ceol investigating melanoma development and progression using a zebrafish model system. He is currently working in the Ceol lab where he studies the function of melanoma oncogenes during melanocyte development and melanoma initiation and is completing preclinical evaluations of novel targeted therapies for the treatment of advanced melanoma.

  • Benjamin K. I. Helfand

    Benjamin K. I. Helfand

    Benjamin K. I. Helfand, MSc, is a graduate of Emory University with a BA in Economics and the Harvard School of Public Health with an MSc in Epidemiology. Prior to entering UMMS, he performed an undergraduate research thesis at Emory in health economics on disparities issues in women with heart disease. At the Harvard School of Public Health, his Master’s thesis looked at trends in alcohol use in women with and without heart disease using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), finding there had been an increasing trend over the previous decade. He subsequently performed a study using the BRFSS comparing health behaviors of healthcare workers to other Americans, finding that healthcare workers appeared to follow healthy behaviors to the same degree as all other Americans. After matriculating to UMMS, Benjamin conducted a project using the Worcester Heart Failure study to find differences in outcomes for patients with different diabetes status at admission, finding patients with elevated serum glucose were more likely to die acutely.

    Benjamin’s current interests include aging research. His thesis research is on measurement of delirium and the overall goal of the project is to develop a set of resources to help researchers and clinicians to identify delirium in a comparable way across settings and populations. The project has involved a systematic review and using advanced psychometric methods such as item response theory to harmonize the most common and well-validated delirium identification instruments. His PhD co-mentors are Dr. Richard Jones at Brown University and Dr. Edwin Boudreaux in the Emergency Medicine Department at UMMS.

  • Annie Hien

    Annie Hien

    Annie graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Prior to starting at UMass Worcester, she has worked in labs studying sex differences in the mouse brain, RNA editing in plants, and the WNT signaling pathway.

    Annie has rotated in the labs of Drs. Vivian Budnik, Anastasia Khvorova, and Joel Richter. She is completing her thesis work in the Richter lab, where she uses deep sequencing methods to identify translational dysregulation in mouse models of autism. Her research interests are in neuroscience and RNA biology.

  • Abigail O. Smith

    Abigail O. Smith

    Abigail O. Smith is a graduate of Barnard College with a BA in Biochemistry. She became interested in biomedical research while studying microRNA in neurodegenerative diseases with her undergraduate advisor, Dr. Mary Sever.

    Upon entering the MD/PhD program at UMass in 2013, she completed rotations with Dr. Phil Zamore, Dr. Melissa Moore, and Dr. Daryl Bosco. She ultimately joined the lab of Gregory Pazour in the spring of 2017, where she studies the role of primary ciliary signaling in polycystic kidney disease.