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2022 Spring/Summer Highlights of Hope

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  • Highlights of hope
  • Education
  • Graduate school
  • Research
  • Vai
  • Van andel institute
  • Vaiorg
  • Michigan
This is the 2022 Spring/Summer edition of Van Andel Institute's Highlights of Hope donor publication.

RESEARCH A day in the

RESEARCH A day in the life of a VAI Graduate School student The life of a VAI graduate student varies greatly from year to year. Some years are spent more in the classroom, and others in the lab. But no matter how a student’s typical day looks, they are all working toward careers as biomedical research leaders. Nadia Dehghani is a third-year Ph.D. student in the labs of Dr. Rita Guerreiro and Dr. José Brás. Nadia studies genetic contributors to dementia. We caught up with her to get a glimpse into the life of a VAI grad student. What does a typical day with your thesis research look like? Days can be vastly different from one another, or vastly different from what was “ideally” planned! My time is generally spread across ongoing projects at varying milestones — data generation and troubleshooting, data analysis and write-up, and responding to peer reviewers who offer feedback on my research. Additional daily constants include discussing and consolidating approaches to projects and reading newly published scientific studies. These can be directly related to my thesis research, or may offer a new approach for me to consider. Most days, I also engage with a scientific seminar or a formal class; this semester, I have enrolled in the fantastic Lab Leadership class organized by Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik, chair of VAI’s Department of Epigenetics. How has the Graduate School’s unique setup benefited your studies and research? We are very fortunate to be led by the vision and philosophy of Dean Dr. Steven J. Triezenberg. With our highly dedicated and supportive Graduate School staff, we’ve cultured a stimulating and collegial environment where graduate students are seamlessly integrated within VAI. Most recently, we moved into new, designated facilities on VAI’s campus for students’ scholarly and professional development — a result of the Graduate School’s exciting growth and recognition. As students, developments in our research approaches are aided by perspectives from peers and mentors; the growing diversity within the Graduate School makes this possible and increasingly practical. To learn more about VAI Graduate School, visit vaigs.vai.org. (STARTING AT LEFT, GOING ACROSS) NADIA DEHGHANI & DR. RITA GUERREIRO; LEENA KARIAPPER PRESENTING AT VAI GRADUATE SCHOOL 12 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

Graduate School highlights Origins of Cancer probes intersection of cancer, neuroscience The 2021 Origins of Cancer symposium, held in July, explored the intersection of cancer and neuroscience, an area that holds great promise for better understanding the complex biological interactions that give rise to disease. Students and scientists joined together for the virtual conference to discuss how the future of cancer research may combine two discrete areas of study by exploring the common threads that unite them. This annual event, organized and hosted by VAI Graduate School students, serves as a shining example of collaboration — a value that is at the heart of VAI’s ethos. Taylor Boyd joins Graduate School leadership The Institute’s commitment to training the scientific leaders of tomorrow leapt forward in October 2021 with the hiring of Taylor Boyd as director of assessment and professional development. Boyd, who previously served in the Office of the Provost at Grand Valley State University, is responsible for assessing the Graduate School’s curriculum and cocurricular activities. He also assists VAI faculty in enhancing their teaching and mentoring skills, as well as in monitoring the progress of student learning. Boyd will also lead the work to sustain the Graduate School’s accreditation. 3 quick facts about VAI Graduate School • The Graduate School has graduated 34 students to date: 30 Ph.D. and four M.S. Of the 30 Ph.D. graduates: 70% have gone to postdoctoral or research associate positions 20% have taken positions in industry • As of September 2021, 44 students were enrolled in our Ph.D. program. The student body includes: 28 women 13 international students 2 students from populations underrepresented in the biomedical workforce (by NIH standards) 4 students enrolled in dual-degree (M.D.-Ph.D.) programs • In 2020, Graduate School students and alumni contributed 24 authorships on 17 research publications, with 12 authorships on 11 papers in 2021. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 13

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