Doctoral Degrees Awarded to Ten Students

Ten graduate students who completed their doctoral studies on The Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology campus in Jupiter were honored today, Friday, May 19, during Scripps Research’s 31st Commencement Ceremony in La Jolla, California. Hosted by the Skaggs Graduate School of Chemical and Biological Sciences, which operates the Jupiter graduate program, the ceremony was held in California. It included the conferral of doctoral degrees as well as presentations by faculty advisors and others. The event recording is available for viewing a few days after the ceremony on the Commencement 2023 webpage: In addition to the event video, the webpage includes profiles of many of this year’s graduates, including nine from The Wertheim UF Scripps campus. Here are a few highlights:

timeless graduation photo
Graduates on their way to their future.
  • Valentine Courouble, a member of Scientific Director Pat Griffin, Ph.D.’s lab, developed mass spectrometry-based proteomic approaches to investigate the structure-function relationship of proteins ranging from nuclear receptors to SARS-CoV-2 related proteins. “My favorite aspect of being a graduate student was having the ability to conduct highly collaborative and interdisciplinary research. The support I received from my PI, lab mates, and friends, both in and out of the lab, was instrumental in allowing me to be successful through my graduate school journey.”
  • In Chemistry Department Chair Matt Disney Ph.D.’s lab, Blessy Suresh developed tools to identify drug-like small molecules that bind and inhibit oncogenic RNAs. “I believe that the training and experience I obtained here will become my strengths as I enter a new chapter of my life,” she said. She now is a scientist at Arrakis Therapeutics in Waltham, MA, where she’s working on small molecule drug discovery targeting RNAs.
  • Mentored by professor Christoph Rader, Ph.D., Matthew Cyr discovered new ways of potentially treating cancer by identifying disease-specific targets using antibodies and phage display. “I have started a position as a senior scientist at Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals in Madison, WI. At Arrowhead, I am working on developing new ways to deliver siRNA to target  specific cell types for treating a variety of diseases. I am excited to continue to work in drug discovery and development, to bring about therapies for patients in need, and to grow the pharma and biotech industry in the Midwest.”
  • Melissa Parker, now an alumna of professor Katrin Karbstein, Ph.D.’s lab, investigated the molecular mechanism regulating the final quality control step of ribosome assembly, which safeguards protein translation and healthy cell growth but can become dysregulated in cancer. Parker commented on how much she enjoyed participating in education outreach activities that touched the local community, and added, “I am grateful to have been surrounded by such supportive and science-driven peers and mentors.” She’s now a scientist at Locanabio in La Jolla, CA, helping to develop RNA-targeting therapies to treat rare genetic diseases.
  • Sarah Mosure, who was co-mentored by professors Laura Solt, Ph.D., and Doug Kojetin, Ph.D., took an interdisciplinary approach to her research, using structural biology and immunology to help inform the design of molecular therapeutics for autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases.  “…I am most grateful for the opportunity to carry out a co-mentored project spanning two diverse disciplines, immunology and structural biology,” Mosure said. “This unique experience equipped me with a versatile skillset that I likely could not have acquired at any other institute.”

The Florida students are among 41 Skaggs Graduate School students comprising this year’s graduating class. They represent the entire biomedical research spectrum of the 31 faculty members who served as their advisors and mentors, and in whose labs the students completed doctoral studies. From neuroscience, immunology and structural biology to chemistry, chemical biology and computational biology, the members of the 2023 graduating class completed thesis research projects spanning a wide array of high-impact bioscience disciplines. In the process, many students tackled specific disease targets and complex problems in human health, including cancer, SARS-CoV-2, HIV, autism, leukemia, Ebola virus, stroke, antibiotic resistance, addiction and others.

The departure of 10 graduate students from The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute campus will be more-than offset by the arrival later this summer of 19 new students, who accepted their offers of enrollment last month and will begin their doctoral studies in Jupiter in early August. The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute campus in Jupiter, Florida was founded by Scripps Research. It joined the University of Florida, one of the nation’s top five public universities, in 2022. Together, UF Health and The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute work to advance science, science education and medicine, all for the benefit of humanity. The graduate program at the institute is operated by the Skaggs Graduate School of Chemical and Biological Sciences at Scripps Research.

The 2023 Florida Skaggs Graduates

  • Valentina Botero. Thesis advisor: Seth M. Tomchik, Ph.D.
  • Valentine Courouble. Thesis advisor: Patrick R. Griffin, Ph.D.
  • Matthew Cyr. Thesis advisor: Christoph Rader, Ph.D.
  • Jenna Levy. Thesis advisor: Damon T. Page, Ph.D.
  • Sarah Mosure. Thesis advisor: Laura A. Solt, Ph.D., and Douglas J. Kojetin, Ph.D.
  • Melissa Parker. Thesis advisor: Katrin Karbstein, Ph.D.
  • Alyssa Shepard. Thesis advisor: Joseph L. Kissil, Ph.D.
  • Blessy Suresh. Thesis advisor: Matthew D. Disney, Ph.D.
  • Mai Tran. Thesis advisor: Michael R. Farzan, Ph.D.
  • Yiming Yin. Thesis advisor: Michael R. Farzan, Ph.D.