Graduate Program Awards Doctoral Degrees to 2024 Class

Associate Dean Laura Solt, Ph.D., draped graduates with their stolls during commencement ceremonies at the Skaggs Graduate School's 2024 commencement ceremony.
Associate Dean Laura Solt, Ph.D., draped graduates with their stoles during the Skaggs Graduate School’s 2024 commencement ceremony.

LA JOLLA, Calif. (May 21, 2024) – Scripps Research awarded doctoral degrees to 59 graduate students, including seven from its partner program based at The Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology, during its 32nd commencement, held by the institute’s Skaggs Graduate School of Chemical and Biological Sciences on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Welcoming the hundreds of assembled family, friends, faculty and fellow graduate students to the event, Philip Dawson, Ph.D., dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies and professor of chemistry at Scripps Research, said, “We’re here to celebrate the achievements of 59 remarkable students who have defended their theses this year – the largest graduating class in the history of the program, which soon will have 950 alumni. I’m very proud of this group, and guarantee that none of them foresaw the turns their scientific and personal journeys would take when they entered the program.”

Many of the doctoral degree recipients entered the program immediately prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an experience that would necessitate significant changes to the already complex process of laboratory research, while the institute focused on many lines of investigation surrounding SARS-CoV-2. Indeed, several students in this graduating class took part in COVID-19-related research during their studies.

Students comprising this year’s graduating class represent the entire biomedical research spectrum of the 32 faculty members who served as their advisors and mentors, and in whose labs the students completed doctoral studies in Florida and California. From neuroscience, immunology and structural biology, to chemistry, chemical biology and computational biology, the graduating class completed thesis research projects spanning a wide array of disciplines. In addition to SARS-CoV-2, students tackled disease targets and complex problems in human health, including cancer, HIV, autism, leukemia, Lassa virus, malaria, antibiotic resistance, addiction and others.

“A PhD isn’t just about published papers and discoveries. It’s about becoming an independent scientist – someone who is capable of asking an insightful question, designing experiments to probe the question, and executing often technically challenging experiments to obtain data,” continued Dawson. “We train our graduates to be ‘experimentally fearless.’ Critically, the skills they hone during their Ph.D. allow graduates to excel in life and in diverse professional activities. I look forward to watching them rise to leadership positions around the world.”

Prior to the introduction of the graduating students, noted chemist Phil S. Baran, PhD, a current faculty member, author of hundreds of publications, Dr. Richard A. Lerner Endowed Chair and a 2002 alumnus of the Scripps Research graduate program, gave the keynote address. He encouraged the students to identify their personal “mission statement” and apply their skills toward a cause or career that energizes and inspires them.

“Class of 2024, let me leave you with a reminder that every chemical reaction needs a driving force,” said Baran. “Similarly, anything worth accomplishing requires complete immersion, dedication and great sacrifice. The journey of life requires some suffering, and you might as well suffer while doing something that you love to your core. From one Scripps grad to another, the recipe is simple: find that thing you would do even if it paid nothing. Your mission – attack it with obscene passion. Surround yourself by excellence, and then, don’t look back.”

Upon the conclusion of the commencement ceremony, the number of individuals who count themselves as alumni of Scripps Research’s doctoral program increased to over 950. Many of the 59 new Ph.D. recipients have already taken the first steps on their career path. Some of this year’s graduates are extending their doctoral training into new research areas as postdoctoral scholars at universities and major academic research institutions. Others have joined companies in the pharmaceutical and bioscience industries, or start-ups focused on cutting-edge biotech research and drug discovery. Many students apply their knowledge and experience to entirely different career paths, including food science, patent law, and the venture capital and financial advising industries.

Detailed profiles of many of this year’s graduates can be viewed on the institute’s 2024 Graduation webpage, scripps.edu/graduation2024, where the recording of the ceremony will be posted.

Congratulations to the Florida Graduates!

Graduate faculty adviser
Madeline W. Balzarini Thomas Kodadek, Ph.D.
Jessica Bush Matthew D. Disney, Ph.D.
Adam Getzler Matthew E. Pipkin, Ph.D.
Luisa Patricia Mori Susana Tereno Valente, Ph.D.
Ugoma Onubogu Michalina Janiszewska, Ph.D.
Scarlet Jinhong Park William Ja, Ph.D.
Stephen Andrew Zorc Michalina Janiszewska, Ph.D.