During a virtual commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at 3:00 pm 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 3:00 pm 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, Ph 


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 mskcc.org.

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 mskcc.org.