Students : Featured Alumni

Taylor Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D.

Class of 2014
Chief Scientific Officer, Heat Biologics
Graduate Program Microbiology & Immunology
Research Mentor Eckhard Podack, M.D, Ph.D.

Esther Obeng, M.D., Ph.D.

Class of 2007
Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Graduate Program Microbiology & Immunology
Research Mentor Larry Boise, Ph.D.
Residency Pediatrics, Harvard Boston Children’s Hospital

Shawn Rose, M.D., Ph.D.

Class of 2007
Associate Medical Director, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Graduate Program Microbiology & Immunology
Research Mentor Becky Adkins, Ph.D.
Residency Medicine, Northwestern

Eddy Yang, M.D., Ph.D.

Class of 2005
Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, Cell Biology, University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Medicine
Graduate Program: Molecular & Cellular Pharmacology
Graduate Research: Vitamin D-Mediated Growth Inhibition of Human Prostate Cancer Cells
Research Mentor: Kerry Burnstein, Ph.D.
Residency: Radiation Oncology, Vanderbilt

Richard Lee, MD, PhD

Class of 1998

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Cell Biology and Anatomy, and Neuroscience, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami

Graduate Research: Mechanisms of T-Cell Mediated Cytotoxicity
Residency: Ophthalmology, University of Miami

About the UM Experience
My mentor played a major role in my development not only as a scientist but as a critical clinician. The training I received in my graduate work is something that guides my work in the lab and in the clinic. My current areas of research are: 1- Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Retinal Ganglion Cell Death and Survival, 2- Molecular and Cellular Biology of Pseudoexfoliation Glaucoma, 3- Molecular Profiling of Ocular Tumors. For more information please visit my faculty web page at

Lianne Marks, MD, PhD, FACP

Class of 2002

Regional Chair, Internal Medicine, Texas A&M College of Medicine Round Rock Campus

Graduate Research: Cytotoxic T Cell Regulation
Residency: Medicine, UT San Antonio

About the UM Experience
I received very high quality training for my PhD work with an outstanding mentor. It really reflects highly on the institution that so many basic science faculty have such passion, integrity and excellence and this is not only evidenced in their research but also in their teaching. I had no doubt after my training experience that I would obtain the position of my choosing. I am very grateful to the MD/PhD program and the faculty for creating such a supportive environment

Melinda Sue Merchant, MD, PhD

Class of 1996

Clinical Director, Pediatric Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute
Graduate Research: Dysregulation of pre-B cell development by autoantibodies derived from New Zealand Black mice
Residency: Pediatrics, Children’s Natinal Medical Center

About the UM Experience
Despite intensive chemotherapy regimens, the prognosis is often poor for patients with metastatic sarcomas. Because of unique and promising clinical trials underway, a large number of these high-risk pediatric sarcoma patients are referred to our Branch. As a young fellow this had a direct impact on my research interests and provided a real incentive to better understand the biology of these aggressive malignancies in order to develop more effective treatment strategies. Under the mentorship of Dr. Crystal Mackall, I have focused on understanding the biology of Ewing’s sarcoma and its interaction with the host immune system. Through samples obtained in our immunotherapy protocol, we were able to identify tumor specific cytolytic T cells in patients that were reactive with autologous tumor cells and, if appropriately stimulated, were capable of clearing tumor in a xenograft model. Two hypotheses generated from these finding have driven much of my research interest since then: 1- What is the target antigen for these tumor specific cells? and 2- why are these cells not appropriately stimulated in our patients with growing tumors? Little did I know that seeking the answer for the first would shed light on the secondbut that is what I love about scienceThe eureka moment does not always come where expected, yet careful and persistent questioning can give some very provocative answers. I am quite interested in the translation of basic science investigations to their application in the clinics. A key anti-tumor weapon in the arsenal of the immune system is able to trigger apoptosis in tumor cells through the TRAIL receptors. We have modeled the use of several agonists in xenograft systems and are collaborating with industry to move logical combination strategies to clinical trials in pediatric solid tumors. It is my hope that this cycle of clinic to bench and back again is a recurring theme in my career as a physician scientist. It can be tricky to lay two foundations at once, but lessons in problem solving and the integration between medical and scientific training at UM certainly helped to build a secure beginning for many budding clinician scientists, including myself. One of the real strong points of the program at UM is the tremendous opportunities in clinical training as a student. The confidence gained in the hallways of Jackson certainly helped me as I grew in responsibilities of residency and fellowship. The faculty in the Microbiology and Immunology department led by example and gave me significant insight into what was needed to impact the field rather than just move it forward incrementally. Reflecting on those graduate years, I realize that the best decisions came from choosing a good environment and personal fit. One of my best choices was identifying Dr. Richard Riley as my mentor. I learned much about science, lab management, critical thinking, scientific fervor, and even life management from Rick. I am indebted to him for the support and attention and hope to repay it every time I interact with a young scientist-in-training.

Fond UM Memory
Having just spent a year in clinical clerkships before entering the lab, my colleagues were amused to find me keeping notes on my mice as if they were patient charts. Knowing my predilection for translating many activities from bench to bedside, my mentor wrote a note of pertinent advice when I was graduating that I still reflect upon with a smile. The underlying theme of the letter was to remind me of some humorous differences between grad school and residency training so I would hopefully not get my environments mixed up. I’m pretty sure it worked well. When clinics get hectic, I often remember some of the subtle [and some not so subtle] differences he pointed out between responses to my graduate murine patients and my clinic patients then I cheerfully chose the more appropriate action.