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Scripps Research Celebrates 20th Commencement

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Scripps Research Celebrates 20th Commencement

By Mika Ono

The Scripps Research Institute held its 20th commencement on May 18, celebrating 40 graduating students and featuring Scripps Research President and CEO Michael A. Marletta as keynote speaker. Nobel laureate Manfred Eigen was also presented with an honorary degree.

After the colorful march across the California campus to the Neurosciences Institute auditorium, Marletta welcomed the faculty, Eigen, Ph.D. candidates, family, and friends to the ceremony. He urged the participants to acknowledge the important support that the students had received over the years from their families and friends that made this moment possible.

Jamie Williamson, dean of graduate and postgraduate studies, also offered his welcome, inviting the group to celebrate the occasion with “unrestrained enthusiasm” and underlining the Scripps Research graduate program’s focus on research.

“Our faculty are tremendous mentors in the lab,” said Williamson. “It is no accident that we are among the top ten programs in the country in chemistry and biology.”

U.S. News & World Report ranks the Kellogg School program seventh overall in chemistry and seventh overall in the biological sciences, based on a survey of department heads, deans, directors of graduate studies, and other academics in each discipline.

A Singular Focus

Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer Peter Vogt introduced Marletta, a world-renowned biochemist who took office as president and CEO of Scripps Research at the beginning of the year, as the keynote speaker.

Marletta noted that Scripps Research is unique and this fact will reflect well on the new graduates. “No place has a singular focus in mind on understanding biology and curing and treating human disease as does The Scripps Research Institute,” he said. “What’s different about Scripps? Scripps combines first-rate biology with first-rate chemistry in a seamless fashion. That doesn’t exist at any other place…, that environment and the range of disciplines that it encompasses, including structural biology at a density and a quality unmatched anywhere in the world. When you roll all of that together, you can begin to see how Scripps can set itself apart from our competitors.” He also highlighted the entrepreneurial spirit at the institute, which has produced 52 companies, “a remarkable number.”

Looking ahead to the future of the institute, Marletta acknowledged there were challenges in face of the tightening of funding from the federal government. However, he noted he was confident Scripps Research would remain strong, given its vitality, determination, and new initiatives in philanthropy, licensing, and partnerships with industry.

Speaking to the graduates, Marletta urged them to work in a field they are passionate about, one that “doesn’t feel like work.”

However, he also issued a challenge. “I want you to demystify science to the public,” he said. “You’ve got the education to do that. It is so important that our citizens understand what science can do.… When an opportunity presents itself, then take it forward and explain to people in terms that they can understand what science can do for them. We strike a very responsive cord. We’re going to tell them we are going to understand, cure, and treat human disease. They’ll get it.”

Impressive Accomplishments

After the commencement address, Scripps Research faculty members stepped up to the lectern one by one to speak about the array of impressive scientific and personal accomplishments of each member of the class of 2012.

To graduate, each Kellogg School student needs to attend classes, complete lab rotations, and work with an advisor to write a dissertation that offers an original contribution to their field. The research interests of this year’s graduating class represented fields from synthetic organic chemistry to molecular biology, and topics from genome stability to the Lassa virus.

The audience learned that many students had numerous first-author publications. One individual’s dissertation was 900 pages. Some students had solved seemingly intractable scientific problems. One had had her work covered by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. The first biology student from the Scripps Florida campus was graduating, as was the first student who was accepted directly into the Florida program (rather than transferring from another institution).

Other accomplishments were more personal in nature—helping other lab members, finding a spouse, becoming an expert in ballroom dancing and Krav Maga, an Israeli marshal art.

Members of the Scripps Research Class of '12 are working in both academia and industry. Employers include: Harvard, ETH Zurich, University of California, San Diego, J. David Gladstone Institute, the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Novartis, Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, and Bristol Myers-Squibb.

One by one, the graduates stepped up to the stage to receive a diploma and ceremonial hood from Williamson and William Roush, professor, executive director of Medicinal Chemistry, and associate dean of graduate studies at Scripps Florida.

Eigen, who had officially received his degree last year but had been unable to attend the ceremony, was also hooded.

Toward the Future

When PhD degrees were officially conferred on the candidates and honorary degree recipient, the audience burst into thunderous applause.

Taking the dean’s advice, the faculty, students, graduates, family, friends, and supporters filed out of the auditorium, ready to spend the rest of the day celebrating with "great enthusiasm."

For a complete list of the graduating students, their advisors, and their thesis topics, see 2012 Graduating Students. For more information on Eigen, see the News&Views biography. For more information on Marletta, who also holds the position of Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Chair in Chemistry at Scripps Research, see the Marletta faculty web page.





Send comments to: press[at]scripps.edu



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Scripps Research’s 20th commencement enthusiastically celebrated the uniqueness of the institute and its graduating students. The march across the California campus (top), President and CEO Michael Marletta’s keynote address (center), and the award of 40 diplomas were part of the 2012 ceremonies. (Photos by Cindy Brauer.)