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TSRI Celebrates 23rd Commencement

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) held its 23rd commencement ceremony on May 15, awarding graduate degrees to 38 students and presenting an honorary degree to Eric Topol, TSRI professor of genomics, chief academic officer at Scripps Health and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI).

In a colorful procession that brightened the rainy day, faculty and graduates marched across the institute’s campus to the Auditorium at TSRI, where Jamie Williamson, dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies, welcomed them and the audience of family, friends and supporters, inviting the group to celebrate the occasion with “unrestrained enthusiasm.”

TSRI Acting President and CEO James Paulson was the next to congratulate the graduating class, noting that TSRI, whose mission includes training the next generation of scientists, is one of the best places in the country to study biology and chemistry.

U.S. News & World Report currently ranks TSRI’s graduate program second in the specialty of biochemistry, sixth in the specialty of organic chemistry, seventh overall in chemistry and ninth overall in the biological sciences, based on a national survey of department heads, deans, directors of graduate studies, and other academics in each discipline.

Big Future

This year’s graduates are stepping out into a rapidly changing world—a world that cardiologist, researcher, author and wireless healthcare visionary Topol described in his keynote address as “the world of big.”

“How do you thrive in a world of big data and big science?” he asked.

His answer: “You can ante up with your own bigness.”

Topol advised members of the graduating class to have big ideas for biomedical research, to be big communicators by sharing their work, and, most importantly, to be big people by giving back to their communities and families.

Spotlight on Graduates

Following Topol’s speech, the presentation of degree candidates began. One by one, faculty advisors stepped to the lectern to share his or her student’s impressive accomplishments, often adding an anecdote from the graduate’s experiences at TSRI.

TSRI’s rigorous doctoral program, which takes an average of five years to complete, consists of a year of classwork and rotation through laboratories, customizable to each student’s interests and long-term goals. Students then work on individual research projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor—developing, completing, and defending their dissertations.

This year, graduates’ research addressed such far-ranging fields as chemical synthesis and structures relating to cancer, HIV, addiction and muscular dystrophy.

The two-year master’s in clinical investigation program, offered jointly by TSRI and STSI, is tailored to young physicians envisioning a career as both clinicians and scientists. STSI is a unique collaboration between Scripps Health and TSRI that aims to replace traditional one-size-fits-all medicine with precision health care through the clinical study and validation of genomic medicine, wireless health sensors and apps, and other digital medicine technologies.

By the end of the ceremony, 35 PhD and three master’s in clinical investigation degrees were conferred on the Class of ‘15.

Many of the new graduates have already stepped into the next stages of their careers in jobs at Stanford University; University of Southern California; University of California, San Francisco and San Diego; Baylor College of Medicine; Cornell University; Novartis; Genentech; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Gilead Sciences; Google venture Calico; Bay Area start-up STEMcentric; and other organizations in academia and industry.

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Graduates Yu "Tom" Gao and Nicole Schirle speak about their experience in TSRI's PhD program in this video. (By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt.)



Class of '15

Keynote Address: ‘Entering the World of Big’