The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB recently created the O’Neal NextGen Scholar awards to provide a mechanism to support the training of future scientific leaders in cancer research. The O’Neal Cancer Center is pleased to announce the 2022 class of NextGen Scholars.

Predoctoral awards enable promising graduate students to obtain mentored cancer research training from O’Neal Cancer Center faculty members by expanding upon each student’s dissertation project, enhancing the student’s potential to develop into a productive, independent researcher.

Postdoctoral awards support an integrated program of research and training for promising postdoctoral trainees and are also meant to enhance a trainee’s potential to develop into a productive, independent researcher.

Beginning this year, the Young Supporters Board of the O’Neal Cancer Center will use funds raised from its annual Fiesta Ball to fund two O’Neal NextGen Scholars Awards each year, the Jacob Baker NextGen Award and the Mary Ann Harvard NextGen Award. The awards will provide research funding for young cancer scientists and are named in memory of two former Young Supporters Board members who died from cancer.

2022 O’Neal NextGen Scholar Awardees

The O’Neal Cancer Center is pleased to announce the 2022 class of NextGen Scholars, including three predoctoral awardees and one postdoctoral awardee.

Amr Elhamamsy

Amr ElhamamsyAmr Elhamamsy

Amr Elhamamsy, currently a cancer biology theme student within the UAB Graduate Biomedical Sciences program, is the recipient of a 2022 O’Neal NextGen Scholars predoctoral award. Elhamamsy’s proposal investigates how tumor microenvironmental factors can impact tumor progression and metastasis. Intratumoral hypoxia is an important tumor microenvironmental driver of invasion and metastasis, and Elhamamsy’s proposal focuses on understanding and elucidating the hypoxia-related events that drive the spread of metastatic cancer. His research will help find new ways to fight metastatic breast cancer and improve metastatic cancer patients’ outcomes and quality of life. Elhamamsy is sponsored by Rajeev Samant, Ph.D., senior scientist at the O’Neal Cancer Center and professor in the UAB Division of Molecular & Cellular Pathology. Elhamamsy is also supported by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama.

 

Victoria Seghatol-Eslami

Victoria Seghatol-EslamiVictoria Seghatol-Eslami

The winner of the inaugural Jacob Baker NextGen Award is Victoria Seghatol-Eslami, a doctoral student in the UAB Medical/Clinical Psychology program. Seghatol-Eslami’s line of research aims to better understand neurocognitive and psychosocial outcomes of survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Her project will explore risk factors for reduced adaptive functioning in pediatric survivors of ALL, including cognitive and emotional/behavioral functioning, cancer treatment and socioeconomic status.

Additionally, Seghatol-Eslami’s project aims to examine the relationship between adaptive functioning and connectivity of brain regions that support higher-order cognition and are impacted by cancer treatment. The long-term goal of her project is to inform early screening and interventions for pediatric survivors at risk for adaptive functioning difficulties and to ultimately support survivors’ cognitive and psychosocial development. Seghatol-Eslami is mentored by O’Neal Cancer Center Associate Scientist Donna Murdaugh, Ph.D., and Senior Advisor for Cancer Outcomes & Survivorship Smita Bhatia, M.D., MPH. Murdaugh is a member of the UAB Institute for Cancer Outcomes & Survivorship, where Bhatia serves as the institute’s director.

 

Julia Ziebro

Julia Ziebro Julia Ziebro

The winner of the inaugural Mary Ann Harvard NextGen Award is Julia Ziebro, currently a cancer biology theme student in the UAB Graduate Biomedical Sciences program. Ziebro’s proposal is driven by the need for the development of novel precision medicine approaches for glioblastoma. She will investigate the role of enhancer remodeling in mediating the adaptive response to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibition. Ziebro is sponsored by C. Ryan Miller, M.D., Ph.D., a senior scientist at the O’Neal Cancer Center and at the UAB Comprehensive Neuroscience Center, as well as a professor and the director of the UAB Division of Neuropathology. Ziebro is also supported by a UAB Heersink School of Medicine AMC21 scholarship.

 

 

Chao Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.

Chao Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.Chao Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.

Chao Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Genetics at the UAB Heersink School of Medicine, is the recipient of a 2022 O’Neal NextGen Scholars postdoctoral award. Zhang’s project aims to elucidate a novel mechanism of neural regulation related to the progression and metastasis of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Using a chronic stress mice model, he will identify the tumor-neuroimmune network in the tumor microenvironment to design a potential therapeutic strategy for TNBC. Zhang is sponsored by his mentor, Lizhong Wang, M.D., Ph.D., and his co-mentor, Runhua Liu, Ph.D. Wang and Liu are scientists at the O’Neal Cancer Center and associate professors in the UAB Department of Genetics. Zhang is also supported by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama.