Biological Sciences graduate student selected to attend National Graduate Student Symposium at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Author: Cliff Djajapranata

Every spring, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital hosts the National Graduate Student Symposium (NGSS). The Symposium is held for the nation’s top Ph.D. students to present their work and learn more about St. Jude’s advanced research and facilities, which is located in Memphis, Tenn. This year, among more than 1500 applicants who had to be invited to apply, only 41 were selected. Notre Dame biology graduate student Mark Hawk is among this year’s attendees.

Mark Hawk 700

Selected among hundreds of other applicants, Hawk feels humbled to be able to participate in the NGSS. “It was extremely humbling to first be invited to apply to participate in the NGSS and even more so when I learned I was accepted to participate,” Hawk said. “It is a wonderful and gratifying feeling to be recognized for the work I have done over the past four years by such a world-renowned research community like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.” Hawk added that “it is an additional honor to follow in the footsteps of my fellow colleagues and mentors, Kelsey Weigel, Ph.D. and Joshua Mason, Ph.D., who were also accepted to participate in the NGSS during their graduate careers here at Notre Dame.”

A member of Zachary Schafer’s lab, Hawk’s research, which was recently published in Nature Cell Biology,  focuses on how cancer cells avoid cell death during extracellular matrix (ECM)-detachment. “I share the research interest of adaptations in signaling pathways that enable the persistence of cancer cells, especially during ECM-detachment,” Hawk said. “Cells experience ECM-detachment during all steps of the metastatic cascade, and therefore it is vital that we improve the understanding of cellular modifications occurring to better advance treatment options for cancer patients.”

Hawk, a native of Lima, Ohio, is excited about attending the NGSS and credits his achievement to his mentor Schafer, the Coleman Foundation Associate Professor of Cancer Biology. Hawk is looking forward to receiving feedback on his graduate work and the opportunity to network with other top graduate students. Schafer said “I am so proud of Mark for this well-deserved recognition. His dissertation research is innovative, exciting, and impactful and I can’t wait for the St. Jude community to hear more about Mark’s superb work”.

Hawk received his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Dayton in 2014.