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Dr. Brock Humphries earned his B.S. in Biology at Saginaw Valley State University, and his PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Michigan State University. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Radiology at the University of Michigan. His research uses a multidisciplinary approach to identify the molecular mechanisms that drive tumor recurrence and metastasis, with the goal of elucidating novel therapeutic targets for breast cancer. Please click on the following link for a description of Dr. Humphries’ research.


Dr. Kaitlin Basham received her PhD in Oncology Sciences at the University of Utah, and completed her B.S. in Biology with a Psychology minor at Saint Mary's College of California. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. Dr. Basham's research is aimed at determining how the loss of the ZNFR3/RNF43 genes disrupts equilibrium needed for normal cellular pathways function, and testing the efficacy of newly developed drugs to target tumors lacking these genes. Please click on the following link for a description of Dr. Basham’s research.

Dr. Jennifer Speth received her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Indiana University after completing her bachelor of Science in Microbiology at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She is currently a Postdoctoral Translational Scholar Program fellow at the University of Michigan’s Department of Internal Medicine - Pulmonary and Critical Care Division. Dr. Speth’s research focuses on exploring use of a novel type of cell to cell communication as a strategy to inhibit tumor formation and progression in lung cancer. Please click on the following link for a description of Dr. Speth’s research.


Daryl Staveness, PhD, received his B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his PhD inOrganic Chemistry from Stanford University. Dr. Staveness is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan, where he is working to develop and evaluate a new building block for medicinal chemistry that will allow for the preparation of safer drugs. These efforts are a step toward reverting the stigma associated with the term “chemotherapy” into a more positive connotation that reflects the life-saving benefits of well-designed and appropriately-administered treatments. Please click on the following link for a description of Dr. Staveness’ research.

Rochelle Tiedemann, PhD, graduated from the University of North Georgia with a B.S. in Biology, and received her PhD from Agusta University. Dr. Tiedemann's studies at the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, MI, will use a recently developed model system of prostate cancer progression to characterize the dynamics of epigenome reprogramming in this disease. The results of this work will help identify epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to prostate cancer and will suggest new avenues of pursuit for therapeutic interventions to correct aberrant gene regulation in this disease. Please click on the following link for a description of Dr. Tiedemann's research.

hilary marusakHilary Marusak, PhD, earned her B.A. in Biology and Psychology at Kalamazoo College, and received her
PhD in Translational Neuroscience from Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2016. Her long-term goals for her research project at Wayne State concern the underpinnings of emotion (dys)regulation. Her focus is on furthering understanding of principles of brain organization against a backdrop of neurodevelopment, and how the trajectory of brain maturation may be altered as a function of risk or emerging psychopathology. Please click on the following link for a description of Hilary Marusak's research project which is
focused on identifying neurobehavioral correlates of learning and memory in young cancer survivors.


Ethan V. Abel, PhD, received his B.S. in Biology from the State University of New York at Albany in 2004, after which he worked as a research technician and later graduate student in the Department
of Cell Biology and Cancer Research at Albany Medical College. In 2008, he relocated to Thomas Jefferson University where he received his Ph.D. in Genetics in 2012. Dr. Abel joined the Simeone lab at the University of Michigan in August 2012. Currently his research focuses on the examination of the molecular characteristics of pancreatic cancer stem cells as a means to uncover pathways that are critical for their maintenance, and therefore potential therapeutic targets. Dr. Abel received a two-year MCRF award, but was required to relinquish that award after one year in July 2016 when he was awarded the PANCAN-AACR Pathway to Leadership grant. The 5-year PANCAN-AACR grant that will hopefully transition him from a postdoctoral research fellow to an independent research scientist in the next two years. This award represents a tremendous opportunity for Dr. Abel as transitional funding is highly competitive and transitioning to independence is very challenging without such funding. Please click on the following link for a description of Ethan Abel's research project.


Jennifer Cash, PhD, received her PhD from the University of Cincinnati. In 2012, she joined the laboratory of Dr. John Tesmer who is the Cyrus Levinthal Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Michigan. Dr. Cash was very productive as a graduate student and is focused on an important opportunity for the development of therapeutic options to prevent or treat metastasis. A two-year MCRF postdoctoral fellow award will support Dr. Cash's research on Understanding Regulation of P-Rex1, an Enhancer of Metastatic Potential. Please click on the following link for a description of Jennifer Cash's research project.

Lauren Tanabe, PhD, received her PhD from Columbia University in 2010 where she made important discoveries about dystonia, a neurological disease associated with inappropriate muscle contraction. Dr. Tanabe works at Wayne State University in the Department of Pharmacology. Her Targeting Matriptase/c-Met Signaling in Inflammatory Breast Cancer research project will be supported by MCRF for two years, and could well lead to the identification of a new therapeutic target for the treatment of inflammatory breast cancer. Please click on the following link for a description of Dr. Tanabe's research project.

Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute/Wayne State University Institutional Research Grant: This is a block grant which will provide small pilot grants to new faculty to enable these beginning investigators to generate sufficient data in their new laboratories to make them competitive for national research grants. Dr. Gerold Bepler, Karmanos President and CEO, is the Principal Investigator for this award and will manage a local review committee to evaluate and prioritize pilot grant applications from new faculty members at Wayne State University. We will post information about the pilot grants after they have been awarded.


Jeannie HernandezJeannie Hernandez, PhD, was the first woman in her family to graduate from high school, and enrolled in the Integrative Biology program at the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, she worked in a variety of molecular and cell biology labs and became interested in mechanisms of stem cell differentiation. After graduating from Berkeley, she enrolled in the Cell Biology department in the University of Michigan Medical School, and conducted research on neuronal differentiation and obtaining specific neuronal phenotypes with Richard Altschuler. Jeannie now works as a postdoctoral scientist in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Michigan, where she uses biochemistry and cell biology to understand how the tumor suppressor protein Scribble is regulated in epithelial cells to prevent cells from undergoing malignant transformation.

Please click on the following link for a description of Jeannie Hernandez's MCRF funded research project and its objectives, and please click on the following link for a virtual tour of the University of Michigan laboratory where Jeannie works.


Kristen AdmiraalKristen Alford (formerly Admiraal), MSW, is pursuing her PhD in social work at Michigan State University.  Her doctoral research focuses on how treatment options affect quality of life among older adults with colorectal cancer.  Ms. Alford plans to explore quality of life outcomes as they relate to older adults’ psychological and social well-being. Please click on the following link for a description of Kristen Alford's MCRF funded research project and its objectives.

Ms. Alford received her MSW from the University at Albany, specializing in gerontological social work as a student in the Internships in Aging Program.  She received her BSW from Calvin College
in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she is currently an assistant professor of social work.  She previously worked for the New York State Department of Health Comprehensive Cancer Control Program.  She was a recipient of the 2012 AGE-SW Gerontological Social Work Pre-Dissertation Award and was a member of the New York State Senate Public Health Leaders of Tomorrow Program.

Amanda Solem, PhD received MCRF support for a three-month period in 2012 while she was conducting a Single-molecule Study of the Splicesome within the Department of Chemistry at Wayne State University. The term of this project was shortened as Dr. Solem moved to another institution.


Aaron Van Dyke, PhdAaron Van Dyke, PhD is with the Department of Chemistry at the University of Michigan. His research project focuses on exploring ways to develop new compounds which, because they have a novel mode of action, may in the long term constitute a new class of drugs for prostate cancer where conventional therapeutics have failed. Please click on the following link for a description of Dr. Van Dyke’s MCRF funded research project and its objectives.

Dr. Van Dyke obtained his PhD in Organic Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where his research focused on developing new methods for constructing ladder polyether natural products, a class of potent marine toxins. He was an MIT-Wyeth Scholar and received MIT’s Excellence in Teaching award. Dr. Van Dyke received his BS in Chemistry from Seattle University, where a Sullivan Scholarship supported four years of study.


Dr. Kurt JanuszykIn June 2010, MCRF Trustees voted to support the research of Kurt Januszyk, PhD who works in the Department of Structural Biology at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Research. Dr. Kurt Januszyk's experiments are designed to reveal how the normal process of RNA decay occurs so that he can then apply this knowledge to the problem found in cancer cells where normal decay processes go awry. Please click on the following link to access Dr. Januszyk's description of his research project and its objectives.

Dr. Januszyk obtained his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he was also a teaching assistant. He was a research and teaching assistant and a research technician at Northern Illinois University, and received his BS in Biochemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington. Dr. Januszyk is proficient in using highly sophisticated biochemical research techniques including x-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. Dr. Januszyk has multiple publications and has presented papers on his work at several symposia. He received a Graduate Dissertation Fellowship in 2007 from the University of California, Los Angeles; an Excellence in Teaching Award from Northern Illinois University, and a Radiation Research Society Student Travel Award, both in 2000.


Dr. David DeGraffDavid DeGraff, PhD was selected by the MCRF trustees as the 2009 MCRF Fellowship Grant recipient. He is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Matusik in the Department of Urologic Surgery at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dr. DeGraff's research is focused on identifying new molecular targets for the treatment of prostate and bladder cancers as well as other urological diseases. Although the research is in an early stage, it may lead to the development of a drug that treats advanced prostate cancer. Please click on the following links to access Dr. DeGraff's description of his research project, and a video update from Dr. DeGraff in June 2010.

Dr. DeGraff obtained his PhD in Cell & Organ Systems from the University of Delaware under the supervision of Dr. Robert Sikes in the Department of Biological Sciences. While performing his dissertation work on the role of IGFBP-2 in castrate-resistant prostate cancer, Dr. DeGraff received the National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Fellowship. Dr. DeGraff has authored two book chapters and several peer-reviewed scientific articles on the subjects of urogenital development and cancer, and is a member of the Society for Basic Urologic Research and the American Association for Cancer Research.


Huira Chong Kopera, PhD was honored to be named the inaugural Fellow of the Michigan Cancer Research Fund in 2008. She is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. John Moran in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. Her now completed research project was designed to learn more about a family of genetic elements that can "jump" from one chromosomal location to another. She is interested in the jumping of these elements because on occasion, it can cause mutations that can result in genetic diseases, including cancer. The research is truly fundamental and is focused on developing a basic understanding of how jumping happens, what mechanisms a "healthy" cell uses to limit the ability for jumping and why these mechanisms are found in healthy cells but not "sick" ones. So far, through various tests, experiments and analyses, the research has helped further characterize these elements with some results matching the hypotheses and others disproving them.

Sharing the results of her work is an important part of the collaborative process which leads to scientific discovery. Dr. Kopera has presented the results of her studies at two national scientific conferences and is writing up the results to submit for publication in 2010. Because of MCRF's investment, Dr. Kopera is in a great position to continue her scientific work in the field of her choice: cancer research. In the coming months, she will finish another project which is focused on investigating the specific mechanisms of how elements jump, and she expects that this project will result in additional presentations and publications. Upon completion of this next project, Dr. Kopera anticipates that she will seek a faculty job as the head of her own laboratory where she will continue her investigations while training new scientists.

Dr. Kopera obtained her PhD in Biological Chemistry from the University of Michigan in 2004, after completing her undergraduate studies in biology at Northwestern University in Chicago. She has received several awards in recognition of her studies, including pre-doctoral fellowships from both the National Institute on Aging, and the NIH National Research Service, and has authored multiple articles related to her research. Dr. Kopera was promoted to the position of Research Investigator in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan in July 2012.

For a summer 2010 video update from Dr. Kopera, click here.

As of summer 2014, Huira Kopera continues her research in the lab of Dr. John Moran in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.