Get to Know the Class of 2015

Here are profiles of the Class of 2015 of the Cedars-Sinai Graduate Program in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine, excerpted from the program for the June 10 commencement ceremony.

Jessica Beach, Class Speaker

Graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Northridge, earning both her bachelor of science and master of science degrees in cell and molecular biology. As a master's student, she examined the transcriptional regulation of programmed cell death in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. At Cedars-Sinai, she continued her graduate research training in the laboratory of Sandra Orsulic, PhD, where she identified a novel mediator of tumor-stroma interaction in ovarian cancer and characterized its role in the formation of cancer-associated fibroblasts. After graduation, Beach will continue her training as a postdoctoral fellow in the field of ovarian cancer biology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center in Melbourne, Australia, where she will focus on the molecular mechanisms of chemotherapy resistance.

Felix Alonso-Valenteen

Was born in Valladolid, Spain, and moved to the U.S. in 2001. He obtained a bachelor of science degree in biology from Saint Joseph's University and in 2011 joined Cedars-Sinai's graduate program, where he did his dissertation research in the laboratory of Lali Medina-Kauwe, PhD. His research focused on novel therapeutics for oncology, specifically focusing on nanoparticle-delivered, viral polymerized siRNA. He worked at the intersection between cancer and the immune system, delivering nanoparticles that elicit an antiviral response by the immune system to breast cancer cell lines in vitro and tumors in vivo. An important outcome of this work was the demonstration that this approach can be used in "triple negative" breast cancer, a form of the disease with a poor prognosis.

Candy Bedoya

Obtained a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry in 2006 from UCLA, where she studied B-cell development in the neonatal gut. Her graduate research at Cedars-Sinai, under the mentorship of Miklos Peterfy, PhD, was focused on the potential for a protein, lipase maturation factor 1, to form a multi-subunit complex that can affect the levels of circulating triglycerides in the bloodstream, which can have an impact on cardiovascular health. After graduation, she plans to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship in the field of cardiovascular disease and metabolism.

I-Farn Lei

Graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with a bachelor of arts in psychology. She joined the laboratory of Patrick Lyden, MD, in the Department of Neurology, where she studied the application of stem cells in treating acute cerebral strokes. Her research focused on developing a minimally invasive methodology to deliver stem cells into stroke-injured brains. After graduation, she plans to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship to study neuroscience.

Sara Pollan

Earned her master's degree in biotechnology at the University of California, Irvine, in the laboratory of Peter Donovan, PhD, where she investigated cell lineage determinants in undifferentiated human cells. In the laboratory of her mentor, Beatrice Knudsen, MD, PhD, she focused on the growth and metastasis of reproductive cancers, and the development of model systems for circulating tumor cells. She discovered how a subset of metastatic prostate cancer cells can uncouple growth signals from their attachments in order to gain a proliferative advantage in metastasis, and how this evasion may be targeted with a pharmacologic inhibitor. Pollan's work has been highlighted by the American Association for Cancer Research, and she looks forward to further contributions in the fields of oncologic and regenerative medicine.