Dr. Julie Overbaugh has long been committed to mentorship and graduate student training. These values have inspired the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center HIV researcher and Human Biology Division member over the past year as she settled into the newly created role of Hutch Associate Director for Graduate Education.
Overbaugh’s position, which she inaugurated, reflects the increasingly complex landscape of graduate student training at the Hutch. Hutch graduate training began with a few Molecular & Cellular Biology and MSTP (Medical Scientist Training Program) students, who gravitated toward labs in the Basic Sciences Division, and students in epidemiology and biostatistics who trained in the Public Health Sciences Division. Since then, the number of graduate students at Fred Hutch has grown to more than 100. These students train across all five divisions and hail from 10 different University of Washington graduate programs.
“I view the training of the next generation of scientists as an integral part of our mission and one that also enriches our scientific environments and our research programs,” said Overbaugh, who also holds the Endowed Chair for Graduate Education. A renowned mentor, she has fostered the careers of a diverse group of students, including several Kenyan scientists through the HIV-focused Kenya Research Program.
“The Hutch is a unique place for graduate student training, not only because of our top-notch scientists but also because it is an unparalleled environment for collegial and collaborative science,” she said.
Overbaugh stepped into her new role at the behest of Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland.
“Julie is an extraordinary mentor and scientist, as exemplified in part by her recent Mentoring Award from Nature that was presented here at the Hutch by the Nature Editor-in-Chief Sir Philip Campbell,” said Gilliland. “She is ideally qualified to lead our Graduate Education Program at the Hutch in collaboration with the University of Washington.”
Overbaugh has made it her mission to strengthen ties between Fred Hutch and UW to the benefit of both students and faculty. For example, she established new relationships that will create a “nice synergy,” she said, and allow interested graduate students from the UW immunology program to take advantage of the Hutch's expanded cancer immunology and infectious disease immunology programs — while new faculty in these areas have the opportunity to help train science’s next generation.
Her goal is to foster “strong relationships that can enhance graduate training here and at UW and establish good communication between programs,” she said.
With this in mind, Overbaugh has built relationships with her counterparts in departments and programs across UW. This helps graduate students take advantage of training opportunities at Fred Hutch, and it enhances these opportunities for faculty as well — and Overbaugh believes that supporting faculty mentorship is key to attracting and retaining top talent. She has also been working to ease the tasks of submitting and managing training grants, and to ensure a smooth hand-off of several training grants to new heads.
Overbaugh looks forward to building on her strong start in coming years.
“I’d like to continue to support junior faculty interested in graduate training and also help support faculty who are willing to direct training grants that provide vital support for training both here and at UW,” she said.
— Sabrina Richards / Fred Hutch News Service
Dr. Janghee Woo has received the second annual CTI BioPharma International Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, an endowed fellowship for early career researchers studying blood cancers at Fred Hutch. Woo is an acting instructor at Fred Hutch and UW.
Woo’s research focuses on the blood disorders known as myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, and myeloproliferative neoplasms, or MPNs. Working with Fred Hutch clinical researcher Dr. Joachim Deeg and UW genetics researcher Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, Woo is interested in better understanding the genetic and epigenetic causes of these diseases and identifying which patients with MDS and MPNs fare better or worse on certain targeted therapies. Woo also sees patients with these disorders as a medical oncologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch's clinical-care partner.
The fellowship, now in its second year, is made possible by funding from CTI BioPharma, Corp., a Seattle-based biotech company focused on blood cancers. The fellowship was established by CTI BioPharma's principle founder and former President and CEO Dr. James Bianco, who was also a former assistant member at the Hutch. Bianco established the fellowship in memory of the late Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, the Fred Hutch clinical research and Nobel Prize laureate who pioneered the development of bone marrow transplantation.
CTI BioPharma’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Jack Singer, was a member of the Hutch’s Clinical Research Division and the UW Department of Medicine until 1992, when he left to help found the biotech company. “Establishing the CTI BioPharma international visiting fellowship at Fred Hutch stems from our belief that supporting the training of scientists capable of translating basic scientific discoveries into innovative therapies for cancer is critical to future progress,” Singer said. “The fellowship is in honor of the commitment to translational research at the Hutch that led to the creation of CTI BioPharma in 1992.”
The funding comes at a critical time in his career, Woo said, as he is preparing to establish an independent research laboratory once his research fellowship is complete. The CTI BioPharma fellowship will help him carry forward his current research project and help propel him to the next stage of his career, he said. Woo is also grateful to Drs. Oliver Press and Fred Appelbaum for their support, he said.
“Now the federal funding situation is very critical as well as very difficult,” Woo said. “As a researcher and a young investigator, this fellowship will bridge my research efforts to the point where I’m going to be independent.”
— Rachel Tompa / Fred Hutch News Service