Research Symposium Marks 10th Anniversary of the Discovery Fellows Program

fifth-year fellow presenters pose for a photo with Chancellor Hawgood and Dean Blake
Chancellor Sam Hawgood (left) and Graduate Dean Nicquet Blake (right) pose with the 5th year fellows who gave this year's symposium talks: Yaqiao Li, Ellery Jones, Regan Volk, Hersh Bhargava, and Lauren Cech. Photo by Sonya Yruel.

The 2024 Discovery Fellows' Michael Page, PhD Research Symposium, which took place Dec. 13 at the UCSF Mission Bay campus, offered much to celebrate: it was a chance to mark 10 years since the creation of the Discovery Fellows program; to hear about the exciting basic science research being conducted by the five student speakers and the many poster presenters; and for fellows, donors, university leaders, faculty members, alumni, and staff to come together to celebrate basic science graduate education and to thank Discovery Fellows donors for their generous support.

The Discovery Fellows Program was established in 2013 by Sir Michael Moritz and his wife Harriet Heyman with an initial landmark gift of $30 million to ensure the future of PhD education programs in the basic sciences. They have since been joined by more than 1,200 donors in order to build an endowment that is currently more than $150 million – the largest endowed program for PhD students in the history of the 10-campus University of California.

The Discovery Fellows program is helping build this community of really good science ambassadors, who can not only do good science that’s going to benefit the public, but also communicate that science to the public in a way that’s accessible.

Gokul Ramadoss

Discovery Fellow
PhD candidate, Biomedical Sciences

The Discovery Fellows endowment provides financial support for all PhD students in the basic sciences, but each year, 78 PhD candidates are designated as Discovery Fellows, charged with using their demonstrated leadership potential, excellence in research, community-mindedness, and communications skills to serve as ambassadors for the initiative and for basic science education.

The annual symposium is a key opportunity for fellows to perform this role and to acknowledge the donors who’ve made it possible. The symposium is named in memory of Michael Page, PhD, who worked as a postdoc in the Craik Lab until his untimely death at 36, and who embodied the spirit of scientific inquiry that is celebrated by the Discovery Fellows program. His father, Roger Page, created an endowed Discovery Fellows Leadership fund in his son’s honor, which garnered support from more than 60 additional donors.

Organized by University Development and Alumni Relations with help from the Graduate Division Dean's Office, the event was hosted by Nicquet Blake, PhD, dean of the Graduate Division and vice provost of Student Academic Affairs, and included welcoming remarks from Chancellor Sam Hawgood. The event also featured a short video celebrating the 10th anniversary of the program and acknowledging donors for their support.

Five 5th-year Discovery Fellows were chosen to share their dissertation research in short, accessible talks, after which guests enjoyed a reception and poster session featuring scientific posters from 4th-year fellows.

Symposium Speakers

speakers delivering their talks; left to right: Volk, Jones, Cech, Li, Bhargava

This year’s speakers were (in order of appearance):

Regan Volk
PhD candidate in Chemistry and Chemical Biology
A Chemical Biology Approach to Studying the Proteome of Human Macrophages

Ellery Jones
PhD candidate in Neuroscience
A Modern Solution to an Ancient Problem: The Role of Visual Cortex in the Plasticity of Visually Guided Behavior

Lauren Cech
PhD candidate in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics
Engineering AI to Outsmart Lung Cancer: An Image-Based Deep Learning Approach to Detect Targeted Therapy-Induced Persister Cells

Yaqiao Li
PhD candidate in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics
Precision Medicine Approach for Developing Combination Therapy to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

Hersh Bhargava
PhD candidate in Biophysics
Reprogramming T Cell Communication to Enhance Cell Therapies for Cancer and Beyond

Symposium Scenes

Ziad Jowhar presents his poster
Ziad Jowhar, 4th year fellow, explains his poster to a guest.


Jesus Madrigal presents his poster
Jesus Madrigal, 4th year fellow, shares his poster.


Bertliza Soriano poses a question
4th-year fellow Berliza Soriano poses a question after a talk.


guests chat during the reception
Discovery Fellow alum Nairi Hartooni (center) chats with faculty member Dave Morgan and PhD alum Deb Dauber.


Make a gift to the Discovery Fellows Program.

All photos by Sonya Yruel