First annual PICR Awards ceremony recognizes excellence in cancer research

The award winners posing

In a significant milestone for the Purdue Institute for Cancer Research (PICR), faculty, students and staff gathered at the Hansen Life Sciences Research Building on April 17 to honor seven awardees for their outstanding contributions to cancer research. PICR Director Andrew Mesecar delivered remarks emphasizing the importance of establishing the awards ceremony as a tradition and spoke about the distinct contributions each recipient had made to further the institute’s goal of conquering cancer.

“In almost every nomination and support letter we received, a single word stood out — and that word was ‘excellence.’ From scientific achievements to service within our cancer research community, the word excellence was used to describe the contributions of each of our nominees and awardees. Excellence describes what we strive to achieve in all areas of PICR’s mission, from research to training and education to inclusion and belonging,” Mesecar said. He also emphasized that “through the dedicated efforts of over 115 faculty members and more than 600 students and post-docs, the Purdue Institute for Cancer Research is indeed delivering on President Chiang’s vision of excellence at scale.”

Get to know the PICR Award recipients

Trainee Awards

These awards are presented to trainees who exhibit outstanding commitment, creativity and excellence in cancer research, and demonstrate exceptional promise for productive careers that will have meaningful impact in their fields.

Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award

Sam King

A senior in the College of Pharmacy majoring in pharmaceutical sciences, Sam King is a member of the Honors College and president of the Undergraduate Research Society. King has been an undergraduate research assistant in Emily Dykhuizen’s lab since 2021. He will graduate with a bachelor’s degree this May.

Outstanding Doctoral Student Award

Luopin Wang

A PhD candidate in the biochemistry and computer science departments, Luopin Wang has been a graduate research assistant in Majid Kazemian’s lab since 2018. Now in the final year of her doctoral program, Wang passed her dissertation defense and will be graduating in May with a PhD in computer science.

Outstanding Postdoctoral Fellow Award

Ikjot Singh Sohal

Ikjot Singh Sohal received his PhD in biomedical engineering and biotechnology from the University of Massachusetts and has been a postdoctoral research associate in Andrea Kasinski’s lab since 2018. His research focuses on understanding the biogenesis of extracellular vesicles and their role in immune suppression, as well as developing targeted miRNA therapeutics in lung and prostate cancer.

Outstanding Service and Engagement Award

Doug Cuttell, managing director, PICR

This award recognizes and celebrates individuals who have demonstrated exceptional commitment and active participation within the institute. It honors PICR members, staff, trainees or volunteers who have not only contributed significantly to the goals and mission of the institute but have also actively engaged in its various activities, fostering a collaborative and impactful environment.

Faculty Awards

Outstanding Early Career Research Achievement Award

Xiaoping Bao

This award recognizes early career research that goes beyond the awardee’s dissertation and demonstrates clear scientific or scholarly contributions in work completed as a PICR member. The award also acknowledges meaningful impact on their field.

Xiaoping Bao is the William K. Luckow Assistant Professor in the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering. His research focuses on stem cell immuno-engineering with cancer as the target disease. He has worked on the development of chimeric antigen receptor neutrophils for use in targeted cancer therapy.

Outstanding Mid-Career Research Achievement Award

Andrea Kasinski, deputy director, PICR

This award recognizes strong scientific contributions by a mid-career PICR member. The award acknowledges sustained and significant impact on their field and national or international recognition for their work.
As PICR deputy director and associate professor of biological sciences, Andrea Kasinski’s research focuses on identifying roles for microRNAs in cancer development and progression, and applying this knowledge in clinical applications.

Outstanding Career Research Achievement Award

John Tesmer

This award recognizes tenured full professors who have made strong scientific or scholarly contributions in their work as a PICR member. The award honors sustained and significant impact on their field, and national and international recognition for their work.

John Tesmer, the Walther Distinguished Professor in Cancer Structural Biology in the Department of Biological Sciences and professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, is a leader of PICR’s Targets, Structures and Drugs scientific program. His research focuses on structure, function and chemical-biological targeting of eukaryotic signaling proteins and cholesterol metabolizing enzymes.

Next year, PICR will introduce awards for graduate students and/or post-docs and faculty to recognize mentoring and training.

Learn more about the PICR award opportunities here.