Highlights from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences annual retreat

Written by 
Susan Gammon
SBP Grad School Retreat

On May 18-19, SBP’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences held its eighth annual retreat in San Marcos, Calif.

This year’s theme, “Using Collaborations to Enhance Your Research,” gave our Ph.D. students an opportunity to share their research projects and explain how collaborators are helping them achieve their goals. At SBP, we encourage scientists to work with researchers in other disciplines to answer questions of broad scope and complexity—questions that would remain unanswered without collaboration.

At the retreat, each student presents their work and is scored by their fellow students, faculty and mentors on a scale of 1 to 9 for quality, content and clarity of presentation. When the scorecards are tallied, the winner is presented with the “Howling Coyote” award.

Wesley McKeithan, SBP Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Wesley L. McKeithan, graduate student in the lab of Mark Mercola, Ph.D.


This year’s winner was Wesley L. McKeithan, a Ph.D. candidate in the laboratory of Mark Mercola, Ph.D. Wesley’s presentation, titled “Use of patient-derived long QT syndrome type 3 hiPSC cardiomyocytes to develop a new anti-arrhythmic therapeutic,” covered his scientific journey to find a treatment for this rare condition that can cause symptoms, which range from fainting to sudden death.

Highlights from the retreat included a presentation by keynote speaker Jerold Chun, M.D., Ph.D., professor and senior vice president of Neuroscience Drug Discovery at SBP, who gave an inspirational success story of his research on lysophospholipid signaling that led to Gilenya®, the first oral drug used to treat multiple sclerosis.

Guest keynote speaker Bill Parks, Ph.D., professor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, led an entertaining interactive session on the do’s and don’t of collaboration—sharing his best experiences and some of the worst (without naming names).

Many congratulations to all of the student participants as well as Guy Salvesen, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate Program, for providing leadership and educational opportunities for the students.

Special thanks to:

  • Student coordinators, Katja Birker and Daniel Ojeda Juarez
  • Mary Bradley, manager of the graduate program, and Alexia Pimentel, program coordinator, for organizing the retreat
  • And to Pfizer, Genentech and Celgene for helping to underwrite the event