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GSBS student Jia Shen named Jess Hay Chancellor’s Fellow

July 23, 2013

Tracey Barnett


The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston would like to congratulate GSBS student Jia Shen on being one of the recipients of a 2013 Jess Hay Chancellor’s Graduate Student Research Fellowship.  This prestigious award is given to two students per year across the entire UT System.

Shen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Cancer Biology Program at GSBS.  She enrolled there in 2007 after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Biotechnology from Zhejiang University in China where she also received honors in the Advanced Class of Engineering Education.

As a GSBS student her dissertation work has been carried out under the supervision of Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D., at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.  In his recommendation of Shen, Hung noted that she is “a superb student” whose major research project is especially novel and is driven by her own original ideas.  Her most recent findings are focused on microRNAs and a mechanism that helps cancer cells deprived of oxygen manage to survive.  This information will help researchers understand how cancer survives within the body and guide potential development of cancer fighting therapeutics. This was reported this May 2013 in a widely-cited paper in the highly-respected journal Nature. Shen was also the lead author of a recent article in Nature Protocol Exchange describing a new methodology used in the study of microRNAs. During her graduate research she has contributed to several other high-impact papers including articles published in the journals Molecular Cell and Cancer Cell.

“I wanted to pursue my Ph.D. studies at GSBS since UT MD Anderson Cancer Center is the best place for studying and fighting with cancer,” said Shen when asked why she chose GSBS for her graduate education. “As a graduate student, I aim to investigate the novel mechanistic nature of signaling-mediated regulation of microRNA maturation and microRNA-mediated gene silencing, which have been suggested to be critically important for the tumorigenesis (the production or formation of a tumor) and cancer progression. I hope our basic research not only broadens our knowledge of microRNA regulation, but also sheds light on the potential better strategy for clinical anti-cancer therapy.” 

Shen has received accolades for presentations of her work from both the GSBS Cancer Biology Graduate Program and from the MD Anderson Alumni and Faculty Association.  Academically she has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average during her graduate studies. 

“It's a great honor…and also a potent power that encourages me to work harder.  I want to thank my mentor Dr. Mien-Chie Hung and all the faculty members that have served on my advisory, candidacy, and super advisory committees. I appreciate their guidance, help and great support during my studies. Winning this fellowship means a new start for me to pursue my scientific dream in future.” 

The Jess Hay Chancellor’s Graduate Student Research Fellowship recognizes research excellence for a contribution that has the potential for a transformational impact on biomedical science that will ultimately benefit Texas and the nation. Established by a former member and chair of the UT System Board of Regents from 1977 to 1987, Jess Hay, this endowment provides awards of $10,000 to recipients who are designated Jess Hay Chancellor’s Fellows. The fellowships are meant to recognize the most outstanding graduate students within the UT System for truly exceptional research accomplishments.