SCI Spotlight

GRFP awardees

Congratulations to our Cancer Biology trainees who received the National Science Foundation’s 2021 Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award! We spoke with Jeremy D’Silva, Hudson Tyler Horn, and Catherine Zhang to learn more.

Jeremy D’Silva 

Jeremy’s interest in cancer research began as an undergraduate. He worked with Professor Marisa Eisenberg at the University of Michigan studying mathematical models of infectious disease transmission. More broadly, they worked on inverse problems: given partial observations of a dynamic process, can they "invert" the process in order to draw conclusions about the mechanism that governs the process?  

As he attended mathematical biology conferences and seminars, he heard about mathematical cancer biology, which has flourished in recent years with many exciting ideas and advances, including modeling opportunities afforded by new experimental techniques. In addition, it made sense for Jeremy to apply inverse problem frameworks in cancer biology, since he is studying a partially observed process, and wants to draw conclusions about the parameters of tumour progression. Hence, cancer biology is a domain in which his previous training is useful! 

Jeremy is currently on leave from Stanford to work in London, funded by a Fulbright Award. He is working with Professor Trevor Graham at Barts Cancer Institute, developing mathematical models of the interaction between the immune system and colorectal cancers. Jeremy hasn’t yet selected a lab at Stanford but was fortunate to rotate with Alistair Boettiger in Fall 2020, learning his lab's microscopy techniques for studying chromatin organization. In general, he is interested in making sense of biological systems through a combination of experimental data and mathematical modelling. 

In his free time, Jeremy is a violinist and singer; he especially loves to play string quartets. He also enjoys mathematics, baking, and spending time outside on sunny days.


Hudson Tyler Horn

Hudson’s interest in cancer research emerged when he first joined a lab as an undergraduate. He saw that there was so much about cancer that we still don’t understand and decided to actively partake in the research addressing this.

Currentlyin SCI member Calvin Kuo’s lab, he is genetically engineering patient derived organoids from normal tissues to track the progression of certain cancers. By introducing common driver mutations into these organoids he expects to see phenotypic changes that model the progression of cancer, which may potentially give insights to new therapeutic avenues.

Outside of the lab, Hudson likes to experiment with making and trying new foods. He also really enjoys snowboarding and looks forward to visiting Tahoe throughout the next few years of his graduate career.


Catherine Zhang

Catherine’s interest in cancer biology arose during her time as an undergraduate studying environmental studies. She noticed parallels between ecological principles and the tumor microenvironment and wanted to understand how environmental exposures could lead to cancer incidence. Working to develop new experimental techniques and a deeper understanding of molecular processes, in the service of advancing cancer treatment, has been extremely rewarding for her.

Catherine is jointly advised by SCI members Michael Bassik and William Greenleaf and is broadly interested in understanding how changes in chromatin accessibility drive aberrant gene expression in cancer. In particular, she is using genetic perturbations to understand how epigenetic plasticity of tumor-associated macrophages leads to their differential polarization and response in the tumor microenvironment.

Outside of the lab, Catherine has been trying to take advantage of the California weather and spend as much time outdoors as possible, playing tennis and swimming! She also enjoys reading and spending time with friends.

We are always looking for ways to highlight the accomplishments of our faculty, trainees, and staff. Please reach out to sci-communications@stanford.edu if you have any awards or publications you would like us to amplify.