Overview

Van Andel Institute Graduate School is home to exceptional students with a passion for biomedical research from across the U.S. and abroad.

Current Students

Meet Van Andel Institute Graduate School's exceptional Ph.D. candidates.

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Student Support Services

We are deeply committed to supporting our Ph.D. candidates throughout their time at the Institute, both in and out of the classroom.

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Graduate Student Association

The Graduate Student Association helps foster a sense of community and camaraderie among VAI’s student community.

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Living in Grand Rapids

Making the move to a new city is exciting, but also comes with many considerations. We're here to help!

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Elshaimaa Ali, M.S.

Mentor: Hong Wen, Ph.D.

Thesis: Identification and characterization of novel non-histone substrates of SETD2

Menusha Arumugam

Thesis: TME impact on epithelial tumorigenesis in NF1-deficient breast cancer

Alix Booms

Thesis: Uncovering the functionality of PD risk-SNPs at the HLA locus in microglia

Richard Cassidy

Thesis project title to be determined

Shelby Compton

Thesis: Investigating the mechanisms of LKB1-mediated inflammation in tumor progression

Eric Cordeiro-Spinetti, M.S.

Thesis: Investigating the roles of lysine-methyltransferases in the epigenetic regulation of cardiac and skeletal myogenesis

Nadia Dehghani, B.Sc.

Thesis: Genetic characterization of dementia in a Turkish cohort

Patrick Dischinger, B.S., MB(ASCP)CM

Thesis: Investigating NF1 transcript variants in RAS deregulation and breast cancer progression

Svetlana Djirackor

Mentor: Hui Shen, Ph.D.

Thesis project title to be determined

Dylan Dues, B.S.

Thesis: Contributions of LRRK2 and alpha-synuclein in neuropathologic phenotypes of Parkinson’s disease

Lauren Duimstra

Thesis: Defining the impact of environmental nutrients on T cell function

James Eapen

Mentor: Hui Shen, Ph.D.

Thesis project title to be determined

Jamie Endicott, B.S.

Thesis: Building a mitotic clock

Mehrshid Faraji Zonooz

Thesis project title to be determined

Joe Floramo, M.S.

Mentor: Tao Yang, Ph.D.

Thesis: Polysumoylation’s role in skeletal development and homeostasis

Abigail Godec

Thesis project title to be determined

Thomas Goralski

Thesis project title to be determined

Ellen Griggs, B.S.

Thesis: The combined effect of maternal obesity and autism spectrum disorder-associated genetic mutations on neurodevelopment

Lauren Harmon, B.S.

Thesis: Genetic epidemiology of pediatric acute myeloid leukemia

Rachel (Rae) House

Thesis: Identification and exploitation of metabolic reprogramming in NF1-mutant breast cancer

Vanessa Howland

Thesis: Exploring the pathophysiology of TMEM230 in Parkinson’s disease

Sofia Ievleva

Mentor: Juan Du, Ph.D.

Thesis project title to be determined

Leena Kariapper, M.Sc.

Thesis: Investigating Setdb1-mediated endogenous retrotransposon silencing

Alysa Kasen

Thesis: Identifying structural determinants of tau pathology seeding

Ariana Kupai

Thesis: Defining molecular determinants of methyllysine-driven interactions

Yanqing Liu

Thesis: Mechanisms and therapeutic vulnerabilities of DNMTi-associated epigenetic plasticity

Paige Matusiak

Thesis project title to be determined

Mitch McDonald

Thesis: Mechanisms and therapeutic vulnerabilities of DNMTi-associated epigenetic plasticity

Lauren McGee

Thesis: Identifying pathways of therapy resistance in NF1-related MPNST

Shantinique Miller

Thesis project title to be determined

Vladimir Molchanov

Mentor: Tao Yang, Ph.D.

Thesis: Engineering stem cells to treat osteoarthritis

Brandon Oswald

Thesis: Caloric restriction in mice increases the functionality of T cells, offsetting tumor burden

Andrea Parham

Thesis: m6A RNA methylation: a new perspective on non-Mendelian phenotypic variation

Jordan Prahl

Thesis: Post-GWAS characterization of Parkinson’s disease risk-SNP rs356182

Alfredo Reyes Oliveras

Thesis: Linking glycosylation changes in pancreatic cancer with metabolic dependencies

April Rickle

Thesis: Impact of toxins and nutrients on brain function and development

Nathan Spix

Thesis: Deep molecular characterization of DNA methylation in human colorectal cancer

Christina Straham

Thesis project title to be determined

Bailey Tibben, B.S.

Thesis: Molecular mechanisms of DNMT3B recruitment and activity at gene bodies

Kate Thurlow, M.Sc.

Thesis project title to be determined

Xiao Wang

Thesis project title to be determined

Riley Wedan

  • Student Support Services

    We are deeply committed to supporting our Ph.D. candidates throughout their time at the Institute, both in and out of the classroom. This comprehensive, personalized approach to student support is central to our mission of training the biomedical research leaders of tomorrow.

    Orientation & Onboarding

    • Welcoming new students to Van Andel Institute Graduate School
    • Acclimating to the Institute
    • Establishing expectations
    • Building community with the cohort
    • Assisting with housing search and other personal support by connecting students with a housing specialist
    • Assigning of senior students as peer mentors
    • Intensive introductions to VAI research community including lab leaders (PI meetings)
    • Assisting international students in conjunction with Immigration Specialist and Director of Enrollment Management

    Individual Advising

    • Providing individual holistic advising to students
    • Assisting students in connecting them to internal and external resources
    • Offering conflict resolution and mediation
    • Including personal support and guidance with matters inside and outside of the Institute

    Community Building Activities

    • Social events hosted by Graduate Student Association
    • Monthly coffee chat
    • Monthly first-year meetings

    Mental Health and Wellness

    • Annual Wellness Week for students
    • Referrals to community resources for mental health and wellness
    • Introduction to Encompass (VAI’s employee assistance program)

    Career Exploration, Planning and Preparation

    • CV, résumé and/or cover letter development and review
    • Job search support
    • Use of myIDP and personal coaching
    • Career day and exploration activities
    • Connections with alumni
    • Use of StrengthsFinder

    Professional Development

    • Individual professional advising
    • On-site professional development workshops
    • Curriculum track within the Ph.D. program specific to professional development
    • Internships and externships

Graduate Student Association

Graduate Student Association (GSA)

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) helps foster a sense of community and camaraderie among VAI’s student community. All Van Andel Institute Graduate School students and visiting graduate students may be members. The GSA Leadership Council comprises four elected students who currently hold Ph.D. candidate status. Members of the leadership council serve two-year terms.

GSA activities include:

  • Monthly chalk talks
  • GSA Annual Retreat, which includes social and professional activities
  • Fostering involvement in the larger VAI research community (such as the annual VAI Scientific Retreat)
  • Hosting regular social activities throughout the academic year
  • Hosting a welcome mixer during orientation
  • Pairing second-year students (prior to comprehensive exams) with more senior students as comprehensive exam coaches

Leadership Council

Shelby Compton

Thesis: Investigating the mechanisms of LKB1-mediated inflammation in tumor progression

Nadia Dehghani, B.Sc.

Thesis: Genetic characterization of dementia in a Turkish cohort

Leena Kariapper, M.Sc.

Thesis: Investigating Setdb1-mediated endogenous retrotransposon silencing

Alfredo Reyes Oliveras

Thesis: Linking glycosylation changes in pancreatic cancer with metabolic dependencies

  • Living in Grand Rapids

    Making the move to a new city is exciting, but also comes with many considerations. What is the cost of living? What is the city like? Where should you live?

    We’re here to make it easy. Learn more about what Grand Rapids and West Michigan offer, and check out the estimated living expenses information below.

    Estimated Living Expenses for a Graduate Student

    Students in the Graduate School’s doctoral program are supported by institutional fellowships for five years, which include a stipend of approximately $36,000 per year as well as health, dental and vision insurance for the student (and spouse/dependents). The Graduate School also provides a laptop computer and up to $2,000 per year to attend scientific conferences.