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School of Medicine Columbia

School of Medicine Faculty and Scholars recognized with Breakthrough Awards

Two faculty members and two student scholars from the School of Medicine were recently announced as 2018 Breakthrough Award winners.

The announcement posted to the Office of Research website states: 

Each spring, the Office of the Vice President for Research honors a group of the most outstanding researchers and scholars working at every career level throughout the USC System. The Breakthrough family of awards has been carefully designed to recognize the best and brightest faculty and graduate students with three specially tailored awards programs.


Dr. Mitzi Nagarkatti, chair of Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, was recognized as one of only six Breakthrough Leadership in Research award recipients. The award recognizes USC’s distinguished senior faculty.

Dr. Nagarkatti has been with the School of Medicine since August 2005. In addition to her role as chair of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, she also serves as the SmartState Endowed Chair of Center for Cancer Drug Discovery and a Carolina Distinguished Professor. Nagarkatti’s broad research interests include inflammation, cancer immunology and immunotherapy, biodefense, immunopharmacology, immunotoxicology, as well as complementary and alternative medicine.

Dr. Susan Wood, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience, was recognized with a Breakthrough Star award, which honors outstanding early-career faculty. Wood joined the School of Medicine in February 2013 after completing her postdoctoral training at Michigan State University and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia/University of Pennsylvania.

Wood’s research focuses on stress resiliency, as well as the comorbidity of psychological disorders and cardiovascular disease. Since joining the School of Medicine, she has had 14 manuscripts published in peer reviewed journals. She also has secured funding from the American Heart Association and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

Julie Finnell, a mentee of Wood, earned a Breakthrough Graduate Scholar award. Finnell entered the Biomedical Sciences program in 2013 in the Graduate Certificate Program, and later transferred into the doctoral program. While in Wood’s lab, Finnell has been first author on four publications, middle author on an additional publication and participated in several poster and seminar presentations. Last summer, Finnell was awarded a Predoctoral Fellowship from the American Heart Association for her project “Protein tyrosine phosphates as critical mediators of stress susceptibility.”

Victoria Macht, a mentee of Drs. Sandra Kelly Larry Reagan in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology & Neuroscience, also earned a Breakthrough Graduate Scholar award. Macht is working toward a Ph.D. in Pscyhology. She completed her master’s thesis in Kelly’s lab and currently is working on her dissertation in Reagan’s lab. During her graduate career she’s had eight peer-reviewed publications, including two first author publications and a single author publication.

All of the award recipients will be will be honored in April with a booklet featuring their outstanding work, a special dinner celebration and other tokens of the USC research community’s appreciation for their contributions.

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