Directing M. D. Anderson’s Odyssey Program provides many opportunities for Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., to brag about the young scientists who participate.
“Our goal is to identify the brightest postdoctoral fellows, support their research and give them a head start on becoming independent investigators,” says Bogler, professor in the Department of Neurosurgery.
In its 10th year, the Odyssey Program has funded 57 fellowships with donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. Each fellow can receive a salary and research stipend for up to three years.
“It’s a privilege to watch these outstanding postdocs progress in their odysseys of discovery,” Bogler says, “and I’m pleased that most of our former fellows have established their own laboratories at M. D. Anderson and elsewhere and are devoted to finding cures for cancer.”
A decade ago, the first Odyssey fellowship went to Jian Gu, Ph.D., then a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. He believes the three-year fellowship was “the best thing that could have happened” to launch his academic career.
Gu credits Odyssey support with helping broaden his knowledge, expand his skills and develop “motivation, confidence, independent thinking, collaboration, writing and communication skills.” During the fellowship, he had 20 scientific articles published and won several major awards for creative research.
After the fellowship, Gu shifted his research focus to molecular epidemiology and pharmacogenetics. Now an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, he is principal investigator or co-PI on several National Cancer Institute grants.
Abhinav Jain, Ph.D., who was named an Odyssey fellow in fall 2008, was the first recipient of funds from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation of Houston.
Obtaining Odyssey support was “like winning a lottery,” confides Jain, who is thrilled to be working in the laboratory of Michelle Barton, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Jain’s early research efforts were crucial to an article Barton’s team published in 2009 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describing a promising new way to restore the p53 suppressor gene in cancer cells.
The Odyssey Program propelled Ashby Morrison, Ph.D., from a postdoctoral fellowship at M. D. Anderson’s Department of Carcinogenesis to Stanford University in 2008.
“I’m very happy as an assistant professor of biology, running my own laboratory and conducting research on genome stability mechanisms,” Morrison reports.