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Recipient of the 2023 Jack R. Hoffert Memorial Scholarship Award announced

A photo of Nicholas Giacobbi

Giacobbi is in his 5th year in MSU Department of Physiology's DO-Ph.D. program. "I’m interested in using viruses as tools to study processes, like cancer, and to utilize them for making new therapies," he said. Credit: Tyler Lee

Science was always Nicholas Giacobbi’s favorite subject in school.

Growing up, he developed an early interest in ecology and geology, but it wasn’t until college that he found his true passion.

“I started working in a molecular virology lab and I have been following that path since,” said the Latrobe, Pa. native.

And it’s been a rewarding one, too.

Giacobbi was recently named as this year’s recipient of the Michigan State University Department of Physiology’s Jack R. Hoffert Memorial Scholarship Award. He was selected by a committee of MSU physiology faculty members for his research on cancer immunology and the relationship to human papillomavirus or HPV.

“My research focuses on understanding the relationship of HPV to the host, particularly in the context of the host immune system, for the development of therapeutic strategies for HPV-associated cancer,” said Giacobbi, who is a 5th year student in the MSU Department of Physiology DO-Ph.D. program. His research also awarded him as one of this year’s MSU Cancer Research Pentecost Foundation Aitch Fellow.

“Many people see viruses only as pathogens which cause diseases,” said Giacobbi, who works in the Pyeon Lab. “I’m interested in using viruses as tools to study processes, like cancer, and to utilize them for making new therapies.”

Giacobbi’s future goal is to specialize in hematology and oncology, practicing as a physician-scientist and dividing his time between clinical work and research. He wants to evaluate other cancer specific candidate transgenes and introduce them as treatments in the clinic, following a bench-to-bedside approach. It’s goals that scholarships like the Jack R. Hoffert Memorial Scholarship make possible, Giacobbi said.

“The Hoffert Memorial Scholarship gives graduate students a great opportunity to present their work to a bigger audience and to learn about where our work fits into the greater body of science,” he said. “The scholarship also provides additional opportunities for learning outside of the lab and classroom.”

The Jack R. Hoffert Memorial Endowment was established in 1985 in honor of Hoffert, who joined MSU Department of Physiology’s faculty in 1965. An alumnus of MSU, where he received his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in physiology, Hoffert was renowned for his research in comparative ocular physiology. He passed away from a sudden heart attack at the age of 49 in 1984. The endowment awards a scholarship of $2,000 to any eligible physiology graduate student. Past winners have gone on to become distinguished leaders in their respective areas of research.

By: Tyler Lee