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Mission Statement

The mission of the MPDA is to foster the academic, professional, and social lives of junior scientists at Moffitt Cancer Center.

The five fundamental goals of the MPDA are:

  1. To provide support for postdoctoral career development through partnership with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) for academic and non-academic scientific career seminars and networking opportunities.
  2. To collect and disseminate practical information to all fellows.
  3. To embrace and celebrate the multicultural diversity of the members of the MPDA.
  4. To promote social interaction and create an environment in which peer support is openly sought and available.
  5. To offer guidance to postdocs to assist them in the transition from student to postdoctoral fellow then beyond.

Meet the 2023-2024 MPDA Executive Committee Members:

Miguel GomezMiguel Gomez

I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Immunology Department. My research focuses on the engineering of CAR-T cells and their enhancement through CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing tools. I received my PhD in Molecular Biosciences from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, where I focused on using the CRISPR/Cas system to study the role of the Conserved Non-Coding Region 2 (CNS2) in CD69 transcriptional regulation. My main hobby is aviation, and I recently earned my Private Pilot License (PPL). In my free time, I like to study to achieve additional aviation training. I love music and like to relax playing the guitar.

Eleonora PelleCo-Chair
Eleonora Pelle

My research is focused on neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). NETs are tumors derived from neuroendocrine cells characterized by the overexpression of the somatostatin receptors (SSTRs). In the last few years, immunotherapy with immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) has changed oncologic clinical practice, improving patients’ prognoses across several malignancies, however, ICIs have not shown significant activity in patients with NETs, indicating a necessity for improvement. My research goal is to develop a new type of immunotherapy for the treatment of these patients, with particular interest in T cell-engaging molecules that target the SSTR of NET cells via somatostatin, resulting in a T cell-mediated cytotoxic effect on NET cells.

Maria Alejandra GonzalezScience Advocacy Chair
Maria Alejandra Gonzalez

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Joseph Kissil. As part of this group, I am engaged in efforts to elucidate the molecular basis for neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), a genetic disorder caused by mutations in the NF2 gene and characterized by the development of schwannomas, meningiomas and other tumors of the nervous system. There is no FDA-approved treatment for this disease. Specifically, my research aims to understand the epigenetic landscape of NF2 and to identify and validate small molecule inhibitors as potential treatments for NF2-associated schwannomas.

Renata Rossetti

Distinguished Lecturer Symposium Chair
Renata Rossetti

I obtained my PhD in Immunology in 2016 from the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil). Since then, I worked for a while in clinical research and cellular therapy. Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Daniel Abate-Daga’s lab in the Department of Immunology. My research focuses on developing therapeutic strategies to improve TIL therapy for melanoma. When I’m not doing research, I spend my time visiting Florida’s national parks and beautiful beaches.

Junior Scientist Retreat Chair
Yaakov Stern

I am studying how cancer cells develop drug resistance, with a focus on a new class of inhibitors used in patients with KRAS-mutant lung cancers. My goal is to identify methods to prevent drug resistance or find treatments that are effective for patients who already have drug-resistant cancers. This work will ultimately help extend the time patients can effectively benefit from KRAS-mutant-directed drugs. I do this by studying how cells change their behavior over the course of treatment using a variety of approaches in collaboration with Moffitt’s Molecular Genomics Core, Proteomics Core, Tissue Core, and Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Shared Resource, along with laboratories in the Cancer Biology and Drug Discovery programs.

Communications Chair
Mahalakshmi NaiduMahalakshmi Naidu

I obtained my PhD in organic and medicinal chemistry in 2016 from BITS-Pilani University, India. I started my career in pharmaceutical industries such as Ind-Swift Laboratories Ltd (2016) in India as a Scientist-II, Albany Molecular Research Inc. (2016-17) in India as a Senior Research Scientist and TCG Lifesciences Ltd (2017-2022) in India as a Senior Research Scientist. Presently, I am working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Dr. Andrii Monastyrskyi lab in the Department of Drug Discovery. My work majorly focuses on the development of cancer therapeutics for targets as ULK1 & CDK12/CDK13. It includes design, synthesis and characterization of novel heterocyclic (cancer/oncology drug discovery) organic compounds.

Service CEstefania Juliahair
Estefania Julia

I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at Dr Patrick Hwu’s lab. I received my PhD from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina where I studied the role of NK cells in the therapy of breast cancer. I joined Moffitt in October 2020 to pursue my passion for immunotherapy. My current research focuses on improving CAR-T cell therapies for patients with solid tumors. When I am not in the lab, I love biking, camping and discovering new outdoor places.

Constanza Savid-FronteraSocial Chair
Constanza Savid-Frontera

I obtained my PhD in Immunology at the National University of Cordoba (Cordoba, Argentina) in 2020, where we investigated the role of innate CD8+ T cells in murine models of cancer. Shortly after that, I joined the Clinical Science team at Moffitt as a postdoctoral fellow. At Dr. Locke’s lab, our research is focused on improving CAR-T cell therapies for hematological malignancies, trying to overcome the current limitations of their application. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, spending time with friends, or relaxing at the beach, pool, or at home.

Tracess SmalleyDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair
Tracess Smalley

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Molecular Oncology Department where my research focuses on investigating and inhibiting viral oncoprotein pathways in HPV-driven cancers. I received my PhD from the University of South Florida, where I focused on the dysregulation of the atypical protein kinase C family in breast and ovarian cancers. As the diversity chair, I plan to utilize opportunities unique to Moffitt’s postdocs to further bolster the diversity, equity and inclusion culture found at Moffitt. In my free time, I am a mommy of two, I love trail running and reading graphic novels.

Karol PrietoWelcome Wagon Chair
Karol Prieto

I am working on the molecular understanding of non-melanoma skin cancers, specifically squamous and Merkel cell carcinomas. Contributing to the main goal of our lab in the identification and validation of new molecular targets for skin cancer prevention and treatment. I'm currently evaluating new therapies for these recently described diseases and developing new mouse models to improve the research of these kinds of carcinomas on immunocompetent animals.