College of Medicine awards two Ph.D.s in biomedical sciences


Shashank Pawitwar on graduation day, July 31, 2017.

Shashank Pawitwar on graduation day, July 31, 2017.

After a five year journey of ups and downs, sleepless nights and no weekends, Shashank Pawitwar walked up and across the stage at the Panther Arena on Sunday, July 31, and officially walked down as Dr. Pawitwar, having earned a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.

“I’m proud of myself,” says Pawitwar, who was born and raised in India. “It gives me confidence that all dreams can come true irrespective of your gender, language and country if you have courage and patience to pursue it.”

In the early days of their doctoral journey. Pawitwar (center) and Li (right) in 2013.

In the early days of their doctoral journey. Pawitwar (center) and Li (right) in 2013.

Pawitwar is one of two graduate students who studied in the lab of Distinguished Professor Barry Rosen and successfully defended their dissertations last month.

The other, Jiaojiao Li, M.D., is traveling overseas and did not attend the ceremony. The college has now awarded three Ph.D.s in addition to 378 M.D.s since opening its doors in 2009.

Li, a native of China, where she received her medical degree before deciding to become a biomedical scientist, had planned to visit her homeland after her successful dissertation defense last month; so she and Rosen, her faculty advisor, donned their regalia and posed for a keepsake photo.

“I am proud to be a graduate of HWCOM and FIU,” she says. “I now want to convert my knowledge to improve human health.”

Prof. Barry Rosen, Ph.D. and Jiaojiao Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Prof. Barry Rosen, Ph.D. and Jiaojiao Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Pawitwar, who credits HWCOM with fostering his research in the field of protein biochemistry, plans to stay here as a postdoctoral associate in the lab of Nazira El-Hage in the Department of Immunology.

Li’s next steps are still in the works, but Professor Rosen has great expectations for one of his star pupils.

A paper based on Li’s dissertation research, Nonsynonymous Polymorphisms in the Human AS3MT Arsenic Methylation Gene: Implications for Arsenic Toxicity” by Jiaojiao Li, Charles Packianathan, Toby Rossman and Barry P. Rosen, was selected for a rare honor, the cover of July 2017 Chemical Research in Toxicology, a top journal in chemistry and toxicology.

“That’s like a golfer getting a hole in one,” Rosen says. “Most researchers go an entire career without a cover.”