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Recent Alumni Award

The Recent Alumni Award recognizes alumni who have graduated within the last 15 years and have shown outstanding professional growth. Recipients exemplify MSU’s commitment to the land-grant mission of teaching, research and outreach through their dedication to professional, community and/or MSU service.

Anyone may submit a nomination.

The award is presented at the annual alumni awards held in conjunction with Classes Without Quizzes.

Nominations not selected to receive the award are held for three years and automatically re-nominated each year.

Questions? Please contact Sara Ford via email or (517) 884-0290.

2023 Recent Alumni Award

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology ’14

Jelani Zarif is the Robert E. Meyerhoff Endowed (Assistant) Professor at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He has devoted his research career to studying prostate cancer—one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among men in the United States.

Zarif’s graduate research focused on the molecular mechanisms by which the androgen receptor
promoted prostate tumor cell survival and invasion. After earning his Ph.D., he completed two
postdoctoral fellowships at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a world-leading institution for prostate cancer research. His research at Johns Hopkins focuses principally on discovering and investigating new biomarkers that are expressed on immune cells known as macrophages, which could make ideal therapeutic targets and also predict clinical response to standard of care treatments for lethal prostate cancer.

He has received multiple research grants and awards including a highly competitive K22 Career
Transition Award from the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense Translational
Research award and a T32 grant from NIGMS. He was also a recipient of a Prostate Research Foundation Young Investigator Award, competing with applicants from 15 countries.

Zarif has been an active member of several community service organizations. While at MSU, he was
an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and served as a mentor in the Big Brothers/Big
Sisters of America and in the Turning Point of Lansing program, which provides mentoring to African
American males in grades 7 through 12, with the goal of helping them realize their full potential. In
Baltimore, Zarif is a mentor in the Ingenuity Project, which works with the Baltimore City Public
Schools to provide bright students with a free, highly accelerated and challenging math and science
curriculum and hands-on research opportunities. He is also a mentor for the Medical Education
Resources Initiative for Teens (MERIT) program, which aims to eliminate healthcare disparities by
transforming Baltimore City high school students into healthcare leaders through years of academic,
professional and social support. In recognition of his contributions to the community, Zarif was
awarded the Johns Hopkins University Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award in 2015.

He received his B.S. (2005) and M.S. (2007) degrees from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss.

Past Recipients

  • 2022 - Mark Ondari, Ph.D. Chemistry '10
  • 2021 - Shannon Morey, B.S. Chemistry ’10
  • 2020 - Kristina Martin, B.S. Clinical Laboratory Science ’02, M.S. Biomedical Laboratory Operations ’07
  • 2019 - Eeda Marie Wallbank, B.S. Environmental Biology and Botany ’05
  • 2018 - Paul Thomas, M.D., B.S. Human Biology ’09
  • 2017 - Jason Pratt, B.S. Microbiology and Molecular Genetics ’05
  • 2016 - Chelsea Walton, Ph.D. Mathematics '05
  • 2015 - Jennifer Schomaker, Ph.D. Chemistry ’06
  • 2014 - Karen Wayland, Ph.D. Environmental Geosciences and Resource Development ’01
  • 2013 – Sasha Fawaz, Zoology and Psychology '08
  • 2012 – Li Fan, Biochemistry ’00
  • 2010 – Dan Mindiola, Chemistry ’96
  • 2008 – Brian Langley, Chemistry ’99
  • 2005 – Wakeshi Benson, Chemistry ’96
  • 2003 – Carl Bruch, Physics ’96