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New Senior Director of Cancer Training and Career Enhancement to Continue World-Class Instruction

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Katharine S. Ullman, PhD
Katharine S. Ullman, PhD

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (the U) recently welcomed Katharine S. Ullman, PhD into a new position of leadership. Celebrated for her advocacy in training and mentoring, her dedication to learning is second-to-none.

“Dr. Ullman's appointment signifies the exciting next step in our pursuit of advancing cancer research and mentorship,” says Neli Ulrich, PhD, executive director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute and a Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professor in Cancer Research at the U. “Her extraordinary accomplishments, which include long-time National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to esteemed awards, epitomize her dedication to excellence. Dr. Ullman cares deeply about educating and empowering the next generation of cancer researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute.”

Ullman will be the new senior director of Cancer Training and Career Enhancement. She is also a professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences, an adjunct professor in the Department of Biochemistry, a past leader of the Cell Response and Regulation Program, and serves on the Health Sciences Research Training and Career Development Committee at the U. A cell biologist, her research is focused on fundamental mechanisms that tend to go amiss in cancer. More specifically, this includes the regulatory events during cell division, a process in which DNA is replicated and then inherited by dismantling  and rebuilding the cell nucleus.

“I am excited to build upon the extraordinary work of investigators and the Cancer Training and Career Enhancement team.”

—Katharine S. Ullman, PhD

In addition to continued NIH funding, other awards include: the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award, which aids researchers in the transition from training to postdoctoral work, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Scholar award, a NIH Bridges Faculty Mentor of the Year Award, and the Distinguished Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Mentor Award from the U. She is renowned for her tireless support of trainees and served as associate dean of the University of Utah Graduate School from 2016-2023.

In this new role, she will promote development opportunities for learners at all career levels, including high school and college students, PhD trainees, postdocs, and early-career faculty. Don Ayer, PhD, director of the PathMaker Program, investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute and professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences, previously held the senior director position for six years. Ayer and Ullman will continue to work collaboratively during a transitional period through August 2024.

“I have a long-standing interest in working to ensure the success of trainees and am so pleased to have this opportunity to get involved in the great work that the cancer center is doing in this area,” says Ullman. “I am excited to build upon the extraordinary work of investigators and the Cancer Training and Career Enhancement team.”

Don Ayer, PhD
Don Ayer, PhD

Along with his collaboration with Ullman, Ayer will continue leading the PathMaker Program and remain a member of the Nuclear Control of Cell Growth and Differentiation Program, as well as heading his lab’s research. Going forward, he will join Brad Cairns, PhD, in furthering educational partnerships.

“I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Ayer for his unwavering commitment and influential leadership as senior director for Cancer Training and Career Enhancement for over six years and nearly three decades at the institute,” says Ulrich. “His remarkable guidance in various training grants and programs, including initiatives like the transformative PathMaker Program, 5 for the Fight, and collaborations with the American Cancer Society, has left an indelible mark.”

Media Contact

Heather Simonsen
Public Affairs Senior Manager
Huntsman Cancer Institute
801 581-3194

About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. With a legacy of innovative cancer research, groundbreaking discoveries, and world-class patient care, we are transforming the way cancer is understood, prevented, diagnosed, treated, and survived. Huntsman Cancer Institute focuses on delivering the highest standard of care and the most advanced treatments, ensuring world-class cancer care is available to all communities in the area we serve. We have more than 300 open clinical trials and 250 research teams studying cancer at any given time. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center. Our scientists are world-renowned for understanding how cancer begins and using that knowledge to develop innovative approaches to treat each patient’s unique disease. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

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