Graduate student named 2015 Science & SciLifeLab Prize grand prize winner

HERSHEY, Pa. -- Allison Cleary, an M.D./Ph.D. student at Penn State College of Medicine, was named the 2015 Science & SciLifeLab Prize grand prize winner. The national award is presented by the highly regarded and influential journal Science. Cleary's winning essay appears in its Dec. 4 edition.

Cleary’s essay, “Teamwork: The Tumor Cell Edition,” describes her work while in Dr. Edward Gunther’s lab. Cleary looked at the role of breast cancer cell subpopulations in tumor development and progression. This research was an April 3, 2014 cover story in the journal Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world.

Tumors consist of competing populations of cancer cells called subclones. These subclones are genetically different and compete aggressively to become the dominant cancer cell type in the tumor. In some cases, when a subclone cannot achieve dominance on its own, it works with other subclones to grow the tumor.

“Allison has been one of our top students ever since she entered the M.D./Ph.D. program,” said Robert Levenson, co-director of the M.D./Ph.D. Program and distinguished professor of pharmacology, and neural an behavioral science. “Her paper in Nature is a great example of the type of high quality translational research  that may lead to new treatments for breast and other types of cancer.”

The purpose of this award is to recognize Ph.D. thesis work in life science and to encourage young scientists as they begin their scientific careers.” Cleary will receive an award of $30,000 and is invited to attend Nobel week in Stockholm for a prize ceremony.

“This international award recognizes the outstanding research efforts of Dr. Cleary, the mentoring she received from Dr. Gunther and the exceptional research environment at Penn State College of Medicine,” said Charles Lang, interim associate dean for graduate studies and distinguished professor of cellular and molecular physiology, and surgery. “Selected from thousands of essays submitted worldwide, this is a truly awe-inspiring achievement by a young scientist showcasing her scientific excellence.”

"I am so unbelievably honored to be named one of the winners of the Science and SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists,” Cleary said. “I am excited for the type of exposure that this prize will bring to my research, as well as for the chance to make new connections with other investigators around the world.​"

For more information, visit

Last Updated December 08, 2015