First Postdoctoral Pathway to Independence Awardee announced

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | October 11, 2012

Mark Hanke, Ph.D., is the inaugural honoree of the UNMC Postdoctoral Pathway to Independence Award.

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Mark Hanke, Ph.D.
One of the emphases of UNMC's office of postdoctoral education is to facilitate postdocs' timely transition to an independent career. Thus, the UNMC Postdoctoral Education Office replaced the former Postdoctoral Scholar of the Year Award to better recognize a scholar who demonstrates an exceptional preparation for the transition during the first three years at UNMC. Dr. Hanke works in the lab of Tammy Kielian, Ph.D.

Dr. Hanke will receive the honor, along with its $1,000 prize, at the 2012 annual postdoctoral seminar on Friday. Dr. Kielian, a professor of pathology and microbiology, also will be honored as the awardee's mentor.

Outstanding credentials

Dr. Hanke has published two first-author papers, with a third under review. He's also presented at several international and national venues, and notably received a competitive travel award to support his attendance at one such meeting.

He also is a co-inventor, with Dr. Kielian, on a cell-based therapeutic (patent pending through UNeMed) to prevent and treat bacterial biofilm infections. "Not only is Mark working on elucidating basic mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions but also translational interventions that have a real chance of entering the clinic for treating patients," Dr. Kielian said.

It helps to be driven

Dr. Kielian and her colleagues have noted Dr. Hanke's presence in the lab at all hours. She called his work ethic "fastidious."

It also helps that his fiancee is a third-year resident at Pittsburgh Medical Center. So, while they both put in long hours, they are putting them in separately, and are relatively free of family obligations to do so. Dr. Hanke works extra hard so he can afford to take off the occasional weekend to Pittsburgh.

Teaching and grantsmanship also emphasized

In his two years as a postdoc he also has worked on teaching and grantsmanship, in order to obtain his goal of becoming an independent investigator.

But in the current climate -- a scarcity of funding and an abundance of competition -- one of UNMC's leading postdocs is still perhaps a few years from that goal.

Other signs of success

"The keystone might be getting my own lab, but there are other ways to foster independence before that," he said.

"As investigators, we sometimes judge ourselves on how many grants we have or how many papers we've published," Dr. Kielian said. "Something equally important is who we've trained and what they've gone on to do."

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Todd Wyatt
October 11, 2012 at 10:11 AM

I am very pleased that the Postdoctoral Council has bestowed this recognition on Dr. Hanke. Mark epitomizes the ideal qualities of hard work and timely achievement during a critical and pivotal stage in a scientist's career. Congratulations to both Mark and Tammy!