Khvaramze Shaverdashvili stands with principal investigator and assistant professor Barbara Bedogni and biochemistry professor David Samols.

The Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation (JMNMF) presented Khvaramze Shaverdashvili with one of nine nationally competitive “Research Scholar Awards” (RSA). Shaverdashvili, a doctoral candidate in the biochemistry department, was ranked among the highest of all awardees.

The $10,000 melanoma research grants support exceptional graduate students and provide recognition to their lab directors/PIs, schools and cancer research institutions across the U.S. The JMNMF grants increased dramatically—by nearly 30 percent—in 2012 to significantly enhance the potential for advancements in the melanoma cancer field.

The 2012 RSA applicant pool and cancer research centers represented grew to include 42 of the country’s most promising young melanoma researchers, and 28 prominent National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Centers or members of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI). This represents a 60 percent increase in students and 75 percent growth in research institutions participating over 2011.

As first in the U.S. to fund graduate student melanoma researchers, the JMNMF program is celebrating the program’s sixth anniversary.

The Research Scholar Award program was initially piloted with the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in 2006, and expanded nationally to benefit the broader academic, scientific, clinical and patient communities and encourage larger numbers of students to choose melanoma research as their professional career path.

“Our foundation’s ‘Research Scholar Awards’ are invaluable at the grassroots level, to specifically grow interest in melanoma research, at qualified cancer centers across the country,” said Robert E. Nicolay, JMNMF chairman. “If we can attract the brightest minds that are considering, or already within, the nation’s cancer research pipelines, to pursue a career in melanoma research, we’re that much closer to better understanding the disease, identifying the means for effective treatments and, most importantly, finding a cure for this deadly and very prevalent disease.”

Other student recipients represented medical schools or cancer centers at Boston University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Penn State University, Thomas Jefferson University, University of Buffalo, University of South Florida and Yale University.