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Headshot of Joseph Pagano
The Pagano Awards are named for Joseph Pagano, MD, UNC Lineberger director emeritus and Lineberger Professor of Cancer Research. Pagano was the founding director of the cancer center and its postdoctoral training program.

The Joseph S. Pagano Award annually recognizes notable cancer-related papers authored by UNC Lineberger postdoctoral fellows. Winners are selected through a competitive process and are honored for their authorship of articles in high-impact journals.

Eligible papers are written by postdoctoral fellows holding a position in the laboratory of a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Authors of the three top papers receive a cash prize and potentially give a featured talk at a future UNC Lineberger event.

Award amount: $3,000

Guidelines for Pagano Award

Applications are now closed.

Papers submitted must meet the following criteria:

  • Applications should be submitted by the preceptor of the nominated candidate and should be a member of the UNC Lineberger; any postdoctoral fellow in the preceptor’s lab can be nominated.
  • Research must have been completed while the fellow was at UNC.
  • Fellow must be primary author or co-first author of the nominated paper.
  • Paper must have been accepted or published in 2023. If paper was accepted but not published during the 2023 year, the journal’s letter of acceptance must be included with the application.

Application packet must include:

  • PDF of the paper.
  • Letter from the preceptor briefly summarizing the postdoc’s background, the scientific impact of the paper, and the postdoc’s relative contribution to the paper. While a description of the postdoc’s contribution is expected for all applications, it is particularly important for co-first authors papers or papers with multiple authors.
  • Letter from the postdoctoral fellow, describing the scientific impact of the paper, in 200 words or less.

Current Awardees

Jianfeng Chen, PhD – Liu Lab, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics

Min-Guk Cho, PhD – Gupta Lab, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics

Susanna Stroik, PhD – Ramsden Lab, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics

Previous Awardees


Sirui Li, PhD (Ting Lab, Genetics, Microbiology & Immunology)

Li S, Mirlekar B, Johnson BM, Brickey WJ, Wrobel JA, Yang N, Song D, Entwistle S, Tan X, Deng M, Cui Y, Li W, Vincent BG, Gale M Jr, Pylayeva-Gupta Y,Ting JP. STING-induced regulatory B cells compromise NK function in cancer immunity. Published Oct. 2022 in Nature. (

Zhichuan Zhu, PhD (Liu Lab, Biochemistry & Biophysics)

Zhu Z, Zhou X, Du H, Cloer EW, Zhang J, Mei L, Wang Y, Tan X, Hepperla AJ, Simon JM, Cook JG, Major MB, Dotti G, Liu P. STING Suppresses Mitochondrial VDAC2 to Govern RCC Growth Independent of Innate Immunity. Published Jan. 2023 in Advanced Science (

Liu Mei, PhD (Cook Lab, Biochemistry & Biophysics)

Mei L, Kedziora KM, Song EA, Purvis JE, Cook JG. The consequences of differential origin licensing dynamics in distinct chromatin environments. Published Sep. 2022 in Nucleic Acids Research. (


    Jun Wang, PhD (Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics)

    Wang, J., et al. EZH2 noncanonically binds cMyc and p300 through a cryptic transactivation domain to mediate gene activation and promote oncogenesis. Published Feb. 2022 in Nature Cell Biology (


    Han Guo, PhD (Department of Genetics)

    Guo, H., et al. Multi-omics analyses of radiation survivors identify radioprotective microbes and metabolites. Published Oct. 2020 in Science (

    Christine Roden, PhD (Department of Biology)

    Iserman, C., Roden, C.A., et al. Genomic RNA Elements Drive Phase Separation of the SARS-CoV-2 Nucleocapsid. Published Nov. 2020 in Molecular Cell (

    Chase Weidmann, PhD (Department of Chemistry)

    Weidmann, C.A., et al. Analysis of RNA–protein networks with RNP-MaP defines functional hubs on RNA. Published Oct. 2020 in Nature Biotechnology (


    Guy Aaron Hobbs, PhD (Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics)

    Hobbs, G.A., et al. Atypical KRASG12R Mutant Is Impaired in PI3K Signaling and Macropinocytosis in Pancreatic Cancer. Published Oct. 2019 in Cancer Discovery (

    Daniel Hollern, PhD (Department of Genetics)

    Hollern, D.P, et al. B Cells and T Follicular Helper Cells Mediate Response to Checkpoint Inhibitors in High Mutation Burden Mouse Models of Breast Cancer. Published Nov. 2019 in Cell (

    Frances Potjewyd, PhD (Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry – Eshelman School of Pharmacy)

    Potjewyd, F. M., et al. Degradation of Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 with an EED-Targeted Bivalent Chemical Degrader. Published Dec. 2019 in Cell Chemical Biology (


    Kirsten Bryant, PhD (Department of Pharmacology)

    Bryant, K.L., et al. Combination of ERK and autophagy inhibition as a treatment approach for pancreatic cancer. Published Mar. 2019 in Nature Medicine (

    Ariel “Ari” Pani, PhD (Department of Biology)

    Pani, A.M., & Goldstein, B. Direct visualization of a native Wnt in vivo reveals that a long-range Wnt gradient forms by extracellular dispersal. Published Aug. 2018 in eLife (

    John Pryor, PhD (Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics)

    Pryor, J.M., et al. Ribonucleotide incorporation enables repair of chromosome breaks by nonhomologous end joining. Published Sep. 2018 in Science (


    Thomas Boothby, PhD (Department of Chemistry)

    Boothby, T., et al. Tardigrades Use Intrinsically Disordered Proteins to Survive Desiccation. Published Mar. 2017 in Molecular Cell (

    Hui Feng, PhD (Department of Medicine)

    Feng, H., et al. NLRX1 promotes immediate IRF1-directed antiviral responses by limiting dsRNA-activated translational inhibition mediated by PKR. Published Oct. 2017 in Nature Immunology (

    Jenna Honeycutt, PhD (Division of Infectious Diseases)

    Honeycutt, J., et al. HIV persistence in tissue macrophages of humanized myeloid-only mice during antiretroviral therapy. Published Apr. 2017 in Nature Medicine (