St. Jude Science Scholars of Tomorrow

February 28, 2019
Marlo Thomas Center for Global Education and Collaboration
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN 38105

Program Overview

The St. Jude Science Scholars of Tomorrow program, a symposium-style one day event, is designed to give students and teachers an opportunity to see real world application of many of the concepts they are using in the classroom. We also hope to provide students with a budding, or well-established, interest in science, engineering, math or healthcare a look at the broad range of possibilities for academic and career paths. This program is an opportunity to see and hear from scientists who work in the field every day. We select our student participants through a competitive application process. There is no cost to participate in this program.


This event is by invitation only and participants must register in advance. There is no registration on the day of the event. For information about how to apply for next year’s St. Jude Science Scholars of Tomorrow event, please sign up for updates on the main Science Scholars of Tomorrow program page.

Infection Control

Because many patients are vulnerable to infections as a result of treatment, visitors who are sick or who have been exposed to contagious illnesses must not attend the Science Scholars event. Visitors experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms should not attend:

  • Temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater in the last 48 hours
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • “Pink eye”
  • Rash suggestive of chickenpox, shingles, measles or other viral illness
  • Cold, flu, or respiratory infection (runny nose, congestion, sore throat, or cough)
  • A draining wound
  • A rash after recently receiving the chickenpox vaccine or
  • Have received the oral polio or smallpox vaccine within the previous four weeks

Directions and Parking

Free parking is available on the St. Jude campus. Please display this parking pass on your windshield. Enter the campus from A. W. Willis and notify the security guard you are attending the Science Scholars symposium in the Marlo Thomas Center. You may also download this campus map to assist you in entering the campus, parking, and locating the Marlo Thomas Center.

Driving Directions


Opens at 7:45 am
Group photo for all participants
8:15 - 8:30 am
Welcome and Introduction - Charles Roberts, MD, PhD, and James R. Downing, MD, President & CEO 8:30 - 9:00 am
Keynote Speaker - Ben Youngblood, PhD and Paul Thomas, PhD, Department of Immunology 9:00 - 9:55 am
Career round tables or Case studies and tours 10:00 am - Noon
Lunch Noon - 1:00 pm
Career round tables or Case sudies and tours 1:00 - 3:00 pm
3:00 pm


James R. Downing, MD

James R. Downing, MD, is president and chief executive officer of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As the architect of a new six-year strategic plan, he is leading the expansion of St. Jude clinical care and research programs in Memphis and around the globe. A renowned leader in pediatric cancer research, Dr. Downing focuses his work on understanding the genetic basis of cancer and using that information to improve the treatment of children with cancer. He was instrumental in launching the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project (PCGP), which has sequenced the normal and cancer genomes of more than 800 young cancer patients with some of the least understood and most aggressive tumors. The project made TIME magazine’s 2012 list of top 10 medical breakthroughs. In 2013, he was a finalist for TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. The PCGP has produced groundbreaking discoveries in brain tumors, leukemia, a cancer of the peripheral nervous system, an eye tumor and the degenerative disorder commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The project has also produced new computational tools that benefit the broader field of genomic medicine.

Dr. Downing is a Detroit native who earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Michigan. He joined St. Jude in 1986 after training in anatomic pathology at Washington University in St. Louis and completing a fellowship in hematopathology at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Prior to taking the helm of St. Jude, Dr. Downing served as the institution’s scientific and deputy director and as an executive vice president in the organization. He became the hospital’s sixth chief executive officer July 15, 2014.

For his work, Dr. Downing has received numerous honors, including the Association for Molecular Pathology Award for Excellence in Molecular Diagnostics, which recognizes lifetime, pioneering achievement, particularly in regard to molecular diagnostics and molecular medicine. In 2013, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (now known as National Academy of Medicine), and in 2016, he was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Most recently, he was awarded the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Prize and the E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize from the American Society of Hematology. In addition, Dr. Downing served on a Blue Ribbon Panel to advise former Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative through the National Cancer Institute.

Charles Roberts, MD, PhD

Charles Roberts, MD, PhD, is the director of the St. Jude Comprehensive Cancer Center, the first and only National Cancer Institute (NCI)–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Roberts assumed the director role September 2015, and also serves as an executive vice president, a full member in the Department of Oncology and holds the Lillian R. Cannon Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Endowed Chair.

Roberts is an international leader in cancer epigenetics, and his research has provided new insights into the central role of chromatin remodeling perturbations in cancer, discoveries that have been translated into new investigational therapies for both pediatric and adult cancer patients. Roberts has also co-led an initiative on DNA sequencing of pediatric solid tumors at the Broad Institute. 

Beyond scientific accomplishments, he is a noted a pediatric oncologist. He served as the Deputy Chief Scientific Officer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, chaired the pediatric Institutional Review Board for Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital and co-led the pediatric solid tumor disease program.

Roberts received his medical and doctoral degrees from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He completed his pediatric residency and pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Paul Thomas, PhD

Paul Thomas, PhD, obtained his undergraduate degree in Biology and Philosophy at Wake Forest University. He did his PhD training at Harvard University, working on the innate immune response to Schistosoma-associated carbohydrates and their role in promoting Th2 responses. From there, he moved to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for a postdoctoral fellowship with Peter Doherty on T cell responses in the influenza model. In 2009, he started his own lab St. Jude, where he is currently a Member in the Department of Immunology. His lab studies innate and adaptive immunity to viral infections and cancer, with an emphasis on principles of T cell receptor specificity.

Ben Youngblood, PhD

Benjamin Youngblood, PhD, is currently an associate member in the Department of Immunology at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Ben received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Oregon State University in 2001 and went on to do his graduate training in Biochemistry studying enzyme specificity of DNA methyltransferases at University of California Santa Barbara.  He joined Professor Rafi Ahmed’s laboratory in 2007 for postdoctoral training focused on epigenetic regulation of memory CD8 T cell differentiation. In 2014, he joined the faculty at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and has developed a research program studying epigenetic mechanisms that regulate the development of functional and nonfunctional CD8 T cells during viral infection, cancer, and autoimmunity.