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Marcus Toral Defends Ph.D. Thesis

Dec 21 2020

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20/20 Blog

Palo Alto, CA — Marcus Toral, a medical scientist training program student, completing his scientific training in the Mahajan Lab, successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis at his defense seminar on December 10, 2020. 

Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., Stanford professor and vice chair of research in ophthalmology, said, “It was a pleasure having Marc in lab. His communication skills are unparalleled, making his presentations and scientific writing crystal clear. His quick wit, creativity, and contribution to the lab will be missed. I’m sure he will find success in his future endeavors, and I look forward to seeing his progress.”

Marcus's thesis dissertation, "Inflammatory Biomarkers in the Eye," focused on molecules in the eye to improve our understanding of inflammatory blinding diseases. It lays the groundwork to develop better treatments for patients with uveitis and macular degeneration. Defense of his thesis work was an important milestone in his career and will culminate in a doctoral degree in Molecular Medicine. 

Due to the pandemic, Marcus presented his work in an hour-long online seminar using the videoconferencing software, Zoom. While traditionally an in-person event, this digital format allowed Marcus's family, including his younger brother who is completing his own Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky and his parents and grandparents in Chicago, to view his talk alongside friends and professional colleagues from around the United States. 

Marcus, alongside fellow graduate students Kellie Schaefer and Gabriel Velez, moved with the Mahajan Lab from the University of Iowa to Stanford University in 2017.

Following the public defense seminar, Marcus completed an oral examination by his thesis committee members, which included his mentor Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., Alexander Bassuk M.D., Ph.D., Polly Ferguson, M.D., Robert Cornell, Ph.D., and John Colgan, Ph.D. Marcus passed this examination unanimously and was commended on the strength of his oral presentation and written thesis document, which is currently being prepared for formal publication by his graduate college. 

Marcus commented, "The whole process has been incredibly exciting. For the last five years I've been working on these research projects and to see them now completed and finalized as new contributions to both science and medicine is a dream come true. It's a very humbling experience. I couldn't have done it without all the guidance and help from my mentors, colleagues, friends, and family. This was a terrific way to end a challenging year and I'm excited to return to medical school and apply all I've learned thus far toward treating patients to the very best of my abilities."

This winter Marcus will return to the University of Iowa to complete the last two years of clincal training and complete is M.D. degree. Marcus is set to graduate with his dual M.D., Ph.D. degrees in May of 2022.