Ph.D. pathways in cancer research: Daniel Stribling

By Reagan Malenius

Daniel Stribling, an M.D.-Ph.D. trainee at the University of Florida, did not always know he would pursue this academic path.

Daniel Stribling holds his award with the dean of research.
Daniel Stribling was recognized during the UF College of Medicine’s 2024 Celebration of Research for receiving an Oberndorf Clinical Artificial Intelligence Scholars Award.

When he was young, Stribling was fascinated by the world around him and always interested in asking the “why” behind how things worked. This passion to know the “why” and his early exposure to undergraduate research led him to change his focus from engineering to dual degrees in chemistry and computational biology at Florida State University. While there, Stribling was interested in computational genomics research and worked on a research project studying the transcriptome of a Florida species of spider.

With these experiences further fueling a desire to learn more about the world around him, Stribling knew he wanted to continue doing research. However, he wanted to pursue a research path that would allow him to contribute directly to making a positive impact in the lives of others.

The University of Florida’s M.D.-Ph.D. program provides an opportunity to train at the intersection where clinical practice meets research. Stribling began the program at UF and started cancer research in the lab of Rolf Renne, Ph.D., associate director for basic sciences at the UF Health Cancer Center. In the Renne lab, he works on Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), a cancer-causing virus, using computational tools to decipher and understand how KSHV leads to cancer. Working in the Renne lab, Stribling became fascinated with the biology of the complex disease and found a sense of purpose in contributing to advancements in the treatment of cancer.

Stribling’s research impact at the UF Health Cancer Center did not go unnoticed. From being selected as a UF Health Cancer Center Predoctoral Awardee in 2021 to receiving an Oberndorf Clinical Artificial Intelligence Scholar Award from the UF College of Medicine and Intelligent Clinical Care Center this year, Stribling has received numerous accolades.

A man speaks with a microphone next to a projector screen during the symposium while his research partner looks on.
Daniel Stribling, left, presents during the annual TICaRT Research Symposium in August 2023 with his research teammate Nicholas Hiers.

Stribling also participated as a predoctoral fellow in the inaugural cohort of the UF Health Cancer Center’s Team-based Interdisciplinary Cancer Research Training (TICaRT) program, a National Cancer Institute-funded T32 training grant (PI, Dietmar W. Siemann, Ph.D.) that offers a unique training opportunity for pre- and postdoctoral trainees to develop interdisciplinary skills in cancer research and experience with transdisciplinary approaches. Through his time in TICaRT, Stribling was encouraged by how much he learned from working in interdisciplinary teams, especially with his research teammate Nicholas Hiers, a biochemistry trainee in the lab of Mingyi Xie, Ph.D.

Stribling recently defended his doctoral dissertation and is completing two more years of medical training to earn his M.D.-Ph.D. Upon completion of the program, Stribling hopes to be part of applying the rapidly advancing fields of AI to genomics and medicine.

“Try as much as possible to not lose curiosity, interest and a sense of wonder in what you’re doing,” Stribling advised other students interested in pursuing the M.D.-Ph.D. pathway. “There will of course be setbacks and failed experiments, but you have to try your best to take these things into account. Try to remember the impact you’re making.”

“Try as much as possible to not lose curiosity, interest and a sense of wonder in what you’re doing … try to remember the impact you’re making.”

Daniel Stribling

For students who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in cancer research, the University of Florida offers a broad range of Ph.D. programs across multiple colleges in which graduate faculty are conducting cancer research, from engineering to dentistry to medicine. Learn more about Ph.D. pathways at the University of Florida.

Three award winners pose for a photo.
Daniel Stribling, far left, won a poster award at the UF Health Cancer Center’s 2024 Research Showcase for a poster titled “Evaluation of ChatGPT (GPT-4) and Google Bard Performance on Medical Questions by UF Health Oncology Patients.”
NCI Cancer Center badge