Skip to main content

About the Huntsman Alliance for Postdocs (HAP)

The Huntsman Alliance for Postdocs (HAP) is a peer-run organization at the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) working together to enhance the postdoc experience and create a stronger community. Our mission is to help postdocs and faculty connect and collaborate to promote a vibrant research community and advance scientific discoveries in cancer research.

Supportive Environment

We strive to create an environment where all postdocs feel included and supported professionally and personally. By facilitating collaborations, we aim to bring together different areas of expertise to study cancer from all angles. We promote resources and ensure valuable tools, expertise, and knowledge are accessible to all members of the postdoctoral community.

Professional Growth

HAP fosters professional growth by providing postdocs with opportunities to present their research, receive constructive feedback, and refine their communication and presentation skills. We also actively engage with senior leadership at HCI to advocate for the needs and interests of postdocs, which improve programs and resources.


We believe in the power of mentorship and want to create a supportive network of mentors, both within and outside HCI. These mentors can provide guidance on career development and navigating the complex landscape of academia and cancer research. We offer mentorship resources and organize events that empower postdocs to achieve their professional goals.

Together, we strive to make significant contributions to cancer research, improve patient outcomes, and ultimately, have a lasting impact in the effort to eradicate cancer.

Meet Zannel Blanchard

Hi, my name is Zannel Blanchard. I am a postdoctoral fellow in Alana Welm’s lab at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

What is a Postdoctoral Fellow?

A postdoc is a position where you undergo a period of training which comes after graduate school. And this period of training prepares you for what comes next, whether it be industry, academia, communications, government policy. It’s just a period of where you get to fine-tune the skills that you learned in graduate school and apply them to a new problem in preparation for your future.

What inspired you to be a cancer researcher?

I was born with a skin condition and, because of this, I became very interested in science and medicine and helping people. And along the way I took part in a research internship during my undergrad. It was in cancer and I realized that I was interested in helping others and I could make a difference in the field of cancer. I got my undergrad in biology. I did another, not necessarily internship, I had another job where I focused on triple-negative breast cancer and I realized that this was a field that interested me, researching cancers that primarily affect women: breast and reproductive cancers. That’s why I am in this field.

What is your favorite thing about working at Huntsman Cancer Institute?

I like the people. I think the people are very collaborative. I think we have some very knowledgable people at multiple levels, from leadership to administrations to the different PIs. It is very easy to collaborate with people, to get resources that you need, to network in this institution, and I really appreciate that Huntsman Cancer Institute recognizes their trainees, whenever graduate students or postdocs, and allows them to grow in this space.

HAP Leadership Team

Brandon Murphy, PhD

Upon joining Dr. Martin McMahon’s laboratory in the fall of 2021, my research has been diligently directed toward unraveling the pivotal mechanisms underpinning lung tumor development and the emergence of treatment resistance. As a dedicated member of HAP, my overarching goal revolves around enhancing networking and career development opportunities for academic and industry directed postdocs at HCI. Outside of my laboratory research, I enjoy golfing, hiking, and fishing.

Kate Warde, PhD

I’ve been a postdoctoral research fellow in the Basham Lab since 2021. My research focuses on the role of hormones and anti-tumor immunity in adrenal cancer. I moved from Ireland to the United States for my postdoc; I am passionate about providing a supportive and inclusive environment for immigrant scientists. Outside of the lab, I enjoy skiing, golf, and exploring the outdoors.

Zannel Blanchard, PhD

I am a postdoctoral research fellow in the Welm lab working on understanding the mechanisms of tumor evolution in response to therapy in patient derived models of breast cancer. Being a member of HAP allows me to be part of an organization that supports personal and professional development in an inclusive environment. Outside of the lab, I enjoy travelling, all things science-fiction, and spectacular sunsets.

Marija Nadjsombati, PhD

In 2023, I joined the Welm lab as a postdoctoral research fellow. My research focuses on the role of Ron tyrosine kinase in the anti-tumor immune response to metastatic breast cancer. I am excited to be a member of HAP and help create a welcoming and supportive community for postdocs at Huntsman Cancer Institute. Outside of lab, I enjoy running, skiing, and playing board games with friends.

HAP Leadership Alumni

Michael Scherzer