Student Spotlight: Zach Morrow

Headshot Zach MorrowHometown:

Beaver Falls, PA

Year entered CMB program:



JD Sauer Lab


Brief Summary of Research:

I work to understand immune signaling pathways that are responsible for generating robust responses to tumors.

Awards and Publications:


Morrow ZT, Maxwell AM, Hoshijima K, Grunwald DJ, Amacher SL. tbx6l and tbx16 are redundantly required for posterior paraxial mesoderm formation during zebrafish embryogenesis. Dev Dyn (2017), 246, 759-769.

Mushtaq UM, Papadas A, Pagenkopf A, Flietner E, Morrow Z, Chaudhary SG, Asimakopoulos F. Tumor matrix remodeling and novel immunotherapies: the promise of matrix-derived immune biomarkers. J Immunother Cancer (2018), 6: 65.

Dhakal B, Pagenkopf AC, Mushtaq MU, Cunningham A, Flietner E, Morrow Z, Papadas A, Hope C, Leith C, Hematti P, Hari P, Callander N, Asimakopoulos F. Versican proteolysis predicts immune effector infiltration and post-transplant survival in myeloma. Leukemia and Lymphoma (2019), 0: 1-5.

Why did you decide to attend graduate school?

I love the idea of continuously learning throughout my life. Being active in research was a way to do that and have fun at the same time.

Why did you choose UW-Madison’s CMB Program?

Madison is a very down-to-Earth place and I love the outdoors. So, it was the right mix of science and location.

What inspired you to go into your field of study?

I study cancer biology. It’s a lot like nature’s greatest genetic experiment. So in addition to potentially playing a role in better understanding the disease, you can also learn a lot about biology at a fundamental level by studying cancer.

What is the best conference/seminar you have ever attended? Why?

When I was a technician at OSU, I went to the 2016 Rustbelt RNA Symposium where I saw Melissa Moore give a talk on work/life balance in science. She emphasized that you can have a productive life outside of lab in addition to being a successful researcher. It requires careful balance, but can be achieved.

What lessons have you learned throughout your graduate career so far?

Make every experiment count!

What advice would you give to a student applying to graduate school?

You should reach out to people at the institutions you’re applying to. Find out if they are accepting graduate students into their labs, and gauge their responses. All the faculty I reached out to at UW were very enthusiastic, and some even spoke with me on the phone before I had even decided to join CMB.

What are your long-term career goals?

I’d like to become a PI and study mechanisms of immune suppression in cancer.

What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?

Balancing your life outside the lab is pretty challenging. I’ve found compartmentalization is key- when you’re in lab, focus on lab; and when your doing something else, just be in the moment.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I played college football.

When you are not in the lab, you are…….?

Probably in my kayak fishing on one of the lakes.

What is your favorite memory so far in the CMB Program?

A group of CMB students get together every Thanksgiving. These are great because its hard to get home very often.

What is the most fun part of your research?

Learning something that no one else knows yet!