Previous TL1 Scholars

TST-TL1 2016 Scholars
(July 2016 – June 2017)

Scholar: Ahsan Choudary
Degree Sought: PhD
Program: UTHSCSA/UTSA/UT College of Pharmacy/UT School of Public Health Joint Program in Translational Science
Research Interest: Molecular epidemiology of chronic, metabolic diseases
Mentor: Laura Cox, Ph.D.; Scientist and Vice Chair, Department of Genetics, Texas Biomedical Research Institute
Research Topic: Investigation of volatile organic compounds in breath as predictors of heart abnormalities
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ahsan Choudary graduated from Texas Lutheran University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology. From 2000 to 2009, he worked at UTHSCSA across several labs and departments doing diverse research in areas including neonatology, pancreatic and breast cancers, diabetes, and obesity, where he was co-author on multiple publications. Concurrently, he served in the state military and completed his Master of Public Health degree, with a concentration in epidemiology, from the UT School of Public Health. From 2009 to 2010, Ahsan did clinical research as a U.S. Air Force contractor at Wilford Hall Medical Center, and from 2010 to 2014, he did osteoarthritis and metabolic disease research in non-human primates at Texas Biomedical Research Institute. He began the Translational Science Ph.D. program in 2014 and was selected as a UTHSCSA Presidential Ambassador Scholar in 2016. Ahsan has strong interests in science policy development and public-private research collaborations and would like to help build the biotech industry in San Antonio.
 
Scholar: Trevi Ann Mancilla
Degree Sought: M.D./Ph.D.
Program: MGP/Physiology
Research Interest: Pathological mechanisms of cardiac fibrosis
Mentor: Greg Aune, MD, PhD; Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute
Research Topic Characterization of the direct and in directs effects of doxorubicin on cardiac fibroblasts and fibrotic pathways.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Trevi graduated from Wellesley College in 2007, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and religion. Trevi began her research career as a volunteer in the lab of Merry Lindsey, PhD at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. She transitioned to the position of research assistant where she managed two separate projects, both resulting in first author papers. In the fall of 2012 she matriculated into the UTHSCSA MD/PhD program. Since beginning the graduate school in the fall of 2014, Trevi has won multiple travel awards to present her work at conferences. Trevi’s long-term research goals will be influenced by her choice of medical specialty.

 

Scholar: Milos Marinkovic
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: Joint Biomedical Engineering Program
Research Interest: Molecular epidemiology of chronic, metabolic diseases
Mentor:
Xiao-Dong Chen, MD, PhD, Professor of
Comprehensive Dentistry
Research Topic: "Re-education of Adipose-derived Stem Cells for Enhancing Osteogenesis"

 

 

 

 

 

Milos graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011, where he earned a B.S. in Biochemistry with a Distinction in Undergraduate Research. Following graduation, he went on to research carbon nanostructures at a materials engineering firm. His interest in the interface of cellular biology and materials science led him to purse a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at UTHSCSA. His thesis research focuses on the interaction of stem cells with tissue-specific extracellular matrices as well as synthetic microenvironments. At the time of starting the TST TL1 program, Milos produced several publications and patents related to both stem cell science and nanomaterials. He is also passionate about the potential of science to transform communities and co-founded a non-profit aimed at supporting the growth of biotechnology in San Antonio. In September 2016, Milos was awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (NIH F31). 

 

Scholar: Rafael Veraza Bravo
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: UTHSCSA/UTSA/UT College of Pharmacy/UT School of Public Health Joint Program in Translational Science
Research Interest: Preventing brain damage after stroke
Mentor: Mark Shapiro, Ph.D. Professor of Physiology
Research Topic: Novel Therapeutics in Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Brain

 

 

 

 

 

Rafa J Veraza, originally from Mexico City, has spent most of his early career working with non-profit organizations and international organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International, and Caritas Internationalis. He is a graduate from the Honors College at the University of Texas at San Antonio with a degree in Biology were he focused on Neurobiology studies. He was the recipient of a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship to represent Rotary International in Botswana and Southern Africa after his undergraduate degree. While in Botswana he worked with the World Health Organization and Baylor College of Medicine on several HIV public health projects. After completing one year in Botswana he was the recipient of an NIH Fogarty Fellowship to study his Masters in Public Health at Emory University. After his studies, his devotion for serving others led him to participate as a consultant for UNICEF and the World Health Organization to work with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in Angola. Rafa currently resides in San Antonio with this wife Lisa, he is pursuing a PhD in Translational Science at the Health Science Center focused on novel therapeutics for the treatment and prevention of brain damage and stroke related illness. In his spare time, he is passionate about entrepreneurship, helping translate discoveries from the lab into patients quicker and help grow the biotech industry in San Antonio, TX.

TST-TL1 2015 Scholars
(July 2015 – June 2016)

Image of Travis J. Block

Scholar:
Travis J. Block
Degree Sought:
Ph.D.
Program:
Joint Biomedical Engineering Program
Research Interest:
Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine
Mentor:
Xiao-Dong Chen. MD, PhD, Professor of Comprehensive Dentistry
Research Topic
Rescuing the regenerative potential of human mesenchymal stem cell populations from elderly donors.

 

Travis graduated from the University of Rochester in 2012, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering.  While at the University of Rochester, he teamed with four peers to create and commercialize adaptive cycling equipment for individuals with physical limitations in conjunction with a project for his Biomedical Engineering degree.  This experience ultimately lead him to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio to become involved in regenerative medicine research.  At entry into the TST TL1 program, Travis had authored several publications, including two manuscripts and over a dozen abstracts.  He had also earned several awards, including three 1st place scholarship awards at various competitions and the Student of Da Vinci Award from the National Medical Student Society.  His doctoral research aims to better understand and address the age-related decline in the quality and quantity of stem cells in the elderly to find a mechanism to rejuvenate regenerative capabilities.  Following postdoctoral training, his long-term goal is to become an independent investigator and leverage his engineering and scientific knowledge to improve healthcare.  

 

Scholar: Elizabeth Ann Fucich
Degree Sought: Ph.D
Program: IMGP/Neuroscience Track
Research Interest: Stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders
Mentor: David Morilak, PhD, Professor, Department of Pharmacology
Research Topic: Medial prefrontal cortical mechanisms of behavioral therapy.

 

Elizabeth graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry.  Interested in how behavior is explained at the molecular level, she conducted her honors thesis research in stress and drug abuse at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory.  Her research experience fueled her passion to improve quality of life through translational neuroscience, with a focus on the study of stress-related psychiatric illness.  Since joining the UT Health Science Center, Elizabeth has presented her work at national conferences as well as state and local meetings, has submitted a co-authored manuscript, and is preparing to submit a first-author manuscript.  Prior to becoming a TST TL1 Scholar, she received the IMGP Dean's Excellence Award and was supported by a NIH Neuroscience Early-Stage Training Grant (T32NS082145). Elizabeth also serves as the President of the Graduate Student Association at the Health Science Center.  Her ultimate goal is to be an independent scientist and contribute to the advancement of mental health by developing better treatments for mood and anxiety disorders.          

Image of Mariam Ishaque

Scholar: Mariam Ishaque
Degree Sought: MD./PhD.
Program: Radiological Sciences/Neuroscience Imaging
Research Interest: Neurodevelopmental disorders and Neuroimaging
Mentor: Peter Fox, MD; Director, Research Imaging Institute
Research Topic: Autism spectrum disorders/structural and functional conncectivity analysis in autism spectrum disorders using MRI.

 

Mariam graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2011, where she earned Bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Spanish.  She joined the UT Health Science Center in 2011 as a medical student, and after some exposure to research, applied and was accepted into the MD/PhD program, entering into the Radiological Sciences graduate program, Neuroscience Imaging track.  Mariam’s curiosity of fundamental sciences and humanitarian work began at an early age, manifesting and ultimately steering her into the study of medicine and research, with an emphasis on cognitive neuroscience.  Since beginning her studies at the UT Health Science Center, Mariam has produced several publications, including three abstracts and two articles (in progress) as first author. She also serves as a student representative for the Health Science Center’s Liaison Committee on Medical Education, Student Council Class Representative for the MD/PhD program, and Student Government Association for the Health Science Center Graduate School.  Her overall career focus is to lead research that will reduce the burdens of neurological disease.

 

Scholar: Huynh Nga "Nancy" Nguyen
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: IMGP/Biochemistry
Research Interest: Nutrition in cadiovascular disease and diabetes
Mentor: Reto Asmis, Ph.D.. Professor and Senior Associate Dean: Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Research Topics: Mechanism of action of ursolic acid metabolite A in protecting monocytes from metabolic stress-induced dysfunction.

 

Nancy graduated in 2010 from Trinity University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Bachelor of Art degree in Art History.  She also attended the University of the Incarnate Word and graduated in 2012 with a Master of Science degree in Nutrition Science.  Before joining the laboratory of Dr. Reto Asmis at the UT Health Science Center, Nancy was studying the translational benefits of nutrition-based research in reducing childhood obesity.  She has also worked with the Texas Education Agency on BIENESTAR, a program providing healthy meals to elementary school children.  Working with BIENESTAR allowed Nancy to begin translational science research in obesity and diabetes.  At the time of selection into the TST TL1 Program, Nancy had produced two publications and three abstracts, two as first author, and received various academic and professional honors including Finalist for the Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science Award at the 2015 Experimental Biology Meeting.  Her research aim is to explore the mechanism of action of Ursolic Acid Metabolite A, a phytochemical that is a potential therapeutic agent for atherosclerosis. Nancy’s goal is to become an independent researcher and mentor young scientists.

 

TST-TL1 2014 Scholars
(July 2014 – June 2015)

image of Deana Apple

Scholar: Deana Apple
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: IBMS/Neuroscience
Research Interest: Neuroscience, aging, and neurodegenerative disease
Mentor: Erzsebet Kokovay, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Cellular & Structural Biology
Research Topic: Calorie restriction as an anti-aging mechanism: focus on neural stem cells in the subventricular zone
 

Deana graduated from Centenary College of Louisiana in 2008, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Neuroscience. She then entered the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2010 as a PhD student to continue her study of Neuroscience, and she was one of five students in her incoming class to receive the Graduate Dean’s Excellence Award. At entry into the TST TL1 program, Deana had authored several publications, including two manuscripts and eight abstracts, and she was the recipient of two first place poster awards and two travel awards. Her own personal experiences have inspired her to pursue a career in a field of research that could create a better understanding of the effects of aging on the brain. Toward the long term goal of improving quality of life in an aging population, Deana’s current research focuses on investigating the effects of calorie restriction on neural stem cells in the aged subventricular zone (SVZ) of the murine brain. Following postdoctoral training, her long-term goal is to become an independent investigator in the field of neuroscience and aging.

image of Bianca Gonzales Cerqueira
Scholar: Bianca Gonzales Cerqueira
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: UTHSCSA-UTSA Joint Biomedical Engineering Program
Research Interest: Application of MRI to study stroke and chronic intermittent hypoxia
Mentor: Timothy Duong, Ph.D., Stanley I. Glickman, MD, Chair in Ophthalmic Research and Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Radiology, and Glenn Toney, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Physiology
Research Topic: MRI of transient ischemia in rats exposed to chronic intermittent hypoxia
 

Bianca graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology. She graduated from the Gemstone honors program that included a collaborative research project on alcohol use in undergraduate students. Additionally, Bianca worked as a Student Researcher at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, MD, where she investigated experimental blood additive solutions. After graduation she worked as a Molecular Biologist at QualTex Laboratories, testing blood for infectious pathogens. Since joining the UTHSCSA-UTSA Joint Biomedical Engineering Program in 2011, she has authored five abstracts, four as first author, and four abstracts for poster presentations, all of which earned travel awards. Bianca is a Valero Research Scholar and a NACME/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow. Her current research aims to investigate effects of chronic intermittent hypoxia in rats, a model for the hypoxemias of sleep apnea, on transient cerebral ischemia. Bianca’s ultimate goal is to work with a team of clinicians and scientists to develop methods to minimize ischemic brain injuries in animals and humans.

image of Justin Drerup
Scholar: Justin Michael Drerup
Degree Sought: M.D./Ph.D.
Program: IBMS/Cell and Molecular Biology
Research Interest: Cancer Immunology
Mentor: Tyler Curiel, MD, MPH, Daisy M. Skinner President’s Chair in Cancer Immunology Research and Professor, Department of Medicine
Research Topic: Defining regulatory T cell depletion agent mechanisms to help optimize cancer immunotherapy
 

Justin graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2010, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry. He joined the UT Health Science Center in 2011 as a student in the MD/PhD program, and he completed the first two years of medical school before entering the IBMS/Cell and Molecular Medicine Track in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Justin was first introduced to medicine after observing physicians in a clinical environment while volunteering at a local hospital, and he had the opportunity to develop an interest in biomedical science while studying the molecular basis of neurological and psychiatric disorders as an undergraduate fellow at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas in 2009. Since beginning his studies at the UT Health Science Center, Justin has broadened his research interests from neuroscience to cancer. Justin has produced several publications, including two journal articles and six abstracts for poster sessions. His overall career focus is to investigate new therapies for cancer and to become a skilled and independently-funded physician-scientist in medical oncology.

 
image of Stacy Stahl
Scholar: Stacey Stahl
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: IBMS/Microbiology and Immunology
Research Interest: Drug and Vaccine Development
Mentor: Philip T. LoVerde, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Biochemistry and Pathology
Research Topic: Characterization of schistosome sulfotransferase and its interactions with anti-schistosomal drugs
 
 

Stacey graduated in 2009 from the University of Rochester with a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology with Distinction in Research. Before joining the laboratory of Dr. Philip LoVerde at the UT Health Science Center, Stacey worked in a variety of laboratories where she learned techniques in evolutionary biology with Dr. Jack Werren, basic biochemistry with Dr. Timothy Machonkin, microbiology with Dr. Wolfgang Haas, and stem cell biology with Dr. Catherine Ovitt. At the time of selection into the TST TL1 Program, Stacey had produced two publications, both as first author, and was the recipient of a scholarship from the Center for Excellence in Infectious Genomics (CEIG) in 2011. Her research interests include reengineering the drug oxamniquine for use against the three major human schistosome parasite species. Stacey’s goal is to become an independent investigator studying vaccine and drug development for neglected tropical diseases.

TST-TL1 2014 Scholars
(January – December 2014)

image of Armand Brown
Scholar: Vinh Dao
Degree Sought: M.D./PhD
Program: IBMS/Microbiology & Immunology
Research Interest: Tumor Immunology
Mentor: Tyler Curiel, M.D., M.P.H., Daisy M. Skinner President’s Chair in Cancer Immunology Research and Professor, Department of Medicine/Hematology and Medical Oncology
Research Topic: Oral rampamycin (eRapa) prevents carcinogen-induced dermal carcinogenesis through immune mechanisms

 

Vinh graduated from the University of California Berkeley in 2006, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Molecular and Cell Biology with an Immunology emphasis. From 2006-2010, Vinh worked under the mentorship of Dr. Lawrence Fong at the University of California San Francisco, where he gained first-hand experience in clinical trials of novel immune-enhancing therapies being conducted on patients with prostate cancer. This experience sparked his interest in tumor immunology, the science of understanding how the immune system interacts with cancer cells, and the development of therapies that use the patient's own immune system to fight disease. With this research interest, Vinh entered the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2010 as a MD/PhD student to study medicine and tumor immunology. At entry into the TST TL1 program, Vinh had authored three research publicationsand six abstracts and received a grant from the American Federation for Aging Research. Vinh’s current research under the mentorship of Dr. Tyler Curiel, focuses on understanding how the drug rapamycin modulates the immune system to prevent cancer. Following predoctoral research training, Vinh will complete his medical school education. His long-term goal is to become an independent physician-scientist in oncology to advance clinical care and novel treatments for cancer patients.

image of Norberto Gonzalez Juarbe
Scholar: Norberto Gonzalez Juarbe
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: IBMS/Microbiology and Immunology
Research Interest: Bacterial pneumonia and host immunological response
Mentor: Molly A. Bergman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Research Topic: Serratia marcescens hemorrhagic pneumonia / A small animal model of Serratia marcescens nosocomial pneumonia: Importance of the bacterial hemolysin/cyolysin and its mechanisms of action
 

Norberto graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology. While in undergraduate studies, he worked closely in an academic research environment to study astrobiology, a field that combines astronomy and biology. From that experience, he was able to attend the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) as a selected National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) student ambassador, as well as to participate as a NASA ambassador at the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. He also attended the Society of Toxicology conference and visited two NASA centers where he was able to present his research. After a personal experience with a family member, Norberto decided to further his graduate studies and entered the UT Health Science Center in 2011 as a doctoral student in the IMGP program’s Microbiology and Immunology track. Since joining the UT Health Science Center he has authored two publications and presented his research at a number of meetings. Norberto’s current research involves the study of host-pathogen interactions and the virulence mechanisms of bacteria, in preparation for a career as an independent translational investigator.

image of Heather Hambright
Scholar: Heather Hambright
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: IBMS/Cancer Biology
Research Interest: Oxidative stress signaling; melanoma; strategies for overcoming chemotherapeutic resistance
Mentor: Rita Ghosh, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Urology and Pharmacology
Research Topic: Targeting pro-survival p62 as an anti-melanoma strategy
 
 

Heather graduated from UT Austin in 2007 where she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Geography and Biology. She joined the UT Health Science Center in 2011 as a student in the IMGP program, focusing on Cancer Biology. Before furthering her graduate studies, she was introduced to molecular aspects of cancer research as a Research Assistant in Dr. Pratap Kumar’s laboratory in the UTHSCSA Department of Urology. After developing her own interest in oxidative damage signaling in melanoma, she sought to design and implement her own research to positively impact cancer patients’ health. Since beginning her studies at the UT Health Science Center, Heather has transitioned to Dr. Rita Ghosh’s laboratory, where she studies chemoprevention in a melanoma model. Heather has produced six research articles, two as first author, and nine abstracts, three as first author. She has presented her research in a number of professional venues, both as a research assistant and as a graduate student. Her current research focus is to investigate the differential role of autophagy protein p62 in normal melanocytes and malignant melanoma cells. Her career goal is to become an established translational scientist.

image of Justin Long
Scholar: Justin Long
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: UTHSCSA-UTSA Joint Biomedical Engineering Program
Research Interest: Neuroimaging and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Mentor: Timothy Q. Duong, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Radiology, and Physiology
Research Topic: Multimodal MRI characterization of TBI lesion progression and neuroprotective effects of methylene blue
 
 

Justin graduated in 2005 from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. Before joining the UT Health Science Center, Justin worked extensively with KCI Medical in research and development, starting as an undergraduate intern, followed by a position as a Co-op student until he finished his degree, and finally as a full member of the research staff. After six years with KCI Medical, Justin was inspired to continue his education to further his knowledge about the use of diagnostic imaging techniques to investigate traumatic brain injury (TBI), combining his skills in science and engineering. His research interests include the application of novel imaging techniques to more effectively diagnose, predict outcomes, and examine the efficacy of new treatments following TBI. At the time of selection into the TST TL1 Program, Justin had produced several publications, two as first author, 19 conference papers, including one international talk, numerous poster presentations, and 21 issued U.S. patents. Justin’s goal is to become a leading investigator in industry where he can apply his years of product development experience, along with the research techniques acquired at UTHSCSA, to pursue new therapies and treatments to improve the quality of life of others.