TL1 Scholars

TST-TL1 2020 Scholars
(July 2020 – June 2021)


Scholar: Colton Baley
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: Radiological Sciences - Medical Physics
Research Interest: Radiation Therapy, 4D Cone-Beam Computed Tomography
Mentor: Daniel Saenz, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology
Research Topic: Implementation of 4D cone-beam computed tomography for localization accuracy and normal tissue sparing in lung radiation therapy







Colton graduated from Texas A&M University in 2018, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Radiological Health Engineering with the accolade Summa Cum Laude. While at Texas A&M, Colton worked as a radiation safety technician at the Environmental Health and Safety Department, Radiological Safety program, and pursed research in a radiochemistry lab leading to his first authorship. After finishing his undergraduate degree at Texas A&M, Colton began his current pursuit of a PhD in medical physics in the Radiological Sciences program at UT Health San Antonio under his mentor Dr. Daniel Saenz. Colton’s research focuses on using image guidance in stereotactic body radiation therapy to improve cancer patient outcomes. Specifically, he is invested in translating the application of four-dimensional cone beam computed tomography for pretreatment image guidance to better assess mobile tumor location during respiration in phantoms to lung cancer patients. 


Scholar: Kunal Baxi, Ph.D.
Department: Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute
Research Interest: Cancer Biology, TP53
Mentor: Myron Ignatius, PhD; Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine
Research Topic:

To characterize and assign function to mutant TP53 from sarcomas in the clinic







Kunal Baxi completed his PhD in Biology (Molecular Genetics) from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in 2017. His research during his PhD focused on elucidating the connection between reproductive and organismal lifespan in the nematode C. elegans. In the summer of 2017, Kunal joined the laboratory of Dr. Myron Ignatius at UT Health San Antonio where he uses zebrafish as a model organism. Kunal’s research seeks to address fundamental tenets of TP53 biology in Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), an aggressive neoplasm of skeletal muscle and it is the most common childhood soft tissue tumor. In RMS, inactivation of the TP53 tumor suppressor pathway is common. Kunal’s research focuses on characterizing TP53 mutations from sarcoma patients in the clinic using a tp53-null zebrafish model in order to better understand how these mutations in tp53 affect RMS tumor biology such as initiation, proliferation and apoptosis. This approach would enable clinicians to be better informed about treatment options for patients.


Scholar: Victoria Bry
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: Radiological Sciences - Medical Physics
Research Interest: Radiation Therapy, Stereotactic Radiosurgery, and Pediatric Radiotherapy
Mentor: Karl Rasmussen, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology
Research Topic: Clinical implementation of surface guided imaging for pediatric craniospinal irradiation







Victoria Bry graduated from Colorado College in May of 2016, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Physics. Victoria began her graduate studies in August of 2018 in the Radiological Sciences Program at UT Health San Antonio and is pursuing her Ph.D. in Medical Physics. Victoria is a co-author of a book chapter on her research area of optical surface guided radiation therapy (SGRT). Her current research under the mentorship of Dr. Karl Rasmussen involves the analysis of SGRT for pediatric radiotherapy. She expects to show that SGRT can improve treatment efficiency and accuracy in complex treatments, which is predicted to reduce the risk of treatment related toxicities. Victoria is the current student representative for UT Health San Antonio Radiological Sciences Committee on Graduate Studies. She is also a member of Linking Interprofessional Networks for Collaboration Student Council, Student Legacy Council, and WISDOM at UT Health San Antonio. In addition, she is a member the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and an Affiliate member of Mays MD Anderson Cancer Center.



Scholar: Kylie Meyer, Ph.D., MSc
Department: School of Nursing
Research Interest: Family caregiving relationships
Mentor: Carole White, Ph.D., RN; Professor, School of Nursing
Research Topic: The changing social lives of family caregivers and association with markers of depression and cardiovascular health






Kylie Meyer, PhD completed bachelor’s training at Kalamazoo College in Anthropology/Sociology 2014, where she interned at an Area Agency on Aging and discovered a passion for addressing the needs of older adults and caregiving families. After completing master’s-level training in Gerontology on a U.S. Fulbright at the University of Southampton, UK, she joined the Gerontology doctoral program at the University of Southern California. Dr. Meyer’s career goal is to build targeted intervention programs to support the health and quality of life of caregiving families, especially those living with dementia. Dr. Meyer is now a post-doctoral researcher at the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing’s Caring for the Caregiver program, led by Dr. Carole White. Her current research is on spousal caregivers’ relationships following a diagnosis of dementia, specifically how caregivers’ relationships with care recipients, friends, and family members associate with health-related quality of life and chronic disease risk. Based within the Pearlin Stress Process Model, findings will be used to understand how social support serves as a modifiable risk factor and possible intervention target to prevent chronic disease among family caregivers, a population disproportionately at risk of mental and physical health morbidities. During the fellowship period, Dr. Meyer will learn how to manage a daily diary survey study examining day-to-day variation in social support among caregivers, as well as how to integrate objective health markers (salivary cortisol) into her research. Dr. Meyer is also co-PI on 3 funded research programs to deliver accessible online interventions to family caregivers.



Scholar: George Plasko
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: Radiological Sciences
Research Interest: IBMS/Biology of Aging Discipline
Mentor: Feng Liu, Ph.D., M.D.; Professor, Department of Pharmacology
Research Topic: Adipokine deficiency results in obesity-induced metabolic disease in females






George Plasko earned his bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of South Carolina, Columbia. George is currently pursuing a PhD in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Program in Biology of Aging Discipline. He joined Dr. Feng Liu’s lab to learn from their extensive history of pharmacological research in obesity and diabetes. George began investigating a novel adipokine, tetranectin, that is elevated in obese and diabetic patient serum. By being a TST TL1 Trainee, George hopes to become an exceptional early career translational scientist in the metabolism field while laying a foundation for his long-term growth as a primary investigator.    


Scholar: Raphael Reyes
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: IBMS/Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics
Research Interest Malaria, Immunology
Mentor: Evelien Bunnik, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics
Research Topic: In-depth analysis of broadly protective immune responses against the malaria parasite variant surface antigens responsible for cerebral malaria








Raphael Reyes is a third-year PhD candidate in the department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology in 2017 from the University of California, Riverside. As an undergrad, Raphael studied the regulation of gene expression and chromatin structure in Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria, in response to epigenetic drugs. After graduation, Raphael continued his research career at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he was selected to participate in an NIH post baccalaureate research education program. In 2018, Raphael began his matriculation at UT Health San Antonio’s Integrated Biomedical Sciences PhD program. His dissertation work is under the guidance and supervision of Dr. Evelien Bunnik. During the Translational Science Training TL1 Award, Raphael’s research will focus on the identification and characterization of broadly protective immune responses against the malaria parasite antigen responsible for severe disease. Raphael’s work will involve the use of donor samples from individuals naturally infected with P. falciparum to study malaria specific B cells and their respective antibodies contributing to disease protection. His findings will facilitate the development of a vaccine against severe malaria by identifying the exact antigen epitopes that need to be targeted.


Scholar: Travis Shute
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Program: IBMS/Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics
Research Interest: Immunology, Vaccine Development, Tumor Immunotherapies
Mentor: Elizabeth Leadbetter, Ph.D.; Associate Professor, Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
Research Topic: Glycolipid-loaded nanoparticles harness iNKT cells for tumor immunotherapy







Travis graduated from Elon University in North Carolina with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in biology. It was during his time at Elon he developed an interest in scientific research as a career. Shortly after he graduated, he moved to Australia to pursue graduate work in marine biology at James Cook University. While finishing his studies at JCU he decided to return to the United States and apply his passion for research towards benefiting people by working on vaccines and treatments for human diseases. Travis began his studies at UT Health San Antonio in 2017 in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences PhD program. He quickly found a lab and a mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Leadbetter, in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics that was a great fit. His dissertation research is focused on activating natural killer T cells, by administering nanoparticles containing a glycolipid adjuvant and tumor associated antigen, to promote an anti-tumor response. By first testing the therapy in a B16 melanoma model, Travis can study the mechanistic effects of the therapy on tumor growth and the therapy’s potential for combinational use with other clinically relevant cancer immunotherapies, such as checkpoint inhibitors. Travis intends to use the opportunities provided by the Translational Science Training TL1 Award to explore biomedical science fields away from the bench and gain a greater appreciation for research progresses past the initial pre-clinical stages.