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HPTM Students

HPTM Students

HPTM Graduate Student
Mentor: Dr. Vineet Menachery

Elias Alvarado graduated from UT Permian Basin (UTPB) and received his Bachelor of Science with a focus in Molecular Biology.  While at UTPB, Elias participated in undergraduate and international research opportunities through the Louis Stoke Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program.  After graduation, he joined UTMB as a PREP scholar developing novel peptide-based melanoma vaccines in the department of pharmacology/toxicology and surgery.  Upon completing his post-Baccalaureate, he worked for several years as a research associate at UTMB and Baylor College of Medicine in the fields of immunology, vaccinology, virology, and public health.  Elias is now a member of Dr. Vineet Meanchey’s lab where his work will focus on understanding the immunological correlates of protection during SARS-CoV-2 infection and post CoV-2 vaccination.  His research interests include vaccinology, immunology, virology, and public health and seeks a career in academia to teach as a full professor at a college or research institute.  In his free time, he enjoys cooking, creating art (drawing/painting) and playing card/board games with friends.    


2021-Present - Community Liaison, Society for Translational Research
2021-Present - Social Media Chair, Women's Association of Minority Scientists
HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Alfredo Torres

Alex received a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of California, Irvine. After graduating he continued to work there as a lab specialist in the Vaccine R&D Center. During his time at UCI he has studied the host immune responses to a recombinant vesicular stomatitis vaccine against Marburgvirus, a subunit vaccine for Coxiella burnetii, and a protein nanoparticle vaccine against influenza. He has also worked on projects studying how different combinations of vaccine adjuvants skew the type of immune response elicited as well as how modulating vaccine release kinetics affects efficacy. His interests lie in vaccinology, immunology, and microbiology.

HPTM Graduate Program

Mentor: Dr. Noelle C. Anastasio

Holly Chapman graduated from the University of Texas in Austin, Texas with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and minors in Biology and Social Work in 2015. Following graduation, she worked for two years as a lab technician for the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department at the University of Texas in the lab of Dr. Robert Messing, where she focused on the neurobiological substrates of alcohol use disorder. She then graduated from the University of Houston-Clear Lake in Webster, Texas with a Master of Science in Behavioral Neuroscience in 2019. Simultaneously with her master program, she worked full time at UTMB in the Center for Addiction Research in the lab of Dr. Noelle C. Anastasio, where she focused on the neurobiological underpinnings of substance use disorders and impulsivity. At UTMB, Holly is a member of the Anastasio Lab in the Center for Addiction Research. Her research focuses on the potential therapeutic effects of synaptoplastogenics through receptor interactions between N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) for comorbid substance use disorders and mood disorders. Holly is involved in the Society for Translational Research (STR) and the Women’s Association of Minority Scientists (WAMS) at UTMB and participates in community outreach programs bringing STEM learning to underserved minority communities. She enjoys spending time with her Doggos (Killian [actual dog] and Keetaun [cat]) and volunteering for the science communication efforts of Enventure and The Science Review.
HPTM Graduate Student

S. Gabrielle Cody grew up in a far suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, and was first exposed to infectious disease research on a field trip to the CDC in eighth grade.  She graduated with her bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in May of 2020 and promptly moved 4,500 miles to Honolulu during a pandemic for her master's degree.  At the University of Hawaii, she worked initially on flavivirus diagnostics and then transitioned to systematically reviewing the female-specific pathologies of the Schistosoma haematobium parasite. Gabrielle joined the HPTM program in 2022 and is looking forward to establishing herself in a lab.  She is interested in vaccinology and high-containment research.  Outside of school, Gabrielle knits extensively and enjoys her time with her husband and their two cats.



2022- David and Janet Niesel Presidential Scholarship Award, UTMB

HPTM Grad Student
Madison Gray graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry. Madison has spent the past two years investigating small molecule therapeutics for the Chikungunya virus. In her undergraduate, she utilized bioinformatic and novel toxicology methods to determine treatment efficiency. Madison has presented this methodology at seven conferences on state, national, to international levels. After graduation, she joined UTMB’s HTPM program to continue her research in investing in treatment options for highly pathogenic viruses. 


Whenever she could she would spend all day watching Kdramas, cooking, and dancing. 

HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Irma (Lisa) Cisneros

Camille Ledoux received a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University majoring in Biology & Society with a minor in Infectious Disease Biology. She is a fellow of the Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease and worked on a team studying Vibrio cholerae’s zinc-starvation response as it relates to chemotaxis in the Dörr Laboratory as an undergraduate researcher. After graduating from Cornell University, Camille worked as a COVID-19 Contact Tracer and vaccine educator in New York State. She is interested in how we can better improve scientific communication in the context of explaining emerging infectious disease threats to the public.

HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Hommel
Clinical Co-Mentor: Dr. David Houghton

Sierra Miller graduated magna cum laude from West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and minors in Biology and Mathematics. Following graduation, she worked as a lab technician for the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service where she focused on identifying sources of nitrous oxide production from feed yards. At UTMB, Sierra is a Presidential Scholar and member of the Hommel Lab in the Center for Addiction Research. Her research focuses on the underlying neurocircuitry of nutritional balance and binge eating disorder by integrating computational, behavioral, and neuroanatomical approaches. Sierra is involved in the Society for Neuroscience at UTMB and participates in community outreach programs about the effects of drugs and alcohol. She enjoys spending time with her dog and attending activities on campus, at church, and around Galveston.


2022 - Streppa Champion in Functional Neuroanatomy Award, Center for Addiction Research, University of Texas Medical Branch
2022 - Burrough’s Wellcome Fund Trainee Travel Award, Association for Clinical and Translational Science
2022 - Robert Bennett Scholarship, Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences, University of Texas Medical Branch
2021- Alumni Translational Scholars Travel Award
2021- James E. Beall II Memorial Award
2020 - 2022 - NIH/NCATS TL1 Institutional Training Core (TL1TR001440) “UTMB Clinical and Translational Science Award”
2020 - HPTM Alumni Translational Scholars Travel Award
2019 - UTMB Student Government Association Leadership Scholarship
2018 - Present - Presidential Scholar’s Award, UTMB

HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Heather Stevenson-Lerner

After graduating from college, Dr. Daniel Millian did a master's in public health (MPH) and worked in the demography department as a research assistant. He supplemented his graduate medical education with a 1-year general medicine internship in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and 6 months of internal medicine at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He chose to pursue a career in pathology because he aspires to become an expert in the macroscopic and microscopic pathogenesis of as many diseases as possible. In May 2021, Dr. Millian took a break from his pathology residency and started in the HPTM program, where he studies the liver microenvironment in chronic liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma with liver transplant pathology expert, Dr. Heather Stevenson-Lerner. After completing his PhD in HPTM he will return to the pathology residency program to finish his specialty in pathology.


HPTM Graduate Student
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Routh

Victoria (Tori) Morris came to us from Wisconsin after working in both the research and clinical settings. Her internship at the University of Georgia Center for Applied Genetic Technologies focused on genetic components of peanut plants' resistance to nematodes. At Waukesha Memorial Hospital, she worked as a Clinical Laboratory Assistant for the Microbiology department. After graduating from Maranatha Baptist University magna cum laude with a B.S. in Biochemistry, she joined HPTM. She is currently a graduate student researching arboviruses in the Routh lab. Her work focuses on better methods of tracking vector-borne diseases using current collection and surveillance techniques. Tracking viral evolution in vector species allows public health surveillance foreknowledge of possible outbreak strains and provides basic virologists with the most up-to-date sequences to design therapeutics against.


2021 - NIH/NCATS TL1 Institutional Training Core (TL1TR001440) “UTMB Clinical and Translational Science Award”
2020 - present - Secretary, Society for Translational Research 
2021- present - Graduate Student Organization Officer
HPTM Graduate Student Mentor: Dr. Mariano Garcia Blanco

Chloe Nagasawa was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. She graduated from Maryville University in St. Louis with a B.S. in Biology. After taking a gap year, she decided to pursue a M.S. in Biomedical Sciences from Kansas City University where she studied biochemical modifications to spliceosomal RNAs and its effect on embryonic development. She is currently working in Dr. Mariano Garcia-Blanco’s lab, studying the mechanism of DDX39B-regulated splicing of FOXP3 introns and its effects on autoimmunity. 


2020-2021 Sealy Center for Aging Scholarship
2020-2021 Alumni Translational Scholars Travel Award
HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Hommel

Kehinde is a proud Nigerian American who grew up predominantly in northwest Houston. She graduated cum laude with her Bachelor of Science degree from Prairie View A & M University, majoring in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Humanities. Thereafter, she went on to completing her Master of Science degree in Physiology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Kehinde became a part of the Human Pathophysiology and Translational Medicine program at UTMB in 2018 and began conducting research under the mentorship of Dr. Jonathan Hommel. Kehinde’s research focuses on the investigation of upstream regulatory circuits and their involvement on major reward neural pathways using novel viral tracing techniques. She also serves as an officer of the UTMB Women’s Association of Minority Scientists and member of the Society for Translational research, highlighting her investment in increasing diversity in science, science communication, and a long-term career in translational research.


2021- UTMB Student Government Association Leadership Scholarship for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Texas Medical Branch  
2021- Summer 2021 Joint Admission Medical Program Instructor 
2021 Herin Champion in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for SUDs Science
2020 (Fall & Spring) - Human Pathophysiology and Translational Medicine Travel Award
2020-Trainee Professional Development Award, Society for Neuroscience  
2019-2020 NIDDK R01 - Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Research 
HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Irma (Lisa) Cisneros

Maura was raised in Tijuana, Mexico, where she attended Medical School at Centro de Estudios Universitarios Xochicalco-CEUX. She did her medical internship and clinical rotations at the Tijuana General Hospital, where she solidified her theoretical knowledge with complete hands-on training. She completed her medical training with a year of social service in Mexicali, B.C; as a Lead Physician, she provided primary medical care to four rural communities with +3,000 patients. During that time, she had the opportunity to witness many medical needs and treatment gaps, so after earning her Medical Degree, she decided to join the research world to diversify her medical knowledge and acquire new skills. She is currently a member of Dr. Cisneros’s lab in the Department of Pathology. Her research will focus on elucidating the relationship between the SARS-Covid2 infection and the alterations in the Kynurenine pathway that results in neurological symptoms in the post-infection period, in previously healthy individuals and patients with previously neurocognitive diseases. She enjoys swimming, paddle boarding, and having movie nights with her family during her free time. 


HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Jere McBride

Nick attended Trinity University for his undergraduate studies, majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. While obtaining his degree, Nick worked in a laboratory investigating the protein components of the spliceosome and the dynamics of RNA splicing. After graduating in 2020, Nick joined the HPTM program as a Presidential Scholar interested in host-pathogen interactions, immunology, and infectious diseases. At UTMB, Nick joined the laboratory of Dr. Jere McBride where he currently studies the intracellular bacteria Ehrlichia chaffeensis and bacterial mimicry of human ligands. In his spare time, Nick enjoys going for runs along the Seawall, trying new bars and restaurants in the area, and reading sci-fi on the beach.


2022 – Present - McLaughlin Predoctoral Fellowship

2022- Edward S. Reynolds Award

2022 - Arun Kumar Chopra, Nirmal Rani Chopra and Dharam Dev Chopra Memorial Scholarship

2021-2022 - Sealy Center for Vector Borne and Zoonotic Disease Fellowship

2020 - Present - Presidential Scholar’s Award, UTMB

HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Dustin Green

Sami Sbei received a Bachelor of Science degree from Maryville University majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Chemistry and Business Administration. His undergraduate research experience included projects in the fields of Microbiology and Medicinal Chemistry. 
Sami aims to bring his unique experiences and leadership values to UTMB, where he currently works on studying the effects of pathogen-microbiota interactions on the pathogenesis of Salmonella, using C. elegans as an in vivo model. 

Outside the lab, Sami loves being involved in mentoring incoming students and volunteering. In his free time, he loves to swim and to spend time with his family and friends.


2020 - Inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success 
2018 - Leadership values
2017 - Received scholarship to conduct summer research and present in Student Research & Scholarship Day 2017
HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Gracie Vargas 

Olivia Solomon is a Houston native primarily growing up in Missouri City, Texas. She attended Prairie A&M University for her undergraduate studies majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. While at Prairie View A&M, Olivia participated in multiple undergraduate research experiences and was a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP-NSF) scholar. Upon obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in December 2015, she attended UTMB as a PREP fellow in June 2016 - June 2017. Her research interest spans from neuroinflammation, novel drug delivery systems, and the optimization of diagnostic methods. Olivia is conducting research under the advisement of Dr. Gracie Vargas focusing on studying hypercoagulation, BBB disruption, and gliovascular responses due to experimental Cerebral Malaria utilizing advanced in vivo bio-imaging modalities. 


2021-2022 Kempner Pre-doctoral Fellow
2020-2021 Yale Ciencia Academy Fellow
2018 – Participation in Mentoring UTMB High School Summer Biomedical Research Program, The University of Texas Medical Branch
2017 – Secretary, Society for Translational Research
HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Shao-Jun Tang

Michael Spurgat is a PhD student who is currently examining the role of exosomes released from astrocytes in chronic pain during HIV infection. Michael worked as a bioinformatics analyst at the University of Houston sequencing core during his final year of undergraduate studies. While there, he assisted research groups by analyzing their genomic data and generating figures to assist them in visualizing their results. Michael then graduated from the University of Houston in 2017 with degrees in both biochemistry and computer science. His future work will leverage both computational and biological methods.



2016 – CPRIT Summer Undergraduate Fellowship Grant
2012-2016 – Academic Excellence Scholarship

HPTM Graduate Student

Mentor: Dr. Robert K. Abbott

Nicole graduated summa cum laude from University of Florida in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. During her time at University of Florida she worked in a laboratory on several projects to develop a transmission blocking vaccine for malaria. Nicole joined HPTM as a Presidential Scholar with research interests in vaccinology, immunology, and infectious diseases. In her free time, she enjoys fostering dogs and enjoying nature. 


2021-Present – Presidential Scholar’s Award, UTMB