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Current MD-PhD Student - Dianne Lou

Dianne Lou

Name: Dianne Lou

Year in Program: GY6

Undergrad University: University of Houston

Mentor: Sara Sawyer, Ph.D.

Graduate Program: Cell and Molecular Biology

   

    Research Interests

  • Most genes in the human genome are extremely conserved. However, a handful of genes have been shown to be evolving rapidly in response to strong selective pressures, such as infection by pathogenic viruses. Interestingly, several essential DNA repair genes exhibit the same evolutionary signatures as genes involved in warding off harmful viral infections. Currently, I am studying the evolution of nibrin, a protein involved in recognizing and repairing DNA damage, and how this affects its interaction with herpes simplex virus-1.

    Honors & Awards

  • Longhorn Innovation Fund for Technology (LIFT), co-PI, 2013-2014
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA F30 Award Recipient, National Cancer Institute, 2012-2016
  • Lois Sage Foxhall Memorial Fund Travel Award, University of Texas at Austin, 2012
  • Ethel and Robert L. Terry Memorial Scholarship Recipient, University of Texas at Austin, 2011
  • American Society for Virology Student Travel Award Recipient, University of Texas at Austin, 2011
  • Summa Cum Laude, Honors in Major, University of Houston, 2006
  • Outstanding Senior Honors Thesis Award, University of Houston, 2006
  • Carolyn Farb Alumni Endowment Scholarship Recipient, University of Houston, 2004-2005
  • Eckhard Pfeiffer Alumni Endowment Scholarship Recipient, University of Houston, 2004-2005

    Publications

  • Lou, D.I.*, Hussmann, J.A.*, McBee, R.M., Acevedo, A., Andino, R., Press, W.H., and Sawyer, S.L. High-throughput DNA sequencing errors are reduced by orders of magnitude using circle sequencing. PNAS 2013. (in press). Highlighted article in "In This Issue".
  • Han, K.*, Lou, D.I.*, and Sawyer, S.L. Young and Copy Number Variable TRIM Genes in the Human Genome. PLoS Genetics 2011. 7(12): e1002388.
  • Thonhoff, J.R., Lou, D.I., Jordan, P.M., Zhao, X., and Wu, P. Compatibility of human fetal neural stem cells with bioengineering hydrogels in vitro. Brain Res 2008. 1187: 42-51.
  • Ampapathi, R.S., Creath, A.L., Lou, D.I., Craft, J.W., Blanke, S., and Legge, G.B. Order-disorder-order transitions mediate the activation of cholera toxin. J Mol Bio 2008. 377(3): 748-60.
  • *These authors contributed equally to this work.

    Presentations

  • Lou, D.I., Hussmann, J.A., McBee, R.M., Acevedo, A., Andino, R., Press, W.H., and Sawyer, S.L. 2013. High-throughput DNA sequencing errors are reduced by orders of magnitude using circle sequencing. Abstract for poster presentation, APSA South Regional Meeting, San Antonio, TX.
  • Lou, D.I., Han, K., and Sawyer, S.L. 2013. Young and Copy Number Variable TRIM Genes in the Human Genome. Abstract for poster presentation, University of Texas System MD/PhD Retreat, Austin, TX.
  • Lou, D.I., Han, K., and Sawyer, S.L. 2012. Young and Copy Number Variable TRIM Genes in the Human Genome. Abstract for poster presentation, 31st Annual Meeting of the American Society for Virology, Madison, WI.
  • Lou, D.I., Han, K., and Sawyer, S.L. 2011. Young and Copy Number Variable TRIM Genes in the Human Genome. Abstract for poster presentation, 30th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Virology, Minneapolis, MN. Student Travel Award recipient.
  • Lou, D.I., Demogines, A., and Sawyer, S.L. 2010. Sequence variability in NBS1 mediates susceptibility to viral infection. Abstract for poster presentation, National MD/PhD Student Conference, Keystone, CO.

    Hobbies or just something about yourself in general:

  • I enjoy running, swimming, and spending time with my dog. I've developed a bit of a 'foodie' habit in Austin and love trying interesting dishes and new restaurants.

Career Development

The career development of an MD-PhD student is critically important and extends out well past the date of graduation with the dual degrees. The UTMB MD-PhD Program carefully guides and nurtures students throughout the Program. Early in the Program, critical issues are mentor selection and choice of a graduate program. MD-PhD students meet regularly with a faculty advisor, a student "big sibling" and members of the advisory committee. Opportunities to be exposed to research opportunities are provided through Program activities as well as the scientific activities on campus. Most students do their initial laboratory rotation during the summer before starting medical school. Additional laboratory rotations can be completed during the summer before the first and second years of medical school and after the second year of medical school. Once students are established in their labs, they are guided through their research by a mentor and dissertation committee.

For MD-PhD students, selection of the dissertation committee is essential and our Program requires students to include a member who is an MD scientist who can provide guidance on career progress and residency selections. As thesis defense approaches, students design their optimal clinical experiences with members of the MD-PhD committee to maximize chances to obtain the types of residency training that will be most compatible with further development as a physician scientist. The Program runs career guidance seminars to alert students to many of the important issues, pitfalls and milestones that they will need to navigate in the future. These include the pros and cons of short-track residencies, the need for additional postdoctoral training, and how to select and negotiate a first faculty appointment. The UTMB MD-PhD graduate is thus well positioned to make the most out of the advantages that MD-PhD careers offer.