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Current MD-PhD Student - Vlad Codrea

Vlad Codrea

Name: Vlad Codrea

Year in Program: MY4

Undergrad University: The University of Texas at Austin

Mentor: Andy Ellington, Ph.D.

Graduate Program: Cellular and Molecular Biology


    Research Interests

  • Molecular diagnostics, dermatology, nucleic acid circuits, cancer biology, screening of antimicrobial pharmaceuticals, protein engineering, directed evolution

    Honors & Awards

  • Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science, and Technology National Gold Medal Winner (4th place - $33,000) (2002)
  • American Chemical Society 59th Southwest Regional Meeting Student Conference Award (2003)
  • Sigma Xi Student Conference in Los Angeles, CA Poster Presentation Winner in Genetics (2003)
  • Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Award Scholarship (2003)
  • U.T. Austin James Edmonds Scholarship (2003)
  • U.T. Austin, University Co-operative Society Undergraduate Research Fellowship (2003)
  • Dean's Scholars Honor Program (2003-2007)
  • Outstanding Academic Affairs Member, Natural Sciences Council (2004)
  • Grants-in-Aid of Research (GIAR) Award from Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society (2004)
  • San Antonio Area Foundation Scholarship (2004-2005)
  • Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry research support (2006)
  • Crawford Endowed Scholarship (2003-2007)
  • Texas Excellence Award For Scholarship and Leadership (2003-2007)
  • Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship (2005-2007)
  • UT Green Fee $54,000 Grant Recipient to start UT Austin Tree Nursery (2011-2014)
  • UTMB Austin Professionalism Award (2014)


  • Barman S., You L., Chen R., Codrea V., Kago G., Edupuganti G., Robertus J., Krug R. M., Anslyn E. V. Exploring Napthyl-Carbohydrazides as Inhibitors of Influenza A Viruses. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 2013 November
  • Bhadra, S., Codrea, V., Ellington, A. D. G-quadruplex-generating polymerase chain reaction for visual colorimetric detection of amplicons. Analytical Biochemistry. 2013 October
  • Miklos A.E., Kluwe C., Der B.S., Pai, S., Sircar A., Hughes R.A., Berrondo M., Xu J., Codrea V., Buckley P.E., Calm A.M., Welsh H.S., Warner C.R., Zacharko M.A., Carney J.P., Gray J.J., Georgiou G., Kuhlman B. and Ellington A.D. Structure-based design of supercharged, highly thermoresistant antibodies. Chemical Biology 19, pp. 449-55. 2012 April
  • Eckhoff G, Codrea V, Ellington AD, Chen X. Beyond allostery: Catalytic regulation of a deoxyribozyme through an entropy-driven DNA amplifier. Journal of Systems Chemistry. 2010 Oct 1; 1:13.
  • Codrea V, Hayner M, Hall B, Jhaveri S, Ellington AD. In Vitro Selection of RNA Aptamers to a Small Molecule Target. Current Protocols. 2009 December
  • Hwang TW, Codrea V, Ellington AD. Motifs from the deep. J Biol. 2009 Sep 2;8(8):72.
  • Zhu G, Fujii K, Liu Y, Codrea V, Herrero J, Shaw S. A single pair of acidic residues in the kinase major groove mediates strong substrate preference for P-2 or P-5 arginine in the AGC, CAMK, and STE kinase families. J Biol Chem. 2005 Oct 28;280(43):36372-9.


  • PhD Dissertation Defense, Cellular and Molecular Biology, June 6, 2013, University of Texas at Austin, "DNA-based Molecular Circuits for Diagnostics and Therapeutics"
  • Poster Presentation - National Cancer Institute / National Institutes of Health, August 8, 2004, Bethesda, MD "Novel Method of Determining Peptide Specificity of Serine/Threonine Kinases and Its Use In Improving Prediction of Phosphorylation Efficiencies"
  • Poster Presentation - National Conference for Undergraduate Research, April 15-17, 2004, Indianapolis, IN "Prediction of metabolite binding sites in bacterial mRNA"
  • Poster Presentation - Student Research Conference, Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, November 14-15, 2003, Los Angeles, CA "Prediction of metabolite binding sites in bacterial mRNA"
  • Poster Presentation - American Chemical Society - 59th Southwest Regional Meeting October 25-28, 2003, Oklahoma City, OK "Prediction of metabolite binding sites in bacterial mRNA"
  • Poster Presentation - M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, August 1,2003, Houston, TX " Characterization of DNA expansion responsible for Myotonic Dystrophy type II"
  • Poster Presentation - National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Student Research Symposium , University of New England, Portland , ME (June 2003) "Computational Identification of Co-conserved genetic elements in sequenced bacterial genomes."
  • Poster Presentation - State Science Fair, Arlington, TX (April 2003) "Computational Identification of Co-conserved genetic elements in sequenced bacterial genomes."
  • Poster Presentation - American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington DC. (December 2002) "Computational Identification of Co-conserved genetic elements in sequenced bacterial genomes."
  • Poster Presentation - Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN (November 2002) "Computational Identification of Co-conserved genetic elements in sequenced bacterial genomes."

    Hobbies or just something about yourself in general:

  • Vlad enjoys helping environmental causes in his spare time. He received a $54,000 grant to start a tree nursery at the University of Texas at Austin that grows seedlings to reforest the Bastrop Lost Pines, a genetically distinct population of loblolly pines on the westernmost edge of the species' distribution that contains trees uniquely adapted to withstand the drought and heat of Central Texas. After growing 75,000 trees in its first year of operation, the nursery has been expanded to now produce 350,000 pine seedlings per year. Vlad also enjoys computer programming, dancing and fishing.

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.