UTMB Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

UTMB Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences


Learn More About Our Programs

Taglialatela, Giulio_croppedWelcome to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in historic Galveston, Texas, on the beautiful Galveston Island on the Gulf of Mexico Coast. Our school is located at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), where the original state medical school and school of nursing were established over 120 years ago, the oldest in the US west of the Mississippi river.

There is much to see during your 'virtual' visit to our campus. Whether you are a prospective student or faculty member, a current student or faculty member, an alumnus or a curious visitor, we have something that will be of use or of interest to you. We are proud of our rich and diverse cultural academic tradition here in Galveston, boasting a dynamic, research-intensive faculty, who pursue cutting-edge discoveries.

This website, our electronic brochure, is designed to provide you with information about the facilities, educational programs and services available in the GSBS. I personally welcome you and invite you to explore our school and our institution.

Giulio Taglialatela, PhD
Dean ad interim, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Lawrence J. Del Papa Distinguished Chair In Neurodegenerative Disease Research
Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Neurology
Director, Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology & Anatomy


As our response to COVID-19 continues to evolve, please stay tuned to regular communications from the Office of the President/UTMB Broadcasts and monitor the UTMB COVID-19 website for updates: www.utmb.edu/COVID-19. This page has been regularly updated with videos, FAQs, and additional information as developments are available. A web page specific to students is available here: https://www.utmb.edu/covid-19/students-parents. We are endeavoring to stay in close communication with you regarding updates as the situation develops.

Please review the information to the right for guidance regarding GSBS coursework and research.


  • GSBS Faculty

    In preparation for the Spring 2021 academic term and out of an abundance of caution, the first two weeks of the spring term will be conducted virtually. Starting January 21st (subject to change), courses may be held using the current hybrid approach of face-to-face and/or online teaching methods. Face-to-face classes should continue to adhere to room capacity requirements to allow for social distancing. For individuals with concerns attending class face-to-face, accommodations should be made with course directors to allow for attendance virtually. For questions or concerns, please contact any of the GSBS deans.

    Below are several different possibilities for virtual instruction, from easiest to more complex/”true” online:

    1. If you have classes of a small size, you can email PowerPoints to your students or share them in Dropbox or some equivalent and talk through them via teleconference.
    2. Similar to number 1, share your PowerPoints via Skype, Zoom, or Go to Meeting. If you need help figuring this out, please contact your coordinator first, and if you need additional help, contact Dr. Kristen Peek directly.
    3. Even with larger courses, option 2 is possible. It becomes more complicated to have student discussion, but still feasible.
    4. Start to move your courses online - you can use Panopto (i.e. Tegrity replacement, reference attached) to record your lectures with a PowerPoint on blackboard. With this option, students can move through the online material, and then you can use Skype or other virtual platform for student discussions. It may be most convenient for you to plan to use a desktop with microphone to record lectures. If you need to use equipment in a classroom (i.e. Levin 3.320/3.324), call Classroom Services at (409) 772-8980.
    5. Move content fully online – using Blackboard more fully with exams, quizzes, uploading papers, exercises, discussion board OR using SoftChalk (an online tool for virtual teaching – link below) to put materials online for students to view. If you use SoftChalk, you can post the link on Blackboard for your class. SoftChalk: https://www.utmb.edu/ar/academic-computing/learning-apps/softchalk

    If you are interested in using SoftChalk to develop online learning materials, click the link above to get the activation key. The GSBS can provide training and examples. Please decide how you will handle your courses virtually and contact Dr. Kristen Peek at mkpeek@utmb.edu or 409-772-9143 as issues arise.

  • GSBS Trainees

    In preparation for the Spring 2021 academic term and out of an abundance of caution, the first two weeks of the spring term will be conducted virtually. Starting January 21st (subject to change), courses may be held using the current hybrid approach of face-to-face and/or online teaching methods. Face-to-face classes should continue to adhere to room capacity requirements to allow for social distancing. For individuals with concerns attending class face-to-face, accommodations should be made with course directors to allow for attendance virtually. For questions or concerns, please contact any of the GSBS deans.

    For students who need to meet with research mentors, currently have scheduled research meetings or defenses, we are utilizing social distancing strategies. For research meetings, off campus committee members will need to join the meeting using Skype or can be emailed copies of slides/data before the meeting and then join the meeting by phone. On campus members can attend meetings in person, by Skype or by phone. Thesis or dissertation defenses will utilize the same methods mentioned above. Required documentation related to defense meetings can be mailed to GSBS. In regards to public defenses, please contact Dr. Joan Nichols (jnichols@utmb.edu) to discuss options.

    There have been questions as to the status of graduate students as part of UTMB’s response to COVID-19. Graduate students are critical to research operations and with graduate assistantships will be classified as essential employees and available to work in research laboratories. Our primary concern will be to keep our students safe. We will recommend that students be on campus only to complete their work and then return home to continue their work. Some students may be able to pursue their research remotely and this would be ideal.

    Please consult with your mentors for plans for experiments, ordering sufficient supplies, work that can be done from home, communications, etc. Members of the GSBS are in a unique position during this pandemic as many of our faculty and trainees are directly involved in research for COVID-19 response. Your course directors should be in communication with you regarding plans for virtual classes.

  • Message to Students from Provost (12/15/2020)

    It is extremely important that we maintain a safe environment for all who come to our campus. As the holiday break draws near, I want to make everyone aware of additional measures we will be taking to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread upon your return to campus or clinical activities.

    Following the break, we will require that all students be tested for COVID-19 no more than five days before their first scheduled activity either on campus or at UTMB clinical sites. At this time, we are coordinating details to provide testing for students at UTMB sites. We will also provide guidelines for those who wish to have testing done at another location. This information will be forthcoming in an email later this week. Students whose programs are 100 percent online will be exempt this requirement.

    In addition to our ongoing practices of hand-washing, social distancing, and masking, testing is a measure that will help keep our campus safe. As an academic health science center, part of our mission is helping keep people safe from disease. We must set the example for our community for adherence to good public health practices. As you know, COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high; that trend unfortunately is expected to continue over the holidays. Everyone should behave as safely as possible and follow the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 and spreading it to others.

    I appreciate your cooperation on this matter. We will share additional details as soon as they are available.

  • All GSBS Colleagues

    Above all, the health and safety of our campus is our priority. Please follow recommended guidelines to help prevent the spread of illness. You may view the CDC’s recommended precautions at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html. Sanitize frequently touched items (e.g. laptops, desktops, car keys, etc.). Social distancing (avoiding large crowds, maintaining 6 feet of distance, etc.) may also help limit the spread of the virus.

    As a reminder, if you are sick, please stay home. Faculty, if your students are sick (with any illness), please tell them to stay home. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, listed below are UTMB sites designated for evaluation. Please call in advance of your arrival at the clinic. Phone numbers and addresses are available via the following link: https://www.utmb.edu/covid-19/patients.

    • UTMB Island West;
    • UTMB Urgent Care in Galveston;
    • UTMB Texas City Urgent Care Clinic;
    • UTMB Hwy 3 Pediatric and Adult Primary Care;
    • UTMB Angleton Danbury Clinic; and
    • UTMB Angleton Danbury Pediatric and Adult Primary Care

    For telecommuting, information about logging into VPN and the required two-factor authentication is available at https://www.utmb.edu/is/divisions/operations/vpn-setup. The UTMB Help Desk may be contacted 24/7 at the below phone numbers to troubleshoot technical issues:

    • From On-campus: (409) 772-5200
    • From Galveston Area: (409) 772-5200
    • From 281 Area Code: (281) 554-1577
    • From All Other Areas: (888) 898-2401

    Information about using Skype for videoconferencing is available at https://www.utmb.edu/sfb/. Those using UTMB equipment for telecommuting should ensure that you coordinate with your department administration and complete any necessary loan agreement forms.

  • GSBS Recruitment

    The application and admissions process for GSBS students entering in the fall term will continue, complying with University policies for maintaining safety of faculty and staff. Applications to the GSBS will continue to be evaluated, and request for admission packets will be handled as they have been. However, GSBS staff will be working remotely, so application packets will need to be sent to Laura Teed (lcteed@utmb.edu) electronically.

    Following University policy, please do NOT invite any recruits on to campus, either for interviews or for visits after they have accepted an offer for admission. We will work with HR and Enrollment Services to determine if and how matriculation procedures need to be modified.

    For additional information for prospective students, please visit https://www.utmb.edu/gsbs/prospective-students/ps-home.

  • GSBS Office Support

    The Graduate School will be transitioning office support services for our faculty and trainees to a virtual format as of Monday, March 16th until further notice. Please be assured that our staff remain ready to assist you during standard business hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 am-5:00 pm. Provided below is a listing of phone and email contacts where staff members may be reached. A full listing of GSBS contacts which includes program directors and coordinators is attached.

    Graduate School Staff



    Claiborne Fant


    Rose Garcia


    Shibani Karovalia


    Jessica Linton


    Denise Reed


    Chris Rhodes


    Laura Teed


    GSBS Main Line: 409-772-2665

    Contact information for GSBS leadership is provided below:

    Graduate School Leadership



    Dr. David Niesel


    Dr. Joan Nichols


    Dr. Kristen Peek


    Dr. Daniel Jupiter


    Dr. Tracy Toliver


    The Graduate School is committed to our faculty and trainees and if you have any questions or concerns during this time, please do not hesitate to contact any of our leadership or staff. We will work together so that educational activities and research continue as best as possible while ensuring that our students, staff, and faculty are safe. Take care of yourselves and should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.


IHII Data Acquisition Program

The following IHII Data Acquisition grant opportunity is currently available. Application due date: March 14, 2021

Internship Opportunities in Infectious Diseases

The following WGCVBD-affiliated summer student internships are currently available. The deadline to apply is March 26, 2021.

Career Exploration Network

A news story on the UT System home page discussed the successful piloting of a virtual networking program aimed at aiding graduate students and postdocs in pursuing the next steps in their careers. The initiative was developed with the 6 University of Texas System Health Institutions, and both UTMB students and alumni participated.

Faculty Accolades

APTR has appointed Cara Pennel, DrPH, MPH to the Board of Governors of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM). Dr. Pennel is Graduate Program Director for Public Health and Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine & Population Health at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). Dr. Pennel will serve a three-year term. AJPM is the official journal of the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy.

Kudos to Rebeca Wong, PhD, Associate Director of the Sealy Center on Aging, on her invitation to serve on the newly formed NIH Council of Councils Working Group on Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Integration. The panel of behavioral scientists and other community experts is tasked with providing recommendations on how to better integrate and realize the benefits to overall health from behavioral research at NIH.

Congratulations to Dr. Tracy Toliver-Kinsky, director of the BBSC and professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, on her election into The University of Texas Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., Academy of Health Science Education (Shine Academy). The Shine Academy supports and promotes excellence in all aspects of health science education, educational scholarship and leadership. Congratulations Dr. Toliver-Kinsky!

Candidacy Milestones

Congratulations to Ursela Christopherson for achieving candidacy for the PhD. Rachel is mentored by Dr. Elizabeth Lyons, in the Rehabilitation Sciences Program.

Congratulations to J Rachel Sattler for achieving candidacy for the PhD. Rachel is studying in the Experimental Pathology Program supervised by Dr. Slobodan Paessler.

Please join us in congratulating Joseph Thiriot for advancing to PhD candidacy. Joe works with Dr. Torres in the Microbiology and Immunology program.

Candidacy Milestones continued ...

Alumni News

Dr. Carlos Orihuela (GSBS ’02 – M&I) has been elected to the American Academy of Microbiology.

February 11 was International Day of Women in Science and the International Labor Organization honored all the outstanding women and girls they encountered through their Dignity at Work Initiative. GSBS alumna Dr. Joan Nichols (’00 – M&I) and student Megan Mears were among some of the amazing women featured. View on Twitter

Alumni Faces in Outer Space Places ...
Meet Dr. Kjell Lindgren (GSBS '07 - MPH), a member of NASA's Artemis team.
Watch on YouTube

Trainee Accolades

Congratulations to Kathleen McDonough for being awarded an F99/K00 - NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The purpose of the NIH Blueprint D-SPAN Award is to support a defined pathway across career stages for outstanding graduate students who are from diverse backgrounds underrepresented in neuroscience research. Katie’s mentors are Dr. Jun-Ho La, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, and Anatomy, and Dr. Jin Mo Chung, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, and Anatomy. Congratulations!

Congratulations to Ms. Olivia Solomon for her completion of the Yale Ciencia Academy Fellowship! The Yale Ciencia Academy (YCA) is a year-long program that equips biomedical or health sciences doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds in the final 1-2 years of their programs with the knowledge, skills, and networks they need to find great postdoctoral positions that will further their academic interests and career goals. Olivia’s mentor is Dr. Gracie Vargas, Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, and Anatomy. Congratulations!

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Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

For Questions Regarding Graduate School Prerequisites, Admissions, and Postdoctoral Requirements: (409) 772-2666
Or Toll-free Number: (877) 425-4727

General Inquiries Email: gsbsrecr@utmb.edu

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