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HPTM Students

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HPTM Students


Mentor: Saravanan Thangamani
Clinical Mentor: Lucas Blanton

Charles Hart graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 2013 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. He came to UTMB in 2014 and began work in 2015, with his focus being on the interactions between Powassan virus and Borrelia burgdorferi coinfection in Ixodes scapularis ticks, with regard to pathogen interference within the tick, alterations in dual transmission, and in studying potential effects of the combined disease produced by dual infection.


2013 – Graduated Magna cum Laude from CCSU


Mentor: Dr. Scott C Weaver
Clinical Mentor: Dr. Guilherme de Sousa Ribeiro

After completing his MSPH in Tropical Medicine at Tulane University, Chris Roundy started in the HPTM program in 2014. His research in Dr. Scott Weaver's lab is focused on understanding factors that affect Zika virus transmission and vector competence for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Chris is currently funded by the UTMB Biodefense T32 training grant. 


12/2017 – Niesel Scholarship Celebrating UTMB 125th Anniversary, UTMB
02/2017 – James S Porterfield Prize in International Virology, University of Oxford
06/2015 – Translational Research Student Grant Poster Winner, UTMB

Corri_Levine Mentor: Dr. Thomas Geisbert
Clinical Co-Mentor: Dr. Susan McLellan

Corri Levine received a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University majoring in Animal Sciences. After working for several years as a technician in the fields of neuroscience and veterinary oncology, she returned to Cornell University to pursue a Master’s degree in the field of Veterinary Medicine focusing on natural remedies for canine cancer. With her husband and two exotic parrots, she decided to make the cross-country move from upstate New York to the gulf coast of Texas to join the HPTM program at UTMB. Corri is pursuing a Ph.D. in virology, specifically zoonotic diseases, in the lab of Dr. Tom Geisbert. Her research focuses on understanding the viral and clinical variations between ebolavirus species and elucidating potential therapies for combating Ebola virus disease. She plans to utilize the skills and knowledge learned throughout her time at UTMB to pursue a career in infection prevention and control. In her spare time, she enjoys training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and trying new restaurants in the Houston area.


12/2018 – Marianne Blum, Ph.D. Endowed Presidential Scholarship
12/2017 – Arthur and Dorothy Barrett Scholarship


Mentor: Mark Hellmich
Clinical Mentor: Celia Chao

After finding early success in the IT business, Ed Higgins decided that his ultimate passion was merging his business background with translational science. Ed is a graduate from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities attaining a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry/Cell Biology with Distinction. His primary research interests involve mechanisms of cancer development, specifically in gastrointestinal cancer. Currently, through his TL-1 award and under the direction of his Principal Investigator, Dr. Mark Hellmich, I am working on how the transsulfuration pathway enzymes and hydrogen sulfide production is involved in colorectal cancer development and progression through the development of an immunosuppressive microenvironment.


2018-Present – TL1 Predoctoral Trainee (Grant #)


Mentor: Dr. Helen Hellmich
Clinical Mentor: Dr. Claudia Robertson

For his undergraduate degree, Harris Weisz attended Texas A&M University Corpus Christi where he majored in Biomedical Science. Throughout his undergraduate career, he was fortunate enough to work in the neurobiology laboratory of Dr. Riccardo Mozzachiodi studying fundamental cellular mechanisms of learning and memory in the marine mollusc, Aplysia. Upon graduation, he began a post-baccalaureate experience here at UTMB where under the auspice of Dr. Helen Hellmich, he studied molecular changes after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Having already generated a love for research, he decided to apply to the Human Pathophysiology and Translational Medicine graduate program where he is currently a third-year graduate student. Harris has continued to study TBI and his research focuses on elucidating circulating biomarkers of injury as well as identifying neuroimmunological alterations that may provide therapeutic targets in the future.


2018 – Recipient of Texas National Security Network Funding to supplement a fellowship and internship in Washington, D.C.
2016 – Winner of 3-Minute Thesis Competition in Neuroscience and Translational Science, Terry M. Mikiten Graduate Research Symposium, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio


Mentor: Janice Endsley

Megan graduated from Texas A & M University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology. After graduating she took a position as a research assistant in the Tuberculosis Drug Discovery Program at the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle, Washington where she worked to identify new drug targets and lead drug candidates to treat Mycobacterium tuberculosis. She continued her work in drug development at Kineta, Inc. in Seattle, investigating new antivirals against Dengue Fever Virus and Zika Virus, and led pre-IND studies of a new drug candidate to treat Lassa Fever. Her research interests include vaccinology, immunology, and infectious disease. Her current mentors are Dr. Janice Endsley and Dr. Jai Rudra. Together they are researching vaccine development for the prevention of tuberculosis infection and the immunology of protection.


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


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. Currently, she is a second year HP/TM student and serves as the secretary for the Society of Translational Research. Her research interest spans from novel drug delivery systems and the optimization of diagnostic methods. Olivia is conducting research under the advisement of Dr. Gracie Vargas focusing on the elucidation of the interactions of the BBB disruption, fibrinogen, and microglia during a cerebral malaria infection utilizing intravital microscopy techniques. 


07/2018 – Participation in Mentoring UTMB High School Summer Biomedical       Research Program, The University of Texas Medical Branch
08/2017-Present – Secretary, Society for Translational Research



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 nitrous oxide production from feed yards. At UTMB, Sierra is a Presidential Scholar and currently doing lab rotations. She enjoys spending time with her dog and attending activities on campus, at church, and around Galveston. 


2018 – Presidents Scholars Award, UTMB
2016 – Best Overall in Case Study, National Orientation Director’s Association Regional meeting, Tulsa, OK

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