GALVESTON, Texas — The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston awarded 39 degrees during its commencement ceremony May 18 in Levin Hall. Chief Research Officer, Sr. Vice President and Dean, David W. Niesel, presided over the convocation. Dr. David L. Callender, UTMB president, conferred the degrees.

A highlight of the school’s commencement each year is the presentation of four prestigious awards.  

The Graduate Student Organization presented its Distinguished Teaching Award to Thomas Smith, professor in the department of bio-chemistry and molecular biology. The organization presents the award annually to a faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to the academic growth and development of students.

Alice Hill, director of the nursing Ph.D. Program, received the Distinguished Faculty Service Award. Hill is also professor and associate dean for Graduate Programs within the School of Nursing. She received the award for her 30-year record of service and dedication to graduate education in nursing at UTMB. Hill was instrumental in developing the nursing Ph.D. program, and led the successful initiative to move it to an online instruction platform. Hill is also the John P. McGovern Chair in the Healing Practices of Nursing. 

The Distinguished Faculty Research Award was presented to Dr. Elena Volpi, professor in the departments of internal medicine-geriatrics, neuroscience and cell biology, nutrition and metabolism. Volpi was recognized for her prominent global reputation in metabolism research within the important field of aging. Volpi serves as the director of the Sealy Center on Aging and the UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center. She is also the Daisy Emery Allen Distinguished Chair in Geriatric Medicine.

Victor Reyes, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2018. A member of the school’s 1986 class, today Reyes is professor in the departments of pediatrics and microbiology & immunology at UTMB. He returned to his alma mater in 1992 after completing postdoctoral training. His career steadily advanced over the following decades as he successfully balanced teaching and service responsibilities with research activities. Reyes received the award for his steadfast dedication and the great prestige he has brought to the university.

The 2018 commencement mace bearer was Owen Hamill, an associate professor in the department of neuroscience, cell biology and anatomy. Hamill also serves as director of the GSBS neuroscience program.

Hamill led the graduates in reciting the Biomedical Scientist’s Oath during the ceremony.

During the 2017-18 academic year, the graduate school awarded 14 master’s degrees, 39 doctoral degrees, and three doctorates within the university’s MD/Ph.D. combined degree program.