Jennie Sealy
National Student Research Forum

63rd Annual National Student Research ForumPanelists

The 2021 Panels were a great success! If you would like to watch our panel of virology and vaccine experts discuss SARS-CoV-2, please use the following link:

Fernanda Laezza, MD, PhD

Dr. Fernanda Laezza is a tenured Professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology at UTMB and the Director of the Pharmacology & Toxicology graduate program. Her research focuses on developing novel therapeutics for brain disorders and peripheral pain leveraging protein:protein interactions regulating ion channels. She is the Chair of the Gulf Coast Consortia Mental Health Research Consortium (GCC MHRC) at the Texas Medical Center, and the founder & CEO of IonTx Inc., a spin-off company dedicated to the commercialization of CNS and PNS neurotherapeutics. Dr. Laezza is also a member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

After completing her MD training in Torino, Italy, her PhD at Emory University under the mentorship of Dr. Raymond Dingledine, and her post-doctoral training at Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Laezza joined the faculty as tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology at UTMB. Over the past ten years, her research has been continuously sponsored by extramural funding sources as principal investigator for a total of five R01 grants, one U18, one R03 and 10+ smaller grants from either private foundations or pilot grant mechanisms. During her tenure at UTMB, she has published over 60 peer-reviewed papers which contributed to her national and international reputation in the field of neuropsychopharmacology and neuroscience.

Pei-Young Shi, PhD

Dr. Shi is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at UTMB. Dr. Shi received his BS in Biology at Nanjing Normal University in China. He obtained his PhD in Molecular Virology at Georgia State University and his post-doctoral at Yale University. He is a John Sealy Distinguished Chair in Innovation and Molecular Biology. Dr. Shi is the director of the Institute of Drug Discovery, Associate Chief Research Officer, and Vice President for Research Innovation. Dr. Shi’s research focuses on drug discovery and vaccine development in significant human disease-causing viruses such as Zika, West Nile, and SARS-CoV-2.

John Allen, PhD

Dr. Allen is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at UTMB. He obtained his BS in cell biology and PhD in physiology and biophysics at the University of Illinois and went on to complete his postdoctoral fellowship in pharmacology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. His research is focused on understanding the signal transduction of G-protein coupled receptors and advancing GPCR-targeted molecules for neurotherapeutic drug discovery.

Stanley Watowich, PhD

Dr. Watowich is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch (USA). He is the Founder and CEO of Ridgeline Therapeutics, an emerging biotechnology company developing new mechanism-of-action therapies to treat age-related muscle degeneration. Dr. Watowich was recently director of the University of Texas (UT) System's state-wide entrepreneurship program and brings this experience to translate research discoveries into clinical practice. He is an accomplished educator, researcher, inventor, entrepreneur, and developer of world-class innovative resources. Among his prime interests are the development of effective drug discovery and optimization approaches, with a long-standing focus on discovering and developing small molecule enzyme inhibitors using innovative combinations of structural, computational, biophysical, cellular, and chemical biology. In recognition of Dr. Watowich's innovative work in developing transformative treatments to regenerate muscle, he recently received the 2021 Catalyst Award from the US National Academy of Medicine.

Gary Kobinger, PhD, OM, MSC

Dr. Kobinger is the Director of the Galveston National Laboratory and a John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Tropical and Emerging Virology. His research is presently focuses on developing and testing new vaccine platforms and immune treatments against pathogens of high consequences to global public health. Serving the international community, Dr. Kobinger sits on several committees such as the World Health Organization STAG-IH advisory board.

Sanghamitra Mohanty, MD, MS, FHRS

Dr. Mohanty is the Director of Research at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David’s Medical Center. She received her MS in molecular biology and immunology at UNT Health Science Center and her MD from SCB Medical Collage in Orissa, India. Her research focuses on therapeutics of cardiac arrhythmias. In particular, her research is aimed at identifying factors that influence the long-term success of catheter ablation procedures performed on patients with atrial fibrillation.

Mark Endsley, PhD

Dr. Endsley is an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UTMB. His research is focused primarily on the interaction of viral pathogens with the immune and lymphatic systems. His current research is aimed at identifying the roles of immune receptors in the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2, and he is collaborating on efforts to clarify the role of space radiation on the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract. Dr. Endsley’s past research has investigated the antiviral activity of different polymers in respect to SARS-CoV-2, as well as the antiretroviral activity of repurposed drugs and their derivatives.