Congratulations to Mr. Nolan Dvorak
2021 recipient of the prestigious Jess Hay Endowment for Chancellor’s Graduate Student Research Fellowship
Dear students and colleagues,
It is a great honor to announce Mr. Nolan Dvorak, 3rd year PHTO PhD student and UTMB Presidential Scholar, as the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Jess Hay Endowment for Chancellor’s Graduate Student Research Fellowship. This fellowship, consisting of a $15,000 award, is a UT system award recognizing timely and high-quality research benefiting the State of Texas.
Nolan was awarded in recognition of his scholastic excellence and research productivity. As a 2nd year student at time of nomination, Nolan had already contributed to science with five peer-reviewed published research articles, including two as first author and one as co-first author. Additionally, Nolan is a recipient of a highly competitive T32 predoctoral fellowship slot, under the Houston Area Molecular Biophysics Program (HAMBP), and recently received the prestigious Ambassador in Pharmacology & Toxicology Award and the George Sealy Research Award in Neurology.
The Pharmacology & Toxicology Graduate Program is extremely proud of Nolan’s contributions to science. We know he will continue to make a powerful impact through his academic and research activities.
Congratulations, Mr. Dvorak for this tremendously deserved award and recognition!
Dr. Fernanda Laezza
Director, Pharmacology & Toxicology Graduate Program
Congratulations to Kenya Moore
Kenya Moore is a PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) and recently completed her third year in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Program. Kenya received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry in May 2018 from Dillard University, a historically black college/university, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She participated in undergraduate research at Dillard as a MARC scholar and at LSU Health Science Center in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department. These experiences developed Kenya’s interest in pursuing graduate education that ultimately led her to UTMB. Kenya joined the laboratory of Dr. Rakez Kayed, professor in the Department of Neurology and the Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, in the summer of 2019. Her dissertation project investigates neurotoxic polymorphic aggregates of Alpha Synuclein, the pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. Investigating the immunotherapeutic targeting of alpha synuclein oligomeric polymorphisms can reveal their role in the pathological implications and behavioral phenotypes observed in neurodegenerative diseases exhibiting alpha synuclein aggregation.
This year, Kenya participated both as a fellow and project manager at Enventure. Enventure is an organization driving the growth of Texas’ medical innovation industry through training and consulting with established pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, as well as startups. Kenya completed two 8-week consulting projects in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry where she worked on a team, meeting weekly with industry advisors to present project updates and refine new ideas. Her projects required identifying opportunities for current products, conducting interviews with clinicians, providing summaries for relevant FDA regulations, compiling literature reviews, and conducting market/competition analysis. Furthermore, she presented the projects to business advisors from large pharmaceutical companies and received critical feedback on the team’s approach and proposal. Through this experience, Kenya expanded her knowledge on the pharmaceutical/biotech industry and developed important skills including project management, professional communication, and team management.
CONCEPT TO CLINIC: COMMERCIALIZING INNOVATION (EC3I) PROGRAM
During the Summer 2021 academic term, the following students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) were invited to participate in the NIH program called Concept to Clinic: Commercializing Innovation (eC3i). This 10-week program is designed to teach scientists and startup owners the skills needed to succeed in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.
During the course, the students created a business plan for developing novel, highly specific anti-depressant medications for multiple neuropsychiatric disorders. The team met with physicians, pharmacists, stakeholders, business advisors, administrators, and other key players in potential product market integration to identify key weaknesses with current products, common patient complaints, and specific benefits that their novel compound could have over other therapeutics. This program gave the students the opportunity to explore careers in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as develop skills in presenting, teamwork, and communication.
Parsa Arman is currently a second-year master’s student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Program. He received his bachelor’s in neuroscience from The University of Texas at Austin in August 2016. During his time in Austin, he completed pre-medical studies and worked for MediaScience Panel, a marketing research facility. Before joining the Pharmacology and Toxicology program, Parsa completed two years of medical school and the USMLE Step 1 exam at UTMB.
In Winter 2020, Parsa joined the laboratory of Dr. Fernanda Laezza in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and has been pursuing his interest in healthcare, particularly in neurodegeneration. His research project involves investigation of neuroinflammation, Alzheimer-associated seizures, and CNS voltage-gated sodium channels. He hopes that his efforts will provide insight into the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s Disease and support the use of new medications for neurodegenerative patients.
Tim Baumgartner is currently a second-year PhD student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Program. Tim completed his bachelor’s in biochemistry at Baylor University in May 2020. During his time at Baylor, he participated in undergraduate research involving identification and evaluation of small-molecule inhibitors of cell proliferation and migration in non-small cell lung cancer. This experience contributed heavily to his interest in pharmacology and led him to UTMB.
Tim joined the lab of Dr. Fernanda Laezza at the start of Summer 2021 and has been pursuing his interest in pharmacology, particularly in neurodegeneration and neuropsychiatric disorders. His dissertation project involves investigation of voltage-gated sodium channel Nav 1.6 and its interactions with key regulatory proteins to decrease hippocampal hyperexcitability observed in early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease and prevent the onset and progression of memory loss and cognitive decline.
is currently a Presidential Scholar and second-year PhD student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Program. She graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s in chemistry/biochemistry and studies environmental toxicology using skills that she developed while researching psychiatric drugs, organic synthesis, and epigenetics at other universities, including Stanford University.
Angela joined the laboratory of Dr. Fernanda Laezza in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and researches the pharmacological and toxicological effects of chemicals in the brain using methods such as electrophysiology, split-luciferase complementation assays, and immunohistochemistry. Specifically, her current project investigates the global effects of a common pesticide, Deltamethrin, on morphology, transcriptomics, and electrical properties in the brain to determine if a link exists between this chemical and ADHD.
Congratulations to the new PTSO Officers for 2021-2022
President - Jacqueline Silva
Vice President - Madison Tanner
Secretary - Leah Salinsky
Treasurer - Joshua Zamora
Congratulations to our PhD student, Nolan Dvorak, for being selected for the Paul Green Memorial Award for Mental Health Research, from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Congratulations to our PhD student, Dianne Yap, for being selected as the recipient of the Elias Hochman Research Award for 2019-2020.
Congratulations to Dr. Wenbo Zhang for being selected for the UT System STARs Award.
Congratulations to Dr. George Golovko for being selected by the Pharmacology & Toxicology Graduate Program students as the recipient of the 2019 Teaching in Excellence Award.
New PTSO Officers 2019-2020
President - Luke Bourner
Vice President - Victoria Dobbie Brehm
Secretary - Amy Cooper
Treasurer - Dolores Quiroz