Welcome to the Summer II edition of VT PRIME. In this edition, we profile the incoming scholars in our 16th PREP Cohort, "brag" about our awesome experience at BioCoRE, and tell you about our recent activities that are central to the PREP/IMSD/Carver Moving-In process and the success of our trainees. We introduce a new feature in our newsletter to jug the memories of our alum and faculty: #ThrowbackVTPREP/IMSD# 

Chris Garcia (IMSD10, front row, first on the left), Tatiana Garcia-Meza (IMSD9, not pictured) and Mr. Mark Sumner, (back row, second on the right), and Ms. Jennifer Lawrence (back row, first on the right) joined us on the last day of BootCamp to provide the incoming scholars insights about Blacksburg, Graduate School, Writing, Technology (especially Zoom), and Literature Review. 
Message from the directors
Drs. Zac Mackey, Luke Achenie & Ed Smith

PREP and IMSD, with almost 30 trainees, form one of the largest graduate programs at VT. Our modest undergrad program, also continues to be a major model for research apprenticeship at the University read more.... 

Among the activities IMSD sponsored this summer, was the visit of Dr. Patricia Johnson, one of the first tenured full female professors in her department at UCLA Below, she posed for a group picture with her host Dr. Mackey, following a networking breakfast with PREP & IMSD female trainees. 

This breakfast at The Inn with PREP Scholars was one of many networking events our Keynote speaker, Ms. Shavonn Whiten, held with our trainees.

Here are the new Scholars in our 16th Cohort: 3 men, 5 women from 8 different universities, diverse disciplines and different states including the Virgin Islands

The scholars have already been busy with lab rotations, and challenging grad level courses. As we have done before, we asked them for help in introducing them to our community:

Uvina Allen
Graduated 2018 from UNC, Pembroke

Who are you?
I am always striving to be better than the person I was the day before.
One word that describes you is:

Faith Carter

Graduated 2018 from UNC, Wilmington

Who are you?
A young woman who appreciates life and maximizes everyday’s potential
One word that describes you is:
Read more....

Steve Cerna
Graduated 2018 from University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Who are you?
I am a student who is driven by my desire to make a positive impact on peoples lives 
One word that describes you is:

Silvia Flores
Graduated 2018 from Virginia Tech

Who are you?

I’m a young Afro-Latina who values my culture and identity.. Read more...

One word that describes you is:

" Genuine"

Julia Julien
Graduated 2018 from The University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix

Who are you?
I am a nontraditional college graduate from St. Croix.
One word that describes you is:

Shawn Kamboj

Graduated 2018 from University of California, San Diego

Who are you?
In all honesty I am still in the process of discovering who I am, and probably will be for a foreseeable future.
One word that describes you is:
Read more....

Chastyn Smith

Graduated 2018 from University of Richmond

Who are you?
I am a Black young woman from Richmond, VA who loves her braids long and ombre, but I am not my hair.

What is one word that describes you is:

Emmanuel Thomas

Graduated 2018 from Georgetown University


Who are you?
I am Emmanuel Thomas, a product of hard work and perseverance.

One word that describes you is:



We asked PREP 15 to give some advice/helpful tips to incoming PREP 16, here is what Hagar , now in the PhD program in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia Univ., had to say:

Interesting things about Blacksburg :
"Everyone hangs out at either downtown Blacksburg or the duck pond. Both are great places to relax.  My favorite dinner restaurant would have to be Macados/Cabo Fish Taco/ and Sake House (only on Mondays though).  My favorite brunch restaurant is 622 North or Our Daily Bread."
VT: how to navigate the bureaucracy:
"Connect with as many people as possible, and you'll soon find that everyone knows each other.  This helps when you might need a favor from one lab (a piece of equipment or advice from someone who has done similar research before)."
How to best use PREP to be competitive for Grad School:
"Stay on track with the timeline set for you. It only makes the entire process easier.  Connect with previous PREP alum and get their insight on the process and how they're doing at their current locations. Network, network, network!"

Post Card from Duke's BioCoRE: Dr.Mackey, as he has done the last three years, led the VT delegation that included PREP trainees and a Biochemistry student to this wonderful regional IMSD symposium. Presentation and discussion topics ranged from factors considered in read more...  

Pictured above are Drs. Joe Freeman, PREP alum Crystal Kennedy along with current PREP scholars; Silvia Flores, Emmanuel Thomas, Julia Julien, Faith Carter and Chastyn Smith
Bonding with PREP Scholars on the road trip to Durham for Duke's BioCoRE  Prof. Chalkey and Dr. Josh Hall 's argument to ditch GRE was refreshing for us.  

2018 Moving - In Process: 

- Boot Camp: 3 day event to help our scholars transition to Blacksburg, Virginia Tech, graduate school and the PREP Program. 

- Speakers included: Ms. Jennifer Lawrence, from the writing center, Kiri DeBose, from Vet School Libraries, and Mark Sumner from CALS IT

Here, Faith was talking about one of her mini Lab Rotations that the PREP trainees had to do before selecting a mentor for research apprenticeship. 

Ms. Jenny Lawrence talked about resources available at the writing center to help our trainees improve their writing skills. 

Annual Orientation
- Over 60 of us came together  on August 17th to meet the new trainees in the IMSD, PREP & CARVER training programs. 
- We were fortunate to have two wonderful keynote speakers join us in providing tips for surviving Blacksburg, Virginia Tech and Graduate School. 

VT alum and the new chair of the Department of Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, Dr. Margie Lee, stopped by the orientation to briefly reflect on her "Scientific Journey."  A Virginia native and a member of the UGA PREP advisory committee, Dr. Lee told the trainees to "use this community you have: when I was a student, the number of URMs at VT is about the number you have in this room." 

IMSD Biochem alum, Ms. Alex Teodor (Gillaspy lab), currently a 3rd year PhD trainee in the Genomics program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville was the Keynote speaker at the 2018 Orientation. Alex encouraged the trainees to "take advantage of all the opportunities that VT provides including attending conferences to learn to present, meet new people, and learn about different disciplines. 

Chair of the PREP/IMSD/Carver 2018 Orientation program, Zac, encouraging the 60+ attendees to follow the "Arthur Ashe rule of gathering: leave here knowing at least two new folks."

Dr. Daniela Cimini, professor, Biological Sciences, and Chair of the PREP/IMSD Advisory Committee, providing advice to trainees about making the best of their lab rotations and class selections.  

Mentoring 101 workshop

On August 10th , almost 30 of us faculty, staff and trainees came together for 6 hours to participate in this year's workshop which was again led by Mr. John Massey, Director for Professional Development at VT.

Shavonn Whiten, Carver Alum (Entomology), now PhD candidate at Texas A & M University and Dr. Nikki Lewis Assistant professor of practice (PREP/IMSD Alum, Bevan's lab) provided personal perspectives on mentoring and being a mentee.  Advice that they provided included: 


"When networking with others, make sure you maintain

Ms. Shavonn Whiten at the workshop

Mr. John Massey, VT Office for Professional Development

Several exercises were included in the workshop to engage participants and share best practices and experiences. 

Dr. Nikki Lewis at the mentoring workshop. 

Current Scholars and Friends News

Chris Garcia (IMSD 10) and Jose Santiago - Rivera (IMSD 9), part of Dr. Santos team, were featured on the first page of VT NEWS for their NASH (nonalcoholic steatopatitis) research.  
Uulen Batzul (IMSD undergrad) presented her work "Testing the effect of DNA methylation on nuclear volume scaling in tetraploid cells" at the Summer Research Symposium. Mentor: Dr. Daniela Cimini. 
Congrats to Cherice Hughes-Oliver (and her research mentor Robin)  for being not only the first VT HHMI Gilliam Fellowship recipient, in the top 25% of applicants
Current IMSD 9 scholar, Tatiana Garcia-Meza recently published a paper in the Journal of Early Education and Development.
Prep candidate and recent member of our selection committee, Andrea Rolong, successfully defended her PhD dissertation.
Michele Waters, member of the selection committee, graduated this summer with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, becoming the first African American at Virginia Tech to graduate with a PhD in her field.

Alumni News

Congratulations to the following alumni: 

Alyssa Debra ( Srilanganathan, IMSD undergrad  and Biochem alum) started ORISE Fellowship position at the CDC in Atlanta.
Chelsee Holloway, PREP alum (Cockrum),  current PhD student at Rutgers University, received NIH's prestigious F31 fellowship.
Shakarr Wiggins, PREP alum (VandeVord), current 3rd year PhD student in Neuroscience at Cornell Weill Medical Center, published her first first author paper: S.V. Wiggins, C. Steegborn, L.R. Levin, J. Buck;  Pharmacological modulation of the CO2/HCO3(-)/pH-, calcium-, and ATP-sensing soluble adenylyl cyc. Pharm. Ther. (2018): https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163725818300883?via%3Dihub 

Good luck to Shakarr as she prepares for her qualifying exam this Fall.

Congrats to Deon Brown on winning first place for the Committee for Equality and Professional Opportunity Student Research Award (including $250 prize) for his oral presentation "Parental Emotion Socialization, Racial Socialization and Report of Children’s Emotion Regulation," at the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) annual meeting.
And to IMSD (undergrad)  and Biochem alum, Ms. Amina Rahimi, for starting at Harvard Medical School as part of the Class of 2022.

Congratulations are due to Dr. Alexis Trent, IMSD alum, MSE PhD (VanDyke)  and her husband Mr. Aaron White, on their recent nuptials. 

IMSD alum, Shernita Lee, Ph.D, in her new postion as Virginia Tech' s director of graduate school in the Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion - Graduate SchoolDr. Lee is also the 2018 - 2019 President of the Black Faculty/Staff Caucus. Dr. Shernita Lee: just the other day Ms. Marilyn Kershaw was telling us “ I met this student from Al State with great potential,” now she’s in that position....
Alexa Hendricks, PREP alum, Wake Forest PhD program in Neuroscience, and recent awardee of F99/K00 NIH research grant was a "Student Spotlight" for August (she was an informal mentor to IMSD scholar Katrina Collucchi-Chang during their recent two-week SBES apprenticeship at Wake Forest Medical School
Alexa is also first place winner of the Dolores C. Shockley student poster competition at the Experimental Biology Conference this year.  As part of the prize Alexa will be serving on the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Career and Mentoring committee

Conferences, seminars, webinars, and other events that may be of interest to our trainees, alumni, friends and faculty

Our biweekly forum for the Fall has a very strong lineup of speakers including current trainees, our alumni and friends including: Drs. Bianca Baker (IMSD, Biological Sciences Alum), currently at Johnson and Jonhson and Lorraine Niba, former HNFE faculty, currently a Director at Ingredion, and Ms. Brittany Rice (PREP Alum), and current PhD candidate at the University of Kentucky  School of Medicine. Please access the schedule here :  

- SACNAS (Oct, 2018)
ABRCMS (Nov, 2018)

Virginia Tech internal deadline for the Gilliam Fellowship is September 24th.  Please contact eramaj@vt.edu for further questions. 

Podcast/Books we recommend

NPR's TED  Radio Hour: JULY 27, 2018 Episode The Right To Speak

Should all speech, even the most offensive, be allowed on college campuses? And is hearing from those we deeply disagree with ... worth it?

Graduate STEM Education for the 21st CenturyAlan Leshner and Layne Scherer, Editors

".........dramatic innovations in research methods and technologies, changes in the nature and availability of work, shifts in demographics, and expansions in the scope of occupations needing STEM expertise raise questions about how well the current STEM graduate education system is meeting the full array of 21st century needs........"

#Throwback PREP/IMSD in Hokiesburg#

 In 2010, Dr. Rudra Sedernee was here, VT's visionary President and Provost were Drs. Charles Steger and Mark McNamee. Almost 30 of us formed the IMSD/PREP Community. The scientist in the center, Dr. Bianca Baker, now at Johnson and Johnson, whose birthday we always celebrate at ABRCMS thanks to support from the Provost's Office, will be here in December to help us Celebrate our 2018  and the Holidays.

This edition of the Newsletter was edited by Victoria Mukuni , Eni Ramaj and Ed Smith
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