Welcome to the Fall/Winter edition of VT PRIME: The quarterly newsletter of the "PREP/IMSD Family" at VT. Happy New Year and best wishes for 2019!
If you have any feedback or comments about the newsletter, please email us at vtprep@vt.edu. Next issue will include 2019 VT MLK Celebrations and a profile of VT's new Provost, Dr. Cyril Clarke
Fall 2018 was a busy and productive one for our PREP/IMSD family. In this edition of VT PRIME, we report:
  • Mentor choices of the PREP 16 scholars, our "FabPREP16" 
  • Degree Completions by current scholars and alumni
  • Papers published, conferences attended, and awards won 
  • Guest speakers, including our alumni, to reflect on their journeys in science 
  • VT @ 2018 SACNAS and ABRCMS Conferences
  • Our 2018 Holiday Celebration (Dr. Bianca Baker , IMSD alum, keynote)
We hope you visit us at our Facebook page and websites: PREP and IMSD
Message From the Directors:
We continue to be very thankful  for all the support that has enabled us to now have 64 PhD completions by IMSD and PREP trainees and alumni. After lab rotations,  the 8 scholars in the PREP 16 cohort selected research mentors, we attended ABRCMS (see photo on the left) and SACNAS and  again had a lot of fun interacting with our alumni, Read More
Current Scholars-mentor selection
Following 3 mini lab-rotations each, "FabPREP16" (featured in the Summer II VT PRIME), have selected their research mentors for their PREP tenure:
Faith did lab rotations with Drs. Irving "Coy" Allen, Alicia Pickrell and Kevin Edgar. She is now in Dr. Pickrell's lab for her PREP research apprenticeship. Dr. Pickrell is an Assistant Professor in the School of Neuroscience, Read More
Chastyn rotated in the labs of Drs. Tanya LeRoith, Xin Luo and Ann Stevens. She will continue her PREP research apprenticeship with Dr. Stevens, who also previously mentored PREP alum Leah Guthrie and was a mentor to IMSD alum Dr. Bianca Baker. She is a professor in the Biological Sciences Department, Read More
After lab rotations in the labs of  Drs. Sarah Clinton, Matt Buczynski and Kendra Sewall, Shawn decided to continue his PREP research apprenticeship with Dr. Clinton. Dr. Clinton is an Associate Professor and Associate Director for the School of Neuroscience, Read More
Steven decided to continue his PREP research apprenticeship in Dr. Theus' lab, after mini lab rotations in the labs of Drs. Deborah Good, Michelle Theus and Samer El KadirDr.Theus is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and Director in Theus Lab, Read More
After mini lab rotations in the labs of Drs. Pearl Chiu/Brooks King-Casas (CKC Lab) and Chris Thompson, Julia is pursuing her PREP research apprenticeship in the CKC Lab. Both Drs. Chiu and King Casas are Associate Professors in the College of Science and affiliated with the Carilion School of Medicine and Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Read More
Silvia and Emmanuel are continuing their PREP research apprenticeships with Dr. Thomas Ollendick, after mini lab rotations for Emmanuel in the labs of Drs. Russell Jones, Ollendick, Pearl Chiu /Brooks King - Casas; and for Silvia with Drs. Russell Jones, Cynthia Smith, and Ollendick. Dr. Ollendick is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of PsychologyRead More
Uvina rotated in the labs cf Drs. Biswarup Mukhopadhyay, Zhaomin Yang, and Zachary Mackey. She is now with  Dr. Yang for her PREP year. Dr. Yang who is an Associate Professor in the Biological Sciences Department, Read More
Current Scholars-degree completions
Jamelle Simmons, PhD (IMSD 6, SBES) successfully defended his PhD dissertation at Virginia Tech/Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, "Effects of Febuxostat on Autistic Behaviors and Computational Investigations of Diffusion and Pharmacokinetics". Co - Advisors were Drs. Yong Woo Lee & Luke Achenie.
Current Scholars-recent awards
Maryam Moarefian (IMSD 9)
- NSF travel award to attend the  American Electrophoresis Society  (AES) conference
- Second place poster award, AES annual meeting at SciX conference,
- Travel award to attend the 2018 North Coast Conference on Precision Medicine at Case Western Reserve University's Institute for Computational Biology
Ariel Leon (IMSD 7), a recent SREB  awardee, received support to participate in the  SREB Institute for teaching and mentoring, Arlington, VA.  She "recommends this experience to other trainees."
Shawn Kamboj (PREP 16) was admitted to participate in the 2019 graduate internship at NIH, the G-SOAR. He is the 4th from the IMSD/PREP family at VT to participate in this internship.
More Current Scholar News:
- Recent publications Read More
- Recent conferences/meetings attended Read More 
Life Changes: Current Scholars&Alumni
Congratulations to Alex  (IMSD 9) on her recent engagement!!!
Congratulations to PREP alum Valerie Rojas (PREP 9 ) on the birth of their first child!!!
Faculty Updates: 3+timers
Faculty are an essential part of IMSD and PREP success. Here we want to continue an earlier effort to profile faculty who have mentored three or more PREP/IMSD trainees (see Spring 2015). 
Dr. Webster Santos is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and his research focuses on bioorganic and medicinal chemistry. He and his students, including two IMSD trainees, were recently featured in a front page article of VT News. His mentees have included two PREP alums, Marietou Paye (PhD, Georgia Tech) and Ms. Valerie Rojas (MS. Duke University). His current mentees include three IMSD scholars Christopher Garcia, Ashley Peralta and Jose Santiago Rivera. Dr. Santos' mentoring philosophy includes Read More
Dr. Michelle Theus, who joined Virginia Tech in 2012, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology.  Dr. Theus' research focuses on  mechanisms of brain injury and repair. Her mentees include IMSD scholars Kisha Greer and Ben Okyere and a current PREP scholar Steven Cerna. Dr. Michelle Theus' mentoring philosophy Read More
Dr. Zhijian (Jake) Tu started his career at Virginia Tech in 1999 and currently works as a Professor in the Department of Chemistry. His research focuses on reducing the burden of vector-borne infectious diseases including malaria. He is one of the most well-funded scientists at VT: he currently has two R01s. His commitment to IMSD and PREP has been one of the strongest  starting with the earlier cohorts in 2004. He has mentored three PREP scholars including Dr. Chevon Thorpe, Ms. Crystal Kennedy and Ms. Tasmine Clement, and  two IMSD trainees, Dr. Frank Criscione and Ms. Monica Alvarez
Dr. Caroline Jones joined Virginia Tech  as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Her research focuses on combining engineering with immunology to prevent, diagnose and treat immune - related disorders. Dr. Jones has mentored PREP alum Naya Eady  (Co-advised with Dr. Irving "Coy" Allen) and current IMSD students Brittany Boribong (co-advised  by Dr. Liwu Li, himself a 3+ timers) and Maryam Moarefian (co-advised by Drs. Danesh Tafti and Luke Achenie). 
Dr. Thomas Ollendick joined Virginia Tech in 1980 and was appointed VT's highest honor for professors as University Distinguished Professor.Dr. Ollendick's research focuses on clinical child and adolescent psychology. Dr. Ollendick's mentees from our programs have included PREP alums  Drs. Candace Best  and Jacqueline Doxie  King and current PREP scholars Silvia Flores and Emmanuel Thomas.  He was (and remains) a core member of  the "mentoring team" for IMSD alum Dr. Jordan BookerDr. Ollendick's mentoring philosophy includes Read More
Dr. Martha Ann Bell is a Professor in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on brain behavioral relations. Dr. Bell's mentees have included IMSD alum Dr. Anjolii Diaz and PREP alums Dr. Kristen Davis,  and Mses. Angelica Melvin and Cassie Eng (Carnegie Mellon).  Her current trainee is IMSD scholar Ms. Tatiana Garcia Meza, also a 2019 VT nominee for the HHMI Gilliam Fellowship.
Dr. Daniel Capelluto is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. His current research focuses on the understanding of "how protein domains transduce and modulate signals from biological membranes." Dr. Capelluto's former mentees include IMSD alum Ms. Davia Blake, PREP alums Dr. MyThanh (Vo) Beedle and Karla Sanchez. As Ms. Alicia Traughber's MAOP advisor, he also gets credit for directing her to PREP as a transition option to the PhD. 
More Faculty Updates:
Dr. Jody Thompson Marshall, the Director of MAOP, our long-term partner, recently returned home to Charlotte to start a new position at UNCC as Director of Graduate studies in the College of Computing Informatics. We will miss her leadership, gentle counsel, and collaboration that brought us many trainees including more recently Ms. Hagar Kenawy (Columbia), Armand Meza (Wisconsin), Alicia Traughber (Cleveland Clinic/Case), and David Vasquez (UGA). For parting words, we asked Dr. Thompson Read More
Alumni Updates:
Dr. Chevon Thorpe (PREP/IMSD Alum) was recently named Collegiate Assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and the Director of inclusion, diversity, and equity in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences  Read More
Alexa Hendricks (PREP Alum) received her PhD (and MBA) in Neuroscience @ Wake Forest University! Congratulations Alexa! Recall she was previously profiled in VT PRIME for being one of the first recipients of the prestigious NIH Blueprint D-SPAN Award. Alexa has started her postdoc at Wake.
Dr. Snider Desir (PREP Alum), who received his PhD from the University of Minnesota Medical School, started work as a Cell Biologist at GSK.
Dr. Rebecca Ortiz Marty (IMSD Alum), who received her PhD from Virginia Tech, joined Lovance Biotherapeutics as Scientist II.
James Dulaney (PREP Alum), graduated with a masters degree from Georgia State University. Congratulations James! 
Kevin Hughes  (PREP 11), PhD candidate at Yale School of Medicine, was selected as part of the first cohort of the NCI's intramural CURE  (iCURE) trainees. Dr. Smith joined other mentors of Kevin at the induction ceremony at the NIH campus in November (iCURE) .
Drs.  Brittany Taylor  (PREP alum) and Shavonn Whiten (Carver Scholar) participated in the 2018 VT Future Faculty Development Program in partnership with the departments of BEAM and Entomology, respectively. In addition to the experiences, we hope these visits will culminate in offers as VT seeks to diversify its faculty.
Guest speakers in our two series:
1. "What can you do with your PhD?"
Dr. Lorraine Niba, Director, Sales Development Team @ Ingredion, stopped by to tell us what a scientist with a PhD and a MBA like her does at Ingredion. She provided a road map for our trainees in recognizing an opportunity to break away from "Identity Traps" that come with a PhD and a start in an academic position. It especially provided our trainees an insight into industry and the roles open to scientists. 
2."Reflections: Surviving the early years in Graduate School"
Ms. Brittany Rice (PREP Alum), PhD candidate,  University of Kentucky School of Medicine, stopped by to speak to our trainees about dealing with the challenges encountered and  how to handle them in the early years of Grad School. In the photo on the left, Brittany poses with Drs. Elizabeth Gillbert, her PREP mentor, Peter Kennelly (friend of PREP and Professor in Biochemistry), and Chevon Thorpe, PREP/IMSD Alum and Assistant Professor. 
Brittany at a networking dinner with her "PREP/IMSD/Carver Relatives"  PREP co-director  Dr. Luke Achenie, is fore on the left. The recently-engaged Alex, IMSD scholar, is on the right in the fore. 
Additional pictures of Dr. Lorraine Niba and Ms. Brittany Rice.
VT @ 2018 SACNAS
IMSD trainees Diana Novo and Ashley Peralta joined us this year at SACNAS in San Antonio (their first). 
VT @ 2018 ABRCMS
This was Virginia Tech's 17th year at ABRCMS. We had a great time! Our PREP 16 students had the opportunity to network with other students and the schools that they are interested in. The highlight of our ABRCMS was also the reunion with our alumni, who first attended ABRCMS during their tenure with us. In Indianapolis we met PREP alums: Brittany Rice (Kentucky), Crystal Kennedy (Duke), Shakarr Wiggins  (Weill Cornell), Dr. Ramine Alexander; and IMSD alums Mses. Davia Blake (Penn), Sarah Sam (Cal Tech), and Drs. Anjolii Diaz (Ball State), Jordan Booker (Asst professor, Missouri), and Tristan Hayes (IU Medical School). 
PREP 16 Scholars @ ABRCMS: Shawn Kamboj, Chastyn Smith, Silvia Flores, Faith Carter and Emmanuel Thomas.
Lunch at  2018 ABRCMS
Dr. Ed Smith and Ms. Shakarr Wiggins 
Networking dinner with former PREP and IMSD scholars. Starting from the right: Drs. Jordan Booker, Anjolii Diaz and Ramine Alexander; followed by PREP 16 Scholars: Uvina Allen, Steven Cerna, Chastyn Smith, Faith Carter, Julia Julien, and PREP Alum Ms. Shakarr Wiggins
Holiday Celebration:
From Dec. 4 - 6th, IMSD Alum Dr. Bianca Baker, visited to help us celebrate our year. She talked about overcoming life challenges as a student and using your network to build an attractive resume. She also commented on the need to stay flexible as a scientist with a PhD so you can accept and contribute to a job as a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) in industry. As a MSL you can also impact your minority community awareness of the science that underlay drugs Read More
The "FabPREP 16" having a networking breakfast with our keynote speaker.
Dr. Bianca Baker speaking at our Holiday Celebration. 
Upcoming Events
- Bi-Weekly Forum
Every other Thursday, starting Jan. 31st: 12:00 - 1:30 PM
- MAPRS @ Wake Forest (please contact Dr. TanYa Gwathmey-Williams)
  May 22-23
- PREP Application
Reviewing begins March 1, 2019. For more information, contact us at vtprep@vt.edu and to apply, please click on the link.

Podcasts/books we recommend:
Book: 99 Perseverance Success Stories: Encouragement for Success in Every Walk of Life
Podcast: Tiny Leaps, Big Changes by Gregg Cluins (Great podcast speaking about productivity, staying positive and taking small steps towards your success).
Copyright © 2018 VT PRIME, All rights reserved.
This edition of VT PRIME was edited by: Eni Ramaj, Victoria Mukuni and Dr. Ed Smith

Our mailing address is:
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Phone: (540) 231-6311
email: vtprep@vt.edu