Welcome to another edition of VT PRIME, the quarterly newsletter of the PREP and IMSD community at Virginia Tech. In this edition, we profile the incoming scholars in our 17th PREP & 12th IMSD Cohorts; we "brag" about our awesome experience at MAPRS hosted by our colleagues at Wake Forest; provide updates regarding current scholars and our alumni including another F99/K00 Fellowship to a PREP alum and a "Distinguished MAPRS Undergrad Alumnus" award; other items in this edition include our summer activities: 2019 Boot Camp, the Summer I and II forums, Mentoring Workshop and Orientation, which are central to the PREP/IMSD Moving-In process and the success of our trainees as we prepare for the Fall semester and our flagship conferences SACNAS and ABRCMS.
Dr. Mona Suliman (keynote speaker 2019 PREP/IMSD/Carver Orientation) poses with some of the PREP 17 scholars after a networking breakfast.
Message from the Directors
Drs. Zac Mackey, Luke Achenie & Ed Smith
Training the future, that is our mission. Thank you for your hard work and support of these efforts which have produced 71 PhDs, 30 MS, 2 MDs, and 2 DPharms. Three of those PhDs, including Drs. Shernita Lee, Stephanie “Nikki” Lewis, and Chevon Thorpe are here at VT making significant contributions to training the next generation. This June, 11 new scholars from distant parts of the country joined us in Blacksburg to help us in the pursuit of this mission... Read more
We caught up with some of the PREP/IMSD alumni in the "Beltway" while in Bethesda for the 2019 TWD Meeting: Kevin Hughes (PREP alum, Yale/NCI), Ayana Stukes (IMSD, Wake PREP), Drs. Mariam Konate (PREP alum, Columbia PhD) and Brandy Huderson (PREP alum, VT PhD, now at NSF through the AAAS Fellowship)

Introducing our new PREP 17 and IMSD 12 Scholars

The new scholars in our 17th cohort for PREP, and 12th for IMSD moved in this summer and have already been busy with the Boot Camp, lab rotations, and classes with the start of Fall semester. As we have done in the past, we asked them to introduce themselves to our community and for their predecessors to provide some “advice.”

Guadalupe Ceja
BS Biology, 2019, University of Penn

I was born and raised in a Hispanic community in South Texas.... Read more 

Marcos Cervantes

BS Chemical and Biomolecular
Bimolecular Engineering, 2019, NYU

I am a first generation college student who now has the... Read more

Kerani Davidson 
BS Chemistry and Applied Mathematics, 2019,
North Carolina A&T

I have always wanted to pursue a PhD. My undergrad...Read more

Jose Monclova

BS Chemical and Biological Engineering, 2019,
University of New Mexico

I would love to pursue a PhD so that I can be a research PI....Read more

Kevin Santiago Morales
BS Industrial Microbiology, 2019, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez

I have always had a passion for science since high school. In pursuing a PhD...Read more

Claudia Perez

BS Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2017, Johns Hopkins University

I completed my undergraduate degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Johns Hopkins Univ ...Read more

Raven Ross

BS Psychology, 2018,VCU

When I was in high school, I took an AP Psychology class and I loved it. A PhD would help me develop my interest in Psychology...Read more

Stefany Nunez Zavala

BS Biological Sciences, 2019, California State University San Marcos

I love Science and I am naturally curious. I would love to continue doing research and...Read more 

 IMSD 12th Cohort

Guadalupe Reynoso

BS biological Sciences, 2018, JMU

To gain more research experience and hopefully have my own lab one day.. Read more

Mariah Rojas

BS Biological Sciences, 2019, California State University Dominiguez Hills

I enjoy research and the pursuit of knowledge..Read more

Jose Sintas

BS Polymer Chemistry, 2019,
UNC Chapel Hill

My research interests include bio-compatible and bio-degradable polymers... Read more

Advice from IMSD 11 for the new scholars

"Find yourself an advocate AND (also) advocate for yourself. Grad school is hard enough, so it helps if you have someone, or multiple someones on your side. Also, find an effective mentor. This doesn't have to be your advisor, it could be an older grad student, post doc, or committee member. Having people to go to and look up to makes the difficult times in grad school easier to deal with and hopefully more enjoyable."
- Matt Flores
(David Popham PhD mentor, Biological Sciences)
"Stay on top of your studies, but don't forget to enjoy your environment. Lab/Work will always be there, but the friendships you build now and here could eventually be your way into your dream job long term. Also, for sanity purposes, check out a VT football or play so basketball. It's all a part of the process so might as well enjoy it along the way!"
- Demisha Porter 
(Paul Morton PhD mentor, TBMH)

Updates & Recent Events

Summer Forum II: as part of our second forum in the summer, two current IMSD predoc scholars, both in behavioral sciences, Trevin Glasgow (E. Scott Geller) and Tatiana Garcia-Meza (Martha Ann Bellpresented updates from their ongoing research projects. Faculty from the Psychology department including Drs. Danny AxsomMartha Ann Bell, and Roseanne Foti attended the forum to support Trevin and Tatiana; Mr. Jeff Earley, Associate Vice Provost for Finance, also joined us and contributed to  the discussions following the exciting presentations. 
2019 101 Mentoring Workshop: Dr. Nikki Lewis (Collegiate Assistant Professor, Honors College, PREP alum) led our mentoring workshop this year! Mentoring experiences from Brittany Boribong (IMSD), Derek Burns (IMSD) and Taylor McFadden (Carver), were shared at the workshop. The workshop was well attended (33 attendees) including core faculty, PREP, IMSD and Carver scholars
2019 VT PREP/IMSD/Carver Orientation:
Dr. Mona Suliman, PREP Alum (PhD at VCU, MBA from GMU) gave the keynote address. Several senior scholars including Jose Santiago-Rivera (IMSD), Kandace Donaldson (IMSD), Trevin Glasgow (IMSD) and Rachel Mack (Carver) provided insights about their experiences at VT, IMSD/PREP/Carver community, and Blacksburg. 


Dr. Mackey, as he has done in the last three years, led the VT delegation that included PREP trainees and Drs. Abby Whittington and Luke Achenie to MAPRS... Read more

Pictured above are Dr. Zac Mackey, Dr. Abby Whittington and Eni Ramaj along with PREP 16 scholars: Emmanuel Thomas, Julia Julien (and daughter), Uvina Allen, Chastyn Smith and IMSD scholars Matthew Flores and Trevin Glasgow.

2019 TWD Program Directors’ Meeting

We were at the biannual TWD PD’s meeting in Bethesda. As always, we learned a lot. New tools that we think maybe widely useful include the App Poll Everywhere.” Dr Mackey, the tech guru among us, has already effectively used it in the 2019 RCR workshop. A topic that delegates murmured about, that we want to weigh in on, was the “Working Life” article in Science magazine that others have also commented on. Please note the old Korean adage “if we eat together, you are less likely to kill me. Read more

2019 PREP/IMSD Boot camp

The 3-day event to help our scholars transition to Blacksburg and VT, also enables the scholars to get to know each other and the program leadership. Guest presenters focused on helping the new scholars develop awareness of VT resources including the Writing Center ( Ms. Jennifer Lawrence), IT ( Mark Sumner and Isaac Magana ), Library, and Research Resources ( Kiri Goldbeck DeBose). Two IMSD scholars, Dr. Ben Okyere and Ms. Demisha Porter, also stopped by to provide a "trainee's insight" into the IMSD/PREP & Carver Community as well as navigating Blacksburg and VT... Read more

Stefany Nunez-Zavala introducing herself. 
Ms. Jenny Lawrence talked about resources available to improve writing skills. 
IMSD Scholars, Dr. Ben Okyere and Ms. Demisha Porter stopped by to address concerns the new scholars may have about Blacksburg, VT and IMSD/PREP. 
Dr. Achenie is chatting with scholars during the Boot Camp.

News about

- Current Scholars and Friends 

- 6 PREP 17 Scholars attended the "2019 Graduate & Professional School Fair " at the NIH. This was the first time our scholars have participated in this fair and according to the them, it was a great experience as they got to talk with many schools.
-Kandace Donaldson, IMSD 10, SBES, passed her qualifying exams.
Maryam Moarefian, IMSD, Mechanical Engineering (coadvisors: Caroline Jones, Danesh Tafti, and Luke Achenie), passed her preliminary examination.
Stefany Nunez Zavala, PREP scholar, will attend the “Women in Computational Biology” conference  in Janelia Farms.
-Mariah Rojas, IMSD, TPS, attended ASM and presented a poster entitled "Characterizing the Role of Nucleoside Metabolism in E. coli Survival in Long-Term Stationary Phase."
- Brittany Boribong (IMSD, Jones/ Li lab) published three articles:
- Super - Low Dose Lipopolysaccharide Dysregulates Neutrophil Migratory Decision - Making 
Modeling the Bistable Dynamics of the Innate Immune System 

Microfluidic Platform to Quantify Neutrophil Migratory Decision Making 


-Chris Garcia, IMSD, CHEM PhD (Webster Santos) got married: Congratulations Chris!
Demisha Porter, IMSD, TBMH (Advisor: Paul Morton), was selected to participate in the year-long SMDP mentoring program: She will be in Boston, all expenses paid, September 21-25, for SMDP’s conference and to meet with her mentors in industry. Demisha joins previous IMSD/PREP participants including Ben, Hagar, Adwoa, and Alexis.
-Gabrielle Smith, IMSD, GBCB PhD (Cassidy Rist/Bryan Lewis) got engaged: Congratulations! 

News about

- Alumni

Faith Carter (PREP Alum, now a PhD student at Cornell) published a paper with her PREP Mentor, Dr. Alicia Pickrell; "Methods to detect mitophagy in neurons during disease." Read more
Kevin Hughes (PREP Alum, PhD Candidate at Yale) attended the Charles River Associates (CRA) PhD Symposium. Kevin mentioned that he "... had a great time networking, participating in professional development activities, and learning how to leverage the skills learned during my PhD to sole important problems at global consulting firms such as CRA."
Photo of Leland Fleming
PREP alum, current UAB doctoral student and “roadmap scholar”, Leland Fleming received NIH’s prestigious “DSPAN Blueprint F99/K00” fellowship: Leland will use the award to complete his PhD and to pursue an NIH-funded postdoctoral training research program in neuroscience. Leland is our second PREP alum and third VT-affiliated scholar to receive the award.

PREP alum, and current VCU IMSD doctoral trainee, Deon Brown, successfully defended his MS thesis. 

- PREP alum, Dr. Brandy Huderson, and Carver alum Dr. Shavonn Whiten, were among the new 2019 AAAS Fellows: Brandy will be at NSF and Shavonn at the USAID for the fellowships. 
PREP alum, Dr. Karey Sutton, Director, Health Equity Research Workforce at American Association of Medical Colleges continues to be very productive and active in impacting health policy: she recently joined others at the US Congress brainstorm about best approaches to lowering health and health care disparities experiences by black women. 
Alana Davis (PREP alum) was promoted to Senior program manager,  Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies. 

PREP Alum, Cassie Eng, current Carnegie Mellon PhD trainee, was in Minneapolis to present a paper at the NSF Workshop: Game Based Assessment WorkshopHer PREP cohort colleague, Michaela Jones, currently a graduate student at the University of Minnesota stopped by to support Cassie...Read more 
Dr. Kisha Greer, IMSD scholar, TBMH PHD program, defended her dissertation entitled “Aberrant hippocampal neurogenesis contributes to learning and memory deficits in a mouse model of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury.” Dr. Greer's research determined that increased aberrant neurogenesis  contributes to learning and memory deficits after repetitive mild TBI. During her PhD studies, she published two papers (two more in progress), and made several presentations. Her next stop is the NIH as a postdoctoral Research Associate.
- PREP alum,
Dr. Brittany Taylor, current “Provost Postdoctoral Research Associate” at Penn and a 2018 BEAM-PREP/IMSD nominated “VT Future Faculty” participant was one of 16 selected as part of the 2019 “Rising Stars in Biomedical.
- PREP alum, 
Dr. Maria Diehl Faryna completed her Post doc at the University of Puerto Rico. She has started a new positon as assistant professor in the department of Psychological Sciences at Kansas State University.
- Dr. Alexis White (IMSD Alum) published her PhD work entitled "Development and characterization of a biomimetic coating for percutaneous devices."
- Dr. Bianca Baker (PREP Alum) was recently promoted to Associate Director, Medical Science Liasions at Dompe. 
- Dr. Ben Okyere (IMSD Alum) accepted a position with Spark Therapeutics.
- PREP Alums helping the next generation: Dr. Leah Guthrie, Read More

Upcoming events and opportunities of interest to our community


-The PREP/IMSD/Carver Biweekly forum : our slate of speakers and guests  include scientists from industry and academia including Drs. Tanea Reed (Eastern Kentucky University), Maisie Dawes (Western University) & Diane Kawa (BD Sciences); and our alumni including Drs. Alexis White (Newry Corporation) and Kacie Blackman (Cal State University), and PhD candidates Ms. Shakarr Wiggins (Weill Cornell) and Simone Campbell (Emory University).
  NIH Loan Repayment Program
VT Graduate Student Physical Activity Study  (Survey)

Virginia Tech internal deadline for the Gilliam Fellowship is September 24th.  Please contact eramaj@vt.edu if you have questions or require clarification. 

Books/Podcasts/Articles we recommend

- "Lessons in Black Excellence", Donna Riley's "Book Review" in Science, 30 August, 2019. Volume 365. "....This entails a variety of approaches, including making STEM socially relevant, recognizing students' life circumstances, highlighting student strengths, beginning wherever K-12 preparation left off, celebration black achievement in STEM, and believing in students even when they might not believe in themselves..."

Hidden Brain: NPR Podcast: Episode we recommend: "
You 2.0: Rebel With a Cause": it encourages leaders to permit "constructive rule breaking" which leads to innovative changes.

This edition of the Newsletter was edited by Victoria Mukuni , Eni Ramaj and Ed Smith
Copyright ©  2019 VTPRIME All rights reserved.

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Questions or comments? Email Eni Ramaj at eramaj@vt.edu or Victoria Mukuni at vicky95@vt.edu