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#ThrowBack: PREP & IMSD @ MAPRS 2017 with Drs. Achenie and Mackey
In the middle is Crystal Kennedy, our speaker for Thursday's Forum. 
Welcome to the Summer I edition of VT PRIME: The Quarterly Newsletter of the "PREP/IMSD Family" at VT. 
Please email any feedback or comments on the newsletter to
In this issue, we say good-bye to PREP 17 and introduce PREP 18 scholars. 
Summer 2020 was busy for our PREP/IMSD family. In this edition of VT PRIME, we report:
  • Current Scholars updates including: degree completions and awards
  • Alumni updates including: new jobs and promotions, publications, newspaper/popular press interviews and profiles, awards, and life changes
  • Highlights from guest speakers including our alumni
Message From the Directors

“May you live in interesting times,” an old Chinese wish goes! These are really interesting times. So how we respond and guide each other will impact our histories severely. Read more

Saying Good-bye to PREP 17
We are saying goodbye to our "Resilient 17" as they arrived to the end of their PREP journey. Seven of our scholars are going to prestigious graduate programs: Guadalupe is headed to Purdue University to pursue a Master's degree; Marcos and Raven are headed to the University of Virginia to pursue their PhD; Kerani is headed to University of Tennessee for her PhD, Jose and Stefany are pursuing their PhD at Penn State. Kevin is going to Michigan State for his PhD and Claudia is considering several options for her post-PREP experience. We are grateful for the efforts of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Administration, especially Ms. Stephanie Brown and the Provost's Office, especially Jeff Earley for helping us resolve administrative challenges that this cohort unexpectedly faced in the fall. 
In the photo above are PREP 17 scholars interacting with our forum guest speaker Dr. Tanea Reed, Associate Professor at Eastern Kentucky University.
Reflections and Advice for Future Scholars
Guadalupe Ceja says that PREP "was a time for really learning how to be an independent, mature scholar where I learned how to vouch for myself and my capabilities as I navigated through graduate school applications." Her advice for future scholars is to "Use your PREP year to transition into a graduate student mentally, in classes, networking, and in your research, so that you transition into graduate school with a different mindset than you had in undergrad."
Raven Ross says that her PREP experience taught her "the importance of having a supportive community of mentors and peers" and she says that "A great mentor and lab environment makes a huge impact on your experience during your PREP year. Pick a lab that does the work you're interested in, but will support you in the ways you need to grow during your PREP year."
Introducing PREP18 Scholars 
Due to Covid-19 the selection process for PREP 18 had to change. The "on-campus" interviews were conducted virtually using zoom.  The selection committee was composed of the PREP/IMSD leadership Drs. Ed Smith, Zac Mackey, Luke Achenie, the Chair of PREP/IMSD Advisory Committee, Dr. Daniela Cimini, and the two scholars Jose Santiago-Rivera (IMSD 9, Santos' Lab), and Kevin Santiago Morales (PREP 17, Stevens' Lab). Top 8 selected candidates come from different states such as California, Puerto Rico, Chicago, North Carolina and two of them are from Virginia. Read more about the candidates here
PREP 18 Scholars include (pictured left to right): Talia BaddourB.S. Mechanical Engineering, Lafayette College; Endia Fletcher, B.S. Biological Engineering, North Carolina A&T; Gema Garcia, B.S. Marine Science, California State University - Monterey Bay; Martha Gizaw, B.S. Biomedical Engineering, The College of William & Mary; Timothy LipumaB.S. Clinical Nutrition, University of California - Davis; Morgan PatrickB.S. Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology, Emory University; Jason Putnam, B.S. Neuroscience, Christopher Newport University; Guillermo RaimundiB.S. Industrial Microbiology, University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez, and Olivia TurkB.S. Molecular Engineering, The University of Chicago. 
Current Scholars: Update 
Brittany Boribong (IMSD 8, Jones Lab) successfully defended her PhD "A Mathematical-Experimental Strategy to Decode the Complex Molecular Basis for Neutrophil Migratory Decision-Making.
Maryam Moarefian (IMSD 9, Jones, Tafti, Achenie labs) successfully defended her PhD "Use of Microfluidic Platforms for Electric Field-Driven Drug Delivery and Cell Migration". 
Ali Roghanizad (IMSD) graduated with a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. 
Lara Dahora (IMSD 7, Thompson's Lab) has received just about the most prestigious grad fellowship out there: the F31! 
Recent Publications 
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 that was published in Nature Communications and featured on a NPR: WVTF News segment:"Drug Hunters Discover Fat Burner for Safe Weight Loss".
Alumni and Friends Updates
Recent Awards and Accomplishments
C. Alicia Traughber (PREP Alum) successfully defended her PhD in Molecular Medicine at Case Western University!
Carver Scholar Elisa M. Gagliano defended her Masters Thesis: "A Bioinformatics Approach to Identifying Radical SAM (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine) Enzymes". Her advisor was Dr. Anne M. Brown
Chantelle Little, Carver Scholar, defended her Masters Thesis: "A Cytogenetic Map of the Genomic Studies of the West Nile Virus Culex Tarsalis." Her advisor was Dr. Maria Sharakhova
Alysha Simmons (IMSD Alum) successfully defended her PhD in Pathobiology, "Characterization of 2D and 3D Cell Culture Models of Nanomaterial-Induced Fibrogenesis." She will be persuing a postdoc at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
Dominique Munson (PREP alum) passed her Written Preliminary Exam in the Pathobiology and Translational Sciences Program at UNC.
PREP Alum, Crystal Kennedy (mentor Dr. Jake Tu) was awarded a T-32 traineeship and now a NIH NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F-31)!
Kevin Hughes (PREP Alum) was selected to be a part of the 2020 SMDP cohort. 
PREP Alum, Dr. Tiffany Gray was featured in the Minority Innovation Weekend's Disruptive Podcast to discuss the cross-section of technology and public health as well as Dr. Gray's journey into entrepreneurship. 
Dr. Elaine Nsoesie (IMSD Alum) was featured in an article on The Guardian: "Is the US heading for a Second Wave of Coronavirus Infections?" 
Recent Publications and Presentations
PREP Alum, Cassie Eng presented her work in progress on "Enhancing Brain Plasticity and Cognition Utilizing Immersive Technology and Virtual Reality Contexts for Gameplay" during the International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network online
Dr. Jasmine Williams, IMSD Alum, worked on a publication entitled "From Response to Reopening: State Efforts to Elevate Social and Emotional Learning During the Pandemic" from the Committee for Children. 
Life Events/Changes
Dr. Tristan Hayes (IMSD Alum) will be a Visiting Assistant professor at Lock Haven University in the Fall. 
Dr. Kisha Greer, who along with her husband Ryan and son Charlie are expecting a baby! 
Advice from the New PhDs
Dr. Trevin Glasgow (IMSD 8, Geller's Lab) and Dr. C. Alicia Traughber (PREP 10) have lots of good advice for those working towards their PhDs! Read more here.
Summer I 2020 Guest Speakers 
1.What Can You Do With Your PhD?
PREP Alum, Dr. Christopher Downing, Jr. gave a virtual presentation via Zoom for a bi-weekly forum titled "Finding my Voice: Discovering how to Merge my Passions." In it, he stressed the importance of networking, finding a good mentor, and having a work/life balance. 
Dr. Jessica Wynn is a VT alum from Dr. Webster Santos' Lab and is a Senior Scientist at Merck. She gave a virtual presentation about working in the industry. Read more here
2. Dissertation Research Updates & Tips for Surviving Graduate School 
Read what IMSD students Gabrielle Smith (GBCB, Cassidy Rist), Jefferson Salan (Psychology, Rachel Diana), and Demisha Porter (TBMH, Paul Morton) had to say here
In Memoriam
Artis T. Wash III, a former controller for The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, passed away June 2, 2020, at the age of 47. Contributions may be made to the college fund of his children via Zelle (  or the GoFundMe page
Upcoming Events 
- Summer Virtual Zoom Forum Series 
- PREP/IMSD BootCamp
- RCR Workshop
- Mentoring Workshop 
- SACNAS 2020 - Oct. 22 - 24, Long Beach, California 
- ABRCMS 2020 - Nov 11 - 14, San Antonio, Texas

Podcasts/Articles We Recommend:
- During these challenging times for our nation, especially issues surrounding race, we in the PREP/IMSD Family think that This American Life episode about "We Are in the Future" reflects the value of the work we do. The episode argues that the resilience of African Americans coming from all of the challenges faced in history prepared them to continue to rise in the face of all challenges now and in the future. The education provided by our efforts and others could ensure that in the future we have African Americans and other minorities contributing to biomedical sciences research. 
- Something You Should Know podcast episodes: Simple Strategies for a Great Relationship & How to Better Use Your Mind and The Amazing Benefits of Breathing Properly How to Make Better Decisions

- New York Times article by David Brooks "College-educated blacks tend to have higher student loan burdens. When a young white adult wants to buy a home, his parents will often help him out. When a young black man is at that stage, he’s more likely to be sending money to his parents to help them out."
PREP Website
IMSD Website
We would like to thank the Provost's Office, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Fralin Life Sciences Institute, and Animal and Poultry Sciences Department for additional support of the VT PREP and IMSD training programs.

Copyright © 2020 VT PRIME, All rights reserved.
This edition of VT PRIME was edited by: Lindsay Martin-Kinard, Eni Ramaj and Dr. Ed Smith

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