Welcome to the Spring edition of VT PRIME: The Quarterly Newsletter of the "PREP/IMSD Family" at VT. 
You may email any feedback on the newsletter to vtprep@vt.edu.
n our Summer issue, we will introduce the incoming PREP (18th Cohort) and IMSD (13th Cohort) scholars and tell you about the destinations of the current PREP trainees (our 17th).
Spring 2020 was eventful for our PREP/IMSD family. In this edition of VT PRIME, we report:
  • Resources for our trainees and the rest of the community for dealing with COVID-19
  • 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 visits by guest speakers including our alumni for our 2020 Spring Biweekly Forum
Message From the Directors:
Stay "connected." The words of PREP alum, Dr. Leah Banks, back in 2007 after the VT tragedy of April 16 that "...please do not worry about us, all of us are together and have each other..."  and her recent counsel that "...a setback is needed for a great comeback...." Read More
COVID-19 and our "family"
We, like everyone, have been significantly affected by the pandemic related to the coronavirus. Here, we provide updates related to programs affected by the pandemic including the review, interview, and selection of applicants for our next PREP cohort. Additionally, the work of our alumni involved in responding to or related to COVID-19 are highlighted.
PREP18 Selection Process
In the past, our process of selecting the scholars for our PREP cohort would be in its final stages now with on campus interviews. In the absence of that structure, Zoom interviews for the next cohort of PREP scholars, our 18th, are underway. Faculty and alumni involvement in finalizing the selection is expected.  We anticipate that the next cohort will start late July or early August.
Resources for dealing with the pandemic
This is a challenging times for all of us, we hope you are finding ways to cope and get through the days. Here are suggestions from our "family" that we hope you will find useful in your efforts to handle the stress Read More
Among our "relatives" directly involved with various COVID19 related science and activities is our own Dr. Elaine Nsoesie. In recent public interviews she has provided insights into the understanding of modeling viruses  like COVID19. She was was quoted in  a recent  national newspaper The Hill about social distancing. Dr. Nsoesie is also leading the effort to collate COVID-19 data across Africa
Current Scholars: Update 
Trevin Glasgow (IMSD 8, Geller's lab) successfully defended his PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology; Dr Geller will be starting a Post Doc  as a IRACDA Fellow at VCU, a MAPRS partner!  Among the highlights of Trevin's great PhD career was a research presentation in Australia and diverse research experiences including a summer research in the Biocomplexity Institute.
Ashley Peralta, (IMSD 7, Santo's Lab) successfully defended her PhD on "Branched Peptides Targeting HIV-1 RRE RNA and Structure-Activity Relationship Studies of Spinster Homolog 2 Inhibitors." Originally from Maine, and recruited from Hampton University, Ashley has been a valuable member of our "family" with resilience that included the untimely passing of her PI during her lab rotations and serving as a member of our 2018 IMSD Selection Committee. 
Tatiana Garcia Meza  (IMSD 9, Bell's Lab) successfully passed her preliminary exam. As she prepares to wrap up her PhD, we are confident about her future. She has been impactful in all aspects of our program: skilled research, highly motivated, and a very strong example of how to balance the PhD process and commitments and "life." 
Jose Santiago-Rivera (IMSD 9) currently a 4th year graduate student in the Santos' Lab, will be completing a summer internship in the Global Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics Department (DMPK) at Takeda Pharmaceuticals in Boston, MA. Takeda Pharmaceuticals is the largest pharmaceutical company in Asia and one of the top 20 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world by revenue.
Poster presentations at the 2020 Department of Biological Sciences Research Day: Two trainees, PREP Scholar, Kevin Santiago Morales (Steven's Lab) and Matt Flores (IMSD, Popham Lab) presented. Here, Kevin is shown discussing his research in a poster entitled "Probiotic impacts on the development of the steelhead trout microbiome."
"What brings joy to you?" In these challenging times, we hope this brings a smile to you as it does to us: Our very own Katrina Colucci-Chang (IMSD 10, Poelzing's Lab) along with Virginia Tech Salsa performance Team (Ajinkya Fotedar, Con-Ning Yen, Sebastian Andrade, Aurora Cartaya, Kellen Levinson, Sanjar Ali, and Nestor Santa) performed at the Richmond Bachata and Salsa Congress. They won 3rd place in the student competition! You can find videos of this in social media and we encourage you to find similar outlets as you navigate the PhD path.
Life Events/Changes
Current IMSD Scholar, Alex Nin-Leary (Nin-Velez) got married on January 4, 2020! She is pictured here with Katrina Colucci - Chang, Tasmine Clement, and Gabrielle Smith. Congratulations to Alex and her husband and her IMSD/PREP family wish them a joyous and blissful union. 
Alumni and Friends Updates
Recent Awards and Accomplishments
Dr. Karey M. Sutton (PREP Alum) has been very busy: 
- she was recently identified by the National Minority Quality Forum as one of 40 Leaders Under 40 in Minority Health!
- Karey was featured in a podcast for George Washington University on all things health equity, disparities, and her story. 
- she was also appointed to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Technical Expert Panel (TEP) for the morbidity electronic clinical quality measure (eCQM)! 
Alyssa Debra (IMSD  Alum), will be attending the MD/PHD program at the University of Illinois Medical School in Chicago! Additionally, Alyssa recently was a coauthor on a peer-reviewed paper, which you can read here.
Carver Alum, Dr. Shavonn Whiten, a friend of IMSD/PREP, was featured in an interview for the Women in Science series for Feed the Future. 
Dr. Brittany Taylor (PREP Alum), was recently named a member of the 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America by CrossTalk.
- Dr. Taylor has accepted a tenure track position at the University of Florida in the Department of Biomedical Engineering  starting January 2021 as Assistant Professor. 
Congratulations to Hagar Kenawy (PREP Alum) who passed her qualifying exam for her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University! 
Look who else has been busy: Van Truong  (PREP Alum) is featured in a University of Florida video at around 1:44!
- Van announced via a fun video on Facebook that she will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a PhD in Immunology (specializing in Computational & Systems Immunology)! 
Brittany Rice (PREP Alum) received two fellowships at the University of Kentucky:
- The UK Woman's Club
- UK Association of Emeriti Faculty 
These awards recognize Brittany's achievements as a doctoral student and her future academic potential. 
Recent Publications
Cassie Eng (PREP Alum, PhD Candidate, Carnegie Mellon University) had her research featured in a National Science Foundation YouTube video
Dr. Shara Grant (IMSD Alum) contributed to a chapter titled "Negative memory biases in health and psychiatric disorders" in the book Cognitive Biases in Health and Psychiatric Disorders with her IMSD mentor Dr. Bruce Friedman
Life Events/Changes
You can read additional alumni life events here
Alumni/Guest Speakers 
Drs. Smith and  Mackey with Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, the keynote speaker for this year's Department of Biological Sciences Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Seminar. She spoke about her research "Worms, germs, and buffalo: a coinfection story." and her journey into science. 
PREP alum, Dr. Maria Diehl, Assistant Professor at Kansas State University, visited to tell scholars about her research on avoidance behavior in rats after being conditioned to have anxiety and its implications for humans. She also provided tips for being a resilient scientist.
Dr. Diehl also joined some current scholars for breakfast. Left to right: Tatiana Garcia Meza (IMSD, Psych), Chris Garcia (IMSD, Chem), Dr. Ed Smith, Dr. Maria Diehl (PREP Alum, Panneton's lab), Eni Ramaj, Julia Julien (PREP Alum), Demisha Porter (IMSD, TBMH), and Gabrielle Smith (IMSD, GBCB).
Ms. Alysha Simmons,(IMSD Alum), soon to defend her PhD dissertation, joined us by Zoom  in April to talk about her research and reflect on her graduate school career.  She counseled that "the road to a PhD is difficult, so be creative and have skills other than research that will enable you to be resilient.  Things don't work often as you plan. So be resilient and patient and also be willing to change." We wish her positive thoughts and best wishes in her next endeavor as a Postdoc at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
The 2020 edition of The Carver Palooza:
Before our world changed, our "friends" in the Carver training program made presentations about the status and progress in their research. 
Left to right: Mika Pagani (Entomology), Dr. Randy Grayson, Aaron Oxendine (APSC, Advisor: Dr. John Maurer), Fatima Kebe (ALCE), and Dr. Hannah Scherer (Fatima's advisor) pose for a group photo after the "Carver Palooza."
 Like the Carver scholars, two accomplished IMSD  scholars  whose research is in the behavioral sciences made presentations at the Biweekly forum in the third and final 2020IMSDPalooza.  
Trevin (IMSD Scholar and now Dr. Glasgow, Geller's Labreviewed part of his dissertation research on “A Longitudinal Investigation of the Mental Health Benefits of Physical Activity in Graduate Students”.  Trevin’s work was quite timely as it investigated the risk to graduate students' mental health and productivity of depression and anxiety.
Derek Burns, pictured with his advisor Dr. Roseanne Foti, talked about his very interesting research about "Stress: Inside & Out"Derek talked about stress as a concept and how stressors influence performance and physiology, and how they hinder leadership.
The second SeniorIMSDScholarsPalaooza involved scholars whose research is in the biomedical sciences. Pictured from left to right are: Dr. Webster Santos , Dr. Ashley Peralta (Chemistry), Kandace Donaldson (BMES, De Vita's Lab), and Brittany Boribong (GBCB, Jones' Lab) at the IMSD Biomed Predoc Scholars Palooza. 
The 2020IMSDPalooza was divided into three parts for the biweekly forum. The first involved the newest IMSD predoc scholars, our 12th, following lab rotations: Pictured are: top, Mariah Rojas (Translational Plant Sciences PhD program, rotations in Tholl, Stevens and Vinatzer labs); middleJose Sintas (Chemistry PhD program, rotations in Behkam, SchulzLong labs); bottom, Guadalupe Reynoso (Biological Sciences PhD program,  rotations in PophamAylward, and Stevens labs).  
PREP Palooza
PREP Palooza 2020 was held virtually, due to the Coronavirus outbreak. You can read more about their presentations here
Scientific Journeys:
Recent reflections by our guest speakers in our "Scientific Journeys" series can be accessed at our YouTube channel. 
Dr. Maisie Dawes filmed an interview with Dr. Smith for our YouTube channel
Throwback IMSD/PREP
Let's throwback to the 2007 forum : some of  the folks in this photo include Alana, Jamille "Scoop," Rebecca, and Albert. We think it is Serena and Gade who have their backs to the camera...
Upcoming Events
-PREP/IMSD/Carver Zoom Biweekly forum: May 5th, 12:30 PM: Dr. Christopher Downing (PREP alum, VT PhD), Assistant professor, Valdosta State University
- ABRCMS 2020 - Nov 11 - 14, San Antonio, Texas
- SACNAS 2020 - Oct. 22 - 24, Long Beach, California 

Podcasts/Articles We Recommend:
Our own Van Truong recommends reading the article "White Mentors in the Academy". 
- Podcast WorkLife with Adam Grant, the episode "We don't have to fight loneliness alone." 

- Podcast " Hidden Brain", the episode "A Social Prescription
PREP Website
IMSD Website
Copyright © 2020 VT PRIME, All rights reserved.
This edition of VT PRIME was edited by: Lindsay Martin-Kinard, Eni Ramaj and Dr. Ed Smith

Our mailing address is:
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Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: (540) 231-6311
email: vtprep@vt.edu