PREP19"Besties" with Dr. Fantasy Lozada (2nd from left), Assistant professor, VCU, following a networking event at The Inn. February, 2022
Welcome to the Spring edition of VT PRIME: The Quarterly Newsletter of the "PREP/IMSD Family" at Virginia Tech.
Please email feedback/comments about the newsletter to
Spring 2022, like most of the last 16 months since the last VT Primer publication, was busy and productive for the VT PREP/IMSD family. In this  long overdue edition of VT Prime, we: 
  • Introduce scholars in our 14th (IMSD) and 19th (PREP) cohorts
  • Provide you updates about our current scholars and alumni: recent papers published, conferences attended, honors and awards, and life updates...
  • Update from the most recent presentation in our seminar series "What Can You Do With Your PhD@..."
  • Tell you about our upcoming seminars and "end of year celebration"
To learn more about us and the "PREP/IMSD family," please visit us at our Facebook page and websites: PREP and IMSD 
Message from the Directors
Welcome to the latest edition of VT PRIME! Optimism defines our current collective emotion! Three PREP cohorts, 16-19th, have been most affected. It has been over a year since... Read More
In case you were wondering What happened to the 2020-21 cohort, PREP18"RogerThat":
Our cohort photo below captured the year these wonderful scholars spent with us.

It has been almost a year since we last published this newsletter,  we wanted to tell you what became of the PREP18 scholars, the second cohort under the "new administrative" structure developed by our CALS colleagues Steven Kleiber, Stephanie Brown, and Beth Ebel:
  • Talia Baddour, mentored by Drs. Vincent Wang and Raffaella De Vita, in the department of Biomedical and Engineering Mechanics, started her PhD  in the Bioengineering program at the University of California at San Diego; 
  • Endia Fletcher, mentored by Dr. Irving "Coy" Allen in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences department, is pursuing her PhD in the Biological Engineering program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
  • Gema Garcia, mentored by Dr. Biswarup Mukhopadhayis in the PhD program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst;
  • Martha Gizaw mentored by Dr. Miguel Perez in tBEAM and VTTI, is pursuing her PhD in the VT-Wake Forest joint SBES doctoral program; 
  • Timothy Lipuma, mentored by Dr. Georgia Hodes, School of Neuroscience, is finishing up a MS in the neuroscience  program at the University College Cork, Ireland, and will start a PhD in Clinical Psychology in Fall 2022 at IUPUI; 
  • Morgan Patrick, who was mentored by Dr. Sarah Clinton (SON), is pursuing her PhD in neuroscience at Virginia Tech;  
  • Jason Putman mentored by Dr. Matt Buckzynski in SON, will start his PhD in the neuroscience program at the University of Maryland, College Park, Fall, 2022, after a year at Vanderbilt as a Research specialist.
  • Guillermo Raimundi  mentored by Dr. X.J. Meng in BMVS, is in the IRTA PREP at the NIH;  and 
  • Olivia Turk, mentored by Dr. Jenny Munson, FBRI/BEAM, is pursuing her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Yale University.  
Photo below of these scholars, starting top left with Talia, moving left to right as above, and ending with Olivia Turk, bottom right.

Introducing Our New Scholars 
Twelve new trainees, 5 IMSD and 7 PREP, joined us last June. As the pandemic eases, and we get to know them, we hope you too will get to know and support them in their journeys to pursue the NIH mission.
Nicknamed, by a member of their cohort, "Besties," they come from 6 different states, and Puerto Rico, and are diverse in their disciplines of interest and of course backgrounds. Their minilab rotations went well resulting in mentor selections that introduced us to new amazing scientists from different backgrounds and career stages ranging from Assistant  to university distinguished professors. Go here to read more about the PREP19 scholars.

Cameron Tate: BS, Washington University in St. Louis, Psychological and Brain Sciences.  Following lab rotations in the labs of Drs. Calderwood, Breaux, and Foti, Cameron is pursuing her research training with Dr. Foti. Research
interest include. Read More

Fernando Gutierrez Garcia: BS, James Madison University, Biotechnology. After lab rotations in the labs of Drs. Raj Gaji, Irving Coy Allen, and Xin Luo. Fernando decided to continue his PREP research traineeship with Xin Luo. Research interests include. Read More

Shuristeen Joubert: BS, Biology, University of New Mexico.  Her lab rotations were with Drs. Rafael Davalos, David PophamDaniela Cimini, and Dr. Iulia Lazar
. Shuristeen decided to pursue her research training with Dr. Daniela CiminiRead More

Gabriel Maldonado Rivera: BS, University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo. After rotations in the labs of Drs. Nisha Duggal, Zhaoming Yang, and Amy Pruden, Gabriel is pursuing his research training with Dr. Amy Pruden. Read More

Tiffany Thorn, BS Biology, Oakwood University.  Following lab rotations with Drs. Bryan Hsu, Coy Allen, and David Popham, Tiffany is pursuing her research training with Dr. Bryan Hsu. Read More

Jacobi McGrew, BS, Neuroscience, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Jacobi's lab rotations were in the labs of Drs. Timothy Jarome, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Susan Campbell. He stayed in Dr. Campbell's lab for his research training. Read More

Alana Smith: BS, Wake Forest University, Psychology/Neuroscience. Alana did lab rotations with Drs. Daniel English, Michelle Olsen, and Julia Basso. Her PREP research training continued in the labs of Drs. Julia Basso and Dan English. Read More

IMSD 14: since joining us from diverse undergrad institutions in the summer of 2021, and shaped by the continuing pandemic, they have pursued lab rotations with VT's exemplary faculty and are beginning to settle into their chosen labs to start their journeys! They have already shown us their potentials for leadership and independence in guiding their lab rotations and introducing us to new faculty and new research areas/disciplines. As we have done in the past, we asked them to introduce themselves to our community and to provide their aspirations in pursuing a PhD. 

Mychala Snead: BS, Stevenson University, Biology, MS, GWU. Mychala rotated in the labs of Drs. Ann Stevens, David Popham, and Lisa Belden. Mychala's PhD research will be in Dr. Belden's lab and as part of VT's new Center for Emerging  Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens (CeZAP)Read More

Asia Dofat: BS, Psychology, St. Mary's College. Following rotations in the labs of Drs. Matt Howe, Georgia Hodes, and  Tim Jarome. Asia is pursuing her dissertation research in Dr. Matt Howe's labRead More

Jeffery Anderson: BS, BIOL, University MD Eastern Shore, MS, Life Sci, Emporia Sate. After rotations in the labs of Drs. Jake Socha, Michelle Stocker, and Ignacio MooreJeffery's dissertation research will probably involve all three labs. Read More


Anyelina Mangru: BS, FL Intl, Ag & Life Sci: TPS. Anyelina did a lab rotation in the labs of Drs. Boris VinatzerBrian Badgley, David Haak. She selected Dr. Brian Badgley's lab for her PhD research in the Translational Plant Science's graduate program. Read More
Julio Arroyo: BS, Biomedical Engineering, Texas A & M University, Julio's lab rotations were in the labs of Drs. Rafael Davalos and Jenny Munson. His dissertation research will be in both labs in the department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. Read More
Current Scholars: Update of progress made by our current PREP and IMSD scholars. Not withstanding the challenges and interruptions, our trainees made significant progress toward their degrees, in their research training, and the development of leadership, mentoring and other life skills.
PhD and other Degree Completions: Between them, PREP and IMSD scholars have obtained 88 PhDs, 31 MS, 2 MDs and 3 "other degrees."  Though we had other PhD and MS completions since our last newsletter, because of space limitation, we'll highlight the most recent.
IMSD 9 scholars, three of whom completed their PhDs this past year with Dr. Leah Guthrie, one of our Keynote speakers for our END of Academic Year Celebration, when she visited in 2016. Then a  PhD candidate at Albert Einstein, Dr. Guthrie went  on to be our first HHMI Hanna Gray fellow.

On Nov. 02, 2021, IMSD9 scholar, Jose Santiago Rivera,  successfully defended his PhD dissertation research, Structure-Activity Relationship Studies of Imidazo[4,5-b]pyrazin-5,6- diamines as Mitochondrial Uncouplers and their Potential in the Treatment of Obesity. Dr. Santiago Rivera started his career as a Research Scientist. This photo is of Dr. Santiago Rivera and his dissertation advisor Dr. Webster Santos. Jose is currently a Research Scientist at Boehringer Ingelheim in CT. His leadership and contributions to IMSD/PREP as well as to VT  (see second photo) at large was extensive, the pandemic severely limited our efforts to have him "transfer" those talents (especially his patience) to more recent trainees.
Another IMSD9 scholar, Tatiana Meza-Cervera, successfully defended her dissertation "Late Childhood Predictors of Adolescent Cognitive Reappraisal: Impacts on Adolescent Depressive Symptoms" in the Department of Psychology. Her advisor was Dr. Martha Ann Bell. Dr. Meza Cervera is now at the NIMH in Bethesda as a Postdoctoral Fellow
Upcoming dissertation defense: May 4, 9 AM. IMSD scholar, Katrina Colucci-Chang, SBES/FBRI (Steve Poelzing, research training mentor). One of our most consequential trainees, whose impact includes a "salsa shindig" at a PREP/IMSD/Carver Holiday party, will defend her PhD dissertation on May4th by Zoom. These defenses mean so much to all of us, so let us crowd the zoom in support of KCC, as Dr. Mackey fondly referred to her over the years, on Monday.

Introducing Tahjere Lewis, PREP supplement for evaluation capacity building prebac scholar. Tahjere has developed a prototype for real time evaluation of specific training activities. You can access the prototype, which is currently only compatible on an IOS device like iPhone or iPad. Read More
Current Scholars Recent Accomplishments Both PREP19 and IMSD14 participated in the annual PREP and IMSD Paloozas. Our scholars attended conferences/meetings, mostly by zoom, but continued to make impactful contributions at VT and progress toward their degrees. Here, we present a few of the most recent.
Dissertation Research Progress Update Several current predoc trainees and our alumni were guest speakers this Spring in our PREP/IMSD Biweekly forums including PREP alumni Chelsee Holloway (Rutgers, PhD Candidate) and Jose Monclova (PhD candidate at Penn State); Photos below show IMSD13 trainees Jasmine and Aileen during their awesome "hybrid" presentations on April 21st. Other presentations include PREP and IMSD paloozas and an update from IMSD predoc trainee Kandace 
Jeff Anderson IMSD14, you met earlier, attended the 2022 MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences) conference and was elected a National officer (Graduate Vice-President)

Jasmine Lewis (Department of Psychology).

Aileen Suarez (SBES/Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics).
Alumni Updates: Our distinguished alumni continue to be impactful in their careers and we have been very lucky to stay "linked" to a lot of them that enables us to celebrate their accomplishments and to brag about them in the same way the Athletics department here (probably at most ACC schools) does with "Hokies in the Pro." We are also grateful that these alumni, from different careers and at different stages, generously continue to help us use their lived experiences as a training tool in our culturally aware research education programs.
Recent Awards and Accomplishments

Dr. Karey Sutton (VT PhD, STS, PREP alum)  
participated  in a Washington Post-organized and hosted panel discussion in November on "Health Equity: Maternal & Infant Health"  with Christy Turlington Burns and Chanel L. Porchia-Albert. You can access the taped panel discussion here.
Dr. Sutton was recently selected as the new Scientific Director of Health Equity Research for the MedStar Health Research InstituteRead More

Dr. Chris Garcia, IMSD alum, PhD, VT chemistry, and currently a JD Candidate at the University of Colorado Law School, will join Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP as a Summer Associate. 

Byron Hayes,  IMSD prebac alum, Duke PhD, was awarded a position as a scholar within the. Read More

On April 8th, we "virtually" attended the White Coat Ceremony for IMSD prebac alum (BS, VT Biochemistry), current MD-PhD (MSTP) student, Alyssa Debra, at  the University of Illinois School of Medicine. Her PhD will be in epidemiology and she recently was coauthor on a publication: that offers a very valuable perspective of our times: 
"The Impact of COVID-19 Among Black Girls: A Social-Ecological Perspective." 

Chastyn Smith, PREP alum and current PhD candidate at VCU, received the 2022 prestigious Defense Department SMART Fellowship (it has a 18% success rate). Chastyn will be funded through the end of her PhD and then will join the Defense Intelligence Agency to pursue her career. Recently, Chastyn also "placed" in the 2021 Three Minute Thesis Competition. Read More

PREP alum, Dr. Brittany Taylor, currently Assistant professor, University of Florida, Biomedical Engineering, participated on a panel on “Black Excellence in Research and The Future of Diversity in Academia” hosted by Vanderbilt.
Dominique N. Munson VT PREP alum, and current PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who generously served on our 2021 PREP/IMSD Selection Committee, successfully competed for support to pursue industry experiences as she continues to work on her dissertation. First, this Spring, she is involved in experiential activities related to regulatory affairs at CATO-SMS, then she will start a summer internship at United Therapeutics. 

VT PREP alum, Guillermo Raimundi-Rodriguez, whose penchant for "roger that" in conversations led us to nickname his cohort PREP18"RogerThat," was selected to participate in the 2022 cohort of Yale University's PATHS Pipeline Program.

IMSD predoc alum, Dr. Tristan Hayes, VT PhD, Biological Sciences, was part of a team that recently published a paper in Science Immunology, "Allergic airway recall responses require IL -9 from resident memory CD4 T cells." The work was from his postdoc lab at Indiana university that is studying new ways to treat seasonal or intermittent asthma. Tristan is currently an Assistant professor in the Health Sciences at North Central State College, Mansfield, Ohio. 

Dr. Emmanuel Ekwueme, PREP alum, recently participated in a podcast on The Positive Leadership  that was hosted by Jean-Philippe Courtois.

Sheldon Lawrence, PhD, PREP alum, Started a new position as Visiting Lecturer, Oxford College-Emory University. Dr. Lawrence more recently was a SPIRE Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also named, along with several other PREP/IMSD alumni as one of "1000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America." 

Leah Banks, PhD, PREP alum, was promoted to Associate Director of Life Design, Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University. Read More
Dr. Brittany Boribong, IMSD alum, VT PhD in Genetics Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, currently a Postdoc at Mass General/Harvard was featured in a NPR news story about "Underrepresentation of Southeast Asians in STEM." Read More

Dr. Jordan Booker, IMSD alum, Assistant professor, University of Missouri, was named by the American Psychological Science, along with Dr. Roseanne Breaux, research training mentor to IMSD scholar Jasmine Lewis, a Rising Star. Read More
Dr. Alexis White, IMSD alum and VT PhD, Engineering Science and Mechanics, started as a Product Manager, Emerging Products, at Verizon
IMSD alum, VT PhD, TBMH neuroscientist Dr. Kisha Greer started a new position as a Scientific Storyteller at Syneos Health Communications. The throwback picture shows Kisha with Dr. Ariel Leon (on the left) at ABRCMS while they were both IMSD scholars.  
Recent Alumni Degree Completions Earlier completions in 2021 include Albert Hinman (IMSD) at Stanford, PhD;  Brittany Rice (PREP) at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine, PhD; Chanelle Brown (PREP), Virginia Tech, PhD.; Guadalupe Reynoso (IMSD), MS; and on April 27, PREP alum, Claudia Perez, MS.
Over 90+ of us showed up on Zoom to hear Cassie Eng, PREP alum, defend her dissertation at Carnegie Mellon University in Developmental Psychology. DR. ENG's next stop is as a Postdoc at Stanford University’ in the Sports Neuroscience NIH T32 program. Read More
Conferences Attended/Talks/New Opportunities
Dr. Karla Sanchez: PREP Alum, will be joining the Xinzhong Dong Lab at Hopkins as a Post-Doc fellow. 
Life Changes/Updates Our alumni continued to have joyful news and to have life changes that we as a "family" continue to celebrate with them. In late 2020, IMSD alum Dr. Kisha Greer and her husband Ryan, also a Hokie, welcomed their second child.
Congratulations to IMSD alumni Drs. Adwoa Baah Dwomoh, PhD Biomedical Engineering, and Ben Okyere, PhD, Neuroscience, for their recent wedding. Best wishes to them as they set out on this new journey. We have to add that in our long history, 20 years of PREP and 15 of IMSD, Adwoa and Ben are our first couple from the "PREP/IMSD family."
Dr. Karey Sutton and her husband, also welcomed their second child. Congratulations to them on all the amazing developments in their lives.
Congratulations to Drs. Shara Grant, IMSD alum, VT PhD in Psychology, and her husband, Don Aduba, on the birth of their first Child. 
Congratulations to Eni Gosselin, former PREP & IMSD Coordinator, and her husband Tom Gosselin, who recently welcomed their baby girl Melody, their first. 
What Can You Do With Your PhD? Two VT alumni, one a distinguished IMSD alum, and the other a distinguished "friend" of IMSD/PREP and a GBCB graduate, provided some insightful and valuable answers in a recent forum. 
Dr. Roberto Padillaresilient, fiercely independent, and a joy to be around. With a busy career in drug chemistry and a young family, we were pleased to have him back as a guest speaker for the first time (will not be the last given his great talk? since his graduation in 2016. Dr. Roberto Padilla used his experience as an IMSD alum to provide tips to current trainees about "surviving grad school (especially when tragedy strikes) and "pursuing a career in industry." Read More 
Dr. Revonda Mehovic, currently a Principal Scientist at Epizyme, reflected on her projects and team interactions before and during the pandemic. Revonda described a typical day in industry as well defined with probably many more meetings but offers great opportunities for networking, developing extensive technical skills and the potential to have a patent for your discoveries. Seek industry experiences if you want to have a research scientist job in industry. 
Articles/books and podcasts we hope you'll find useful 
A Podcast that we think you will enjoy or find useful:
Hidden Brain: "Mind Reading 2.0: Why conversations go Wrong." Note that misunderstandings, even with the best of intentions, may arise from cultural differences in conversational styles.: 

Podcast Ted: Your body language may shape who you are by Amy Cuddy
"Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy cuddy Argues that :power posing" -- Standing in a posture of confidence even when we don't feel confident -- can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our chances for success".
#ThrowbackMAPRS to 2015: MAPRS@NCState 
As a throwback, this photo is from MAPRS@NC State that was hosted by Dr. Erin Banks and her colleagues. One of the Keynote speakers, Dr. Valerie Ashby, will be succeeding the legendary Dr. Hrabowski, who was also a Keynoter at MAPRS@UMBC, as President at UMBC.
Upcoming Events
PREP/IMSD END of Academic Year Celebration 
May 3rd 5:30 PM at Bull & Bones

Keynote speakers: Drs. Leah Guthrie (Albert Einstein PhD, Microbiology, VT PREP alum), Postdoc, Stanford University, and HHMI Hanna. Gray Fellow, and Trevin Glasgow (VT PhD in Psychology, IMSD alum), Postdoc, VCU, and IRACDA Scholar 

Katrina Colucci
The Relationship between Ephaptic Coupling and Excitability in Ventricular Myocardium
May 4th, 2022 9:00 AM 
Zoom Link:

NIH Career Symposium - An Online Event 
May 11 - 13, 2022 
The full agenda is Here
See the Speakers
Registration is here:
MAPRS @ Hopkins
May 17-19 
Johns Hopkins will be hosting the 9th annual MidAtlantic PREP and IMSD Research Symposium virtually. To participate or register, reach out to our colleague Dr. Katharine Wilson

SACNAS, 2022
The in-person conference will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 27-29;Deadline for registration: July 31.

ABRCMS, 2022
With "fingers crossed," ABRCMS is returning to in person this year!  Anaheim, CA, November 9-12

PREP Website
IMSD Website
Copyright © 2022 VT PRIME, All rights reserved.
This edition of VT PRIME was edited by: Bruno Ramaj, Judy Yan, and Dr. Ed Smith

Our mailing address is:
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Phone: (540) 231-6311