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 2020!
If you have any feedback or comments about the newsletter, please email us at vtprep@vt.edu. We hope you will be able to participate in VT's 2020 VT MLK Celebrations . In our Spring issue, we will report on specific events from the MLK Celebrations and update you about the next destinations for the PREP 17.
Fall 2019 was a busy and productive one for our PREP/IMSD family. In this edition of VT PRIME, we report:
  • Mentor choices of the PREP 17 scholars
  • Degree Completions by current scholars and alumni
  • Accomplishment of our current scholars and alumni including: papers published, conferences attended, and awards won 
  • Highlights from the 2019 Fall Forum 
  • VT @ 2019 SACNAS and ABRCMS Conferences
  • Our 2019 Holiday Celebration, compliments of Provost Office, Fralin & CALS (Maisie Dawes PhD, DVM, Keynote Speaker)
We hope you visit us at our Facebook page and websites: PREP and IMSD
Message From the Directors:
Happy holidays! 2019 went by so quickly, but the decade of the 2010s has seen growth and success of NIH training grants. We now have 68 alumni with PhDs, 11 tenured track faculty and many in industry. Our current trainees and alumni continue to win awards including “Distinguished MAPRS Alumni" awards... Read More
Current Scholars: Mentor selection
Following 3 mini lab-rotations each, PREP17 (featured in the Summer II VT PRIME), have selected their research mentors for their PREP tenure:
Guadalupe did lab rotations with Drs. Dana Hawley, Tanya LeRoith and Caroline Leeth. She is now in Dr. Dana Hawley's lab for her PREP research apprenticeship. Dr. Hawley  is a Professor in the Biological Sciences Department and previously mentored PREP alums Dr. Natalia Gonzales, Ms. Johanel Caceres and IMSD alum Dr. Ariel Leon.Read more 
Kerani rotated in the labs of Drs. Kevin Edgar, Timothy Long and  Louis Madsen.  She will continue her PREP research apprenticeship with Dr. Kevin Edgar, who is a professor in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials and Associate Dean of the Virginia Tech Grad School. He is also a mentor to current IMSD scholar Diana Novo...Read More
After lab rotations in the labs of Drs. Raffaella De VitaAbby Whittington and Aaron Goldstein , Jose decided to continue his PREP research apprenticeship with Dr. Raffaella De Vita, who is an Associate Head and Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. She previously mentored IMSD alums Drs. Adwoa Baah Dwomoh and Albert Kwansa and current scholar Kandace Donaldson...Read More
Claudia decided to continue her PREP research apprenticeship in Dr. Nisha Duggal's lab, after mini lab rotations in the labs of Drs. Nisha DuggalDaniela CiminiIgor Sharakhov. Dr. Duggal is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Read More
After mini lab rotations in the labs of Drs. Robin Panneton, Julie Dunsmore, Jungmeen Kim-Spoon, Raven is pursuing her PREP research apprenticeship in Dr. Julie Dunsmore's lab.  Dr.Dunsmore Associate Professors in the Psychology Department. She previously mentored PREP alum Drs. Sheena Horsford and Tiffany Gray, Mr. Deon Brown and IMSD alum Dr. Jordan Booker. Read More
Kevin is continuing his PREP research apprenticeships with Dr. Ann Stevens after mini lab rotations with Drs. Lisa Belden, Ann Stevens and David Kuhn. Dr. Stevens is a Professor of Biological Sciences. She previously mentored  PREP alums Dr. Leah Guthrie and Ms. Chastyn Smith ...Read More
Marcos rotated in the labs of  Drs. Padma Rajagopalan, Rafael Davalos and John Chappell. He is now in Dr. John Chappell's lab for his PREP year. Dr. Chappell is an Assistant Professor for Center for Heart and Regenerative Medicine Research, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and an Assistant Professor... Read More
Stefany rotated in the labs of Drs. Liqing Zhang, Jing Chen,  John Tyson. She is now with Dr. Zhang for her PREP year. Dr. Zhang who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science... Read More
Current Scholars Update 
Degree completions
Kristina Jiles (IMSD 7) successfully defended her PhD in HNFE, making her our 28 IMSD alumni to receive a PhD. Her advisor was Dr. Carlin Rafie. Congrats to Dr. Jiles, who was recruited to VT from Hampton University through a partnership with HNFE's then Graduate Program Director, Dr. Brenda Davy (previous mentor to PREP Alum, Dr. Serena Williams.
Recent Awards
HHMI Travel Award to PREP Scholar, Stefany Nunez Zavala (Zhang lab), to attend and present a poster at the  "Women in Computational Biology" conference. The conference highlighted work by women in traditionally male dominated fields and involved "presentations and discussions on the application of computer science, mathematics and physics to biomedical sciences."
Travel award from UNC, Chapel Hill, to PREP Scholar Claudia Perez (Duggal lab), to attend the 2019 Graduate School Preview Weekend. Photo shows her with PREP alum and current UNC PhD trainee, Dominique Munson.  Other PREP scholars who participated in Graduate School Previews were: Jose Monclova along with Claudia (Penn State) and Guadalupe Ceja (University of Indiana).
Demisha Porter (IMSD 11, Morton lab) was selected as a member of the 2019 Cohort of SMDP  (Science Mentoring & Diversity Program). SMDP is a program that pairs students with industry professionals in the biotechnology, medical technology and consumer healthcare industries. Several previous trainees, both IMSD and PREP, participated in previous cohorts of SMDP. 
Travel Award to Brittany Boribong (IMSD) to attend the ICMA VII : Seventh International Conference on Mathematical Modeling and Analysis of Populations in Biological Systems. The title of her talk was: "Quantifying effects of neutrophil memory on migration patterns using microfluidic platforms and ODEmodeling of the mechanistic molecular pathways." 
Best poster award to IMSD 12 scholar, Jose Sintas, at the MII (Macromolecules Innovation Institute) Technical Conference  for his presentation "Influence of Solution Properties on Photokinetics of Vat Photopolymerization Additive Manufacturing: Optimizing Thermomechanical Properties of Printed Objects"
Conferences Attended
CBEP 2019 Conference at Clemson University
Kevin Santiago Morales (PREP) along with Dr. Zac Mackey (IMSD Co-Director) and Thomas Cha (undergraduate Biochem student in Dr. Mackey's lab)  
2019 VA Branch - ASM
PREP 17 scholars: Kevin, Claudia and IMSD 12 scholars: Mariah and Guadalupe, with mentor. Dr. Ann Stevens
2019 BMES
PREP 17 scholars: Jose Monclova  & Marcos CervantesIMSD Scholars: Brittany Boribong & Kandace Donaldson and PREP Alums: Dr. Brittany Taylor and Hagar Kenawy
During 2019, Trevin Glasgow (IMSD) gave three presentations at the Convention of the Association for Psychological Science (APS):
- "How Do Fitness Facility Environments Promote Exercise Motivation and Influence Life. Satisfaction in College Students?"
- "How College Student Engagement, Stress and School Hassles Affect Daily Physical Activity Levels?"
- "Daily Use of Technology and Its Effect on Health and Well-Being: A Multi-level Approach to Understanding Technology Use and Well-Being

He also presented at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) Conference:
- "Agent-Based Modeling: Current and Future Directions in Organizational Psychology."
Life Changes
Congratulations to Alex  (IMSD 9) who will get married this January!
Alumni Updates
Recent Awards
Sarah Sam (Cal Tech, PhD candidate, IMSD undegrad Alum) was awarded the prestigious F31 grant.
Dr. Nikki Lewis, Collegiate Assistant Professor, Honors College, PREP alum  "received 4-VA Grant through the Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS) division to conduct a course redesign in the Honors College". Read more
Our IMSD alums, Drs. Anjolii Diaz & Jordan Booker were selected and awarded a travel fellowship to judge Scientific presentations at ABRCMS
Papers Published
Lara Dahora (IMSD)
"The Flavor Enhancer Maltol Increases Pigment Aggregation in Dermal and Neural Melanophores in Xenopus laevis Tadpoles"
Read more
Edgar Macal (IMSD)
"Loss of Endothelial FTO Antagonzines Obesity-Induced Metabolic and Vascular Dysfunction" Read More
Conferences Attended/Talks/New Opportunities
Our Alumni participated in the 2019 Institute on Teaching and Mentoring in Atlanta Georgia. PREP alums, Dr. Chevon Thorpe and Ms. Chastyn Smith, with Ms. Brittany Rice
IMSD alum, Dr. Elaine Nsoesie, Assistant professor, Boston University, was a featured guest on 
Beyond the Brink” to talk about “Big Data.”

Dr. Karey Sutton (PREP Alum), Director Health Equity Research Workforce, AAMC, was an invited speaker at George Washington University, as part of the Health Equity Series.
Dr Leah Banks ( PREP alum) started a new position as Assistant Director of Life Design at Johns Hopkins University in September. Her work with students in biomedical engineering reflects her passion in contributing to the future biomedical workforce.
Life Changes
Congratulations to PREP Alum, Dr. Gade Kimsawatde on her engagement! 
Guest speakers in our two series:
1. "What Can You Do With Your PhD?"
Dr. Peter Kennelly  discussed job opportunities for biomedical sciences PhDs and the challenges faced in graduate school. Dr. Kennelly focused a lot on how each scholar needs to pay attention and use the PhD to start building a successful career....Read more
Dr. Charlotte Amenkhienan, in her annual presentation to our scholars, emphasized both mental health and general well being as central to success in research and graduate school. 
Dr. Alexis White (IMSD Alum, Van Dyke Lab) discussed her work as a Consultant at Newry Corp. With your PhD, "do not close the door on opportunities like consultancy in industry."...Read more
Dr. Diane Kawa (Director, Scientific Affairs @ BD Life Sciences)  spoke about confronting challenges both in graduate school and as a research scientist in industry.  She counseled that you should "be mindful that a successful career in industry and anywhere else  does not follow a straight line."  To be successful, "you should take the opportunities that are presented to you"....Read more
VT alum, Dr. Tanea Reed (Associate Professor and Chair of the Chemistry Department at Eastern Kentucky University) advised the trainees to not be afraid of changing paths to accommodate situations and challenges that may arise. Seek out mentors and appreciate their support and counsel...Read more
2."Reflections: Surviving The Early Years in Graduate School"
Dr. Kacie Blackman (IMSD Alum, Zoellner), currently an Assistant Professor at California State University Northridge. mentioned to the trainees to be mindful of their mental health and general wellness...Read More
Shakarr Wiggins (PREP Alum, VandeVord Lab), PhD candidate in Neuroscience at Weill Cornell  Medicine. Shakarr spoke about her journey in PREP and her success in the early years, but yet difficult, in graduate school...Read more 
Simone Campbell (PREP Alum, Sewall), PhD candidate in Neuroscience at Emory University, counseled that "graduate School is a long road trip, so be mindful of the challenges and difficulties, but celebrate the successes too."
VT @ 2019 SACNAS
IMSD trainees Demisha Porter and Chris Garcia joined us this year at SACNAS in Hawaii (their first). At SACNAS we had the opportunity to meet with our IMSD alums Albert Hinman (now at Stanford) and Dr. Kacie Blackman (Assistant Professor at California State University Northridge) and PREP alum Tasmine Clement (PREP alum, University of Michigan), Brittany Taylor (PREP alum, Postdoc, Univ of Penn), Kacie Blackman (IMSD predoc Alum, Assistant professor, Cal State University Northridge) and Sarah Sam (Cal Tech, PhD candidate, IMSD undergrad alum).
We met up with alums for a hike

At dinner with our scholars
VT @ 2019 ABRCMS
This was Virginia Tech's 18th and best year at ABRCMS (thanks to Eni for coordinating this trip!). We had a great time! Our PREP 17 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 Anaheim we met PREP and IMSD alums: Brittany Rice (Kentucky, IMSD), and Dr. Anjolii Diaz (Ball State, IMSD), Jordan Booker (Asst professor, Missouri, IMSD), Faith Carter (Cornell, PREP), Steven Cerna (PREP), Kacie Blackman (IMSD predoc Alum, Assistant professor, Cal State University Northridge), Sarah Sam (Cal Tech, PhD candidate, IMSD undergrad alum)
IMSD Scholar Guadalupe Reynoso (first on the left) with PREP 17 Scholars: Marcos, Kerani, Claudia and Kevin @ ABRCMS
Dinner @ 2019 ABRCMS
Drs Zac Mackey and Ed Smith along with IMSD alum Dr. Kacie Blackman and PREP 16 alum, Steven Cerna.
Networking dinner with current and former PREP and IMSD scholars. 
Vicky (PREP & IMSD graduate assistant) networked with other scientists at ABRCMS.
Holiday Celebration:
Dr. Maisie Dawes was the keynote speaker for this holiday celebration. She spoke about her journey in graduate school, her research as a an Assistant Professor at Western University of Health Sciences, and life challenges that she has faced during her career....  Read More
Breakfast with our keynote speaker.
Current scholars at our Holiday Celebration
Upcoming Events
- Bi-Weekly Forum
Every other Thursday, starting Jan. 30th: 12:00 - 1:30 PM (see tentative schedule here)
- PREP Application
Reviewing begins March 1, 2020. For more information, contact us at vtprep@vt.edu.
- Advancing Diversity
- Faculty Women of Color

- MAPRS@MUSC (Contact Drs. Cynthia White and Laura Kasman)
- Women in STEM Richmond (Feb. 20)
- Black Alumni Reunion (April 17-19)

- The Office of the Directors is asking what measures we can take to improve the diversity of the High Risk, High Reward applicant pool: Request for Information (RFI): Increasing the diversity of applications to the NIH Common Fund High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program – NOT-RM-20-002.

Podcasts/books we recommend: 
Podcast:TED Radio Hour: podcast on “Scientific Inquiry”: our take  is that we should not rely on “advancing diversity in academia/STEM one funeral at a time.”
Copyright © 2019 VT PRIME, All rights reserved.
This edition of VT PRIME was edited by: Victoria Mukuni, Eni Ramaj and Dr. Ed Smith

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email: vtprep@vt.edu