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PREP Scholars

Meet the 2018 PREP Scholars 

Victoria Alers

Victoria graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with Leadership Distinction in Research. While obtaining her undergraduate degree, shePhoto of Victoria Alers volunteered in Dr. Mythreye Karthikeyan’s cell signaling and cancer biology lab focused on transforming growth factor beta-regulated cancer progression. During her time in PREP she will work under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Carroll investigating genetic and molecular mechanisms of neuropathology. She hopes to pursue a research career in cancer discovery bioinformatics.

Luis Aponte-Cofresi

Luis grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico and graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus with a B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology. Luis worked in Dr. Jimenez’s lab at thePhoto of Luis Aponte-Cofresi University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus and was part of the MARC program where he wrote his senior thesis on HCN Channel Distribution on Dopaminergic Neurons of the Ventral Tegmental Area. As part of the NSF grant PIRE, Luis spent a summer in Italy where he received the training necessary to work on his senior thesis. During the summer of 2017, Luis worked in the lab of Dr. Peter Kalivas at the Medical University of South Carolina on the effects of N-acetylcysteine during transient cue-induced heroin seeking. This year in MUSC PREP, he will continue his neuroscience focus in the laboratory of Dr. Heather Boger.

Alexis Erasta Carey

Alexis is originally from Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated valedictorian with a B.S. in Biology from Clark Atlanta University in May 2018. As an undergraduate, Photo of Alexis Erasta CareyAlexis was selected to present her  research studies on a combination treatment for castration-resistant prostate cancer in a keynote talk at MUSC’s annual E.E. Just Symposium. At this symposium she discovered PREP here at MUSC. Alexis has high aspirations to contribute to the scientific community not only through a career in biomedical research but also through an academic career by teaching the next generation of scientists.

Nicolas Gray Shealy (Nic)

Nic grew up in Columbia, SC. He graduated from the College of Charleston with a B.S. in Biology and a Chemistry minor in 2018. During his undergraduate career, he did research in natural products Photo of Nicolas Gray Shealy (Nic) drug discovery with Mark T. Hamann PhD, extracting and analyzing the secondary metabolites of bacterial species including Akkermansia municiphila. He also participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program at MUSC in 2017. Under the mentorship of Amy D. Bradshaw PhD, Nic investigated post-translational modification of extracellular matrix proteins. He is continuing his work with Dr. Bradshaw during his PREP year where he will examine pathogen modifications to the human host ECM that could elucidate disease modalities.

Delenn Solis

Delenn is originally from Dallas, Texas. She earned a B.A. in Neuroscience at Reed College in Portland, Oregon in May 2018. Her first exposure to the scientific research world occurred in the summerPhoto of Delenn Solis of her junior year at the University of Oregon, where she studied local and global visual processing in relation to autistic traits under the guidance of Dr. Paul Dassonville. Inspired by this research, Delenn spent her senior year back at Reed College studying local/global processing in grapheme-color synesthetes under the supervision of Dr. Michael Pitts. She will be joining Dr. Jane Joseph’s lab this year, to study the effects of social skills training on people with autism, both at the neural and behavioral level, and how brain stimulation can augment these effects. In the future, Delenn hopes to obtain a Ph.D. in neuroscience, after which she would like to study visual perception in people with various conditions, with a focus on the neuroimaging of socio-emotional processing in people with autism.

Darian Thomas

Darian is a PREP scholar from Spartanburg, South Carolina. In May 2018, she graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Genetics. While obtaining herPhoto of Darian Thomas undergraduate degree she volunteered in the lab of Dr. James Morris where she investigated the effects that small molecule inhibitors have on the metabolism of parasites of the Plasmodium genus. During her year in PREP, she will work under the mentorship of Dr. Amanda LaRue where she will investigate the role of hematopoietic stem cells in obesity and breast cancer progression. Darian hopes that her experience in the PREP program will prepare her for a career in the field of translational research. She hopes to obtain her PhD in Biomedical Sciences.

Meet the 2017 PREP Scholars

Roger Ian Grant

Ian grew up in Boston, Massachusetts but is in his 7th year as a South Carolina resident. He attended the College of Charleston and graduated with a B.S. in Biology with a Neuroscience minor in 2015.Photo of Roger Ian Grant As a PREP scholar, he worked in the neurovascular imaging lab of Dr. Andy Shih, studying the hierarchy and diversity of pericytes within the murine brain cortex using multiphoton imaging. He published his work in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. He is currently a first year PhD student at the Medical University of South Carolina

Lonzie Hedgepeth

Lonzie Hedgepeth graduated in May 2017 from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. As a RISE scholar at UNC-Pembroke, he performed dose-Photo of Lonzie Hedgepethresponse experiments to test antimicrobial properties of a traditional Lumbee Native American medicinal plant remedy. During the summer of 2016, he participated in the Biophysical Society’s Summer Course in Biophysics at UNC-Chapel Hill where he practiced mathematical modeling of biological systems. In his PREP year he is worked in Elizabeth Yeh’s lab where he investigated a protein kinase called HUNK and its implication in breast cancer. He is currently employed at ScitoVation, in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Shelia Johnson

Shelia Johnson is from Nashville, Tennessee and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. She is interested in health disparities andPhoto of Shelia Johnson health outcomes research. During her PREP year she took epidemiology courses with the MUSC Ph.D. students and worked with Dr. Carolyn Jenkins in the MUSC College of Nursing, conducting community based participatory research on stroke recovery education among African Americans in the Charleston area. She is currently employed at the Greenwood Genetics Center in North Charleston, S.C.

Valeria Montalvo-Calero

Valeria grew up in Isabela, Puerto Rico and graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez in 2017 with a degree in Industrial Microbiology. She has taken part in research in severalPhoto of Valeria Montalvo-Calero microbiology and immunology laboratories, including work with Drs. Nannette Diffoot and Paul Sundaram in the UPR Molecular Virology Tissue Engineering Laboratory which she presented at ABRCMS in 2016. In addition to science, Valeria was the captain of the UPR-Mayaguez Women’s Varsity Soccer Team from 2012-2014 and hopes to stay involved in the sport as a referee. During her year in MUSC PREP, she worked in the immunopathology laboratory of Dr. Carl Atkinson.. She hopes to pursue a research career in the biomedical sciences.

Daniel Salas

Seven days after earning his Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from the University of Guam in May 2017, Daniel Salas flew 8,000 miles over three days to get to MUSC from his home in the VillagePhoto of Daniel Salas of Barrigada located in Guam, USA. As a summer undergraduate research fellow, he worked in the lab of Dr. Declan McCole at University of California Riverside, where he investigated the morphological effects of a PTPN2 gene knockout in a mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease. Before that, he participated in a project with Dr. Timothy Righetti at the University of Guam, researching endocrine disrupting chemicals found in Sevin, a pesticide that is readily available to consumers. For his year in MUSC PREP, Daniel worked in the laboratory of Dr. Chrystal Paulos on the optimization of adoptive T-cell therapies for the treatment of cancer . He is currently a first year PhD student at the University of Michigan –Ann Arbor.

Erica Iris Williams

Erica Iris Williams is originally from Conyers, GA. She graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Furman University in May 2017. As an undergraduate, Photo of Erica Iris WilliamsErica was one of only two students selected to present her research studies on cancer cell migration in a keynote talk at MUSC’s annual E.E. Just Symposium. She gave a well-received presentation to over 300 attendees and later participated in a panel discussion for the visiting students. As an MUSC PREP scholar, Erica worked with Dr. Paula Traktman in her laboratory investigating drugs that inhibit pox virus replication. Erica is a first year PhD student at the University of Arizona where she will pursue her PhD in pharmacology.

2016 Former Scholars

Melina Acosta

Melina Acosta (MUSC PREP scholar 2016-17) from Charleston, South Carolina earned her Bachelor of Science from the College of Charleston in 2015 where she majored in Psychology and minoredPhoto of Melina Acosta in Neuroscience. In addition to undergraduate research under the mentorship of Dr. Jennifer Wilhelm, Melina worked for a year as a clinical trials coordinator in the South Carolina Center for Translational Research before entering MUSC PREP. In the PREP, she investigated gender-related differences in the effects of oxytocin on reinstatement following heroin self-administration under Dr. Carmela Reichel. Starting in the fall of 2017, Melina will be a pre-doctoral student in Neuroscience at the University of California in Riverside, where she has been awarded the Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship. Melina completed her first year of graduate school on the honor roll. She presented her work at the International Congress of Neuroendocrinology conference in Toronto Canada.

Luis Cardenas

Luis Cardenas (MUSC PREP Scholar 2016-17) grew up in North Augusta, South Carolina. He earned his BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Photo of Luis Cardenasfrom the University of South Carolina in 2015. In the PREP, he joined the research group of Drs. Mark Rubinstein and John Wrangle where he investigated the role of IFN-γ during combinational therapy with IL-15/Il-15 Rα complexes and anti-DP-1 mAb in a preclinical model of lung cancer. He is currently working in the lab of Dr. Carsten Krieg as a research specialist.

Danielle Chappell

Danielle Chappell (MUSC Scholar 2016-17) graduated from The Ohio State University in 2015 with a B.S. in Microbiology. Upon graduation, she accepted a full time position as a virology technician atPhoto of Danielle Chappell Battelle Memorial Institute, a private non-profit research institute, where she contributed to several research publications and developed a strong desire to pursue a Ph.D. During her PREP year, she conducted oncolytic virotherapy research in the lab of Dr. Eric Bartee, specifically studying how to enhance the potential of T-cell co-stimulation by myxoma virus. Danielle has completed her first year of PhD training at UNC Chapel Hill in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program where she was awarded the prestigious 5 year Royster Fellowship.

Thibaut Pardo-Garcia

Thibaut Pardo Garcia (MUSC PREP Scholar 2016-17) graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras with honors in May 2016. As an undergraduate in the NIH-ENDURE program, hePhoto of Thibaut Pardo-Garcia participated in research under the mentorship of Dr. Carmen Maldonado studying the neurobiology of cocaine addiction. In MUSC PREP, he investigated the endocannabinoid system of the brain within the nucleus accumbens, under the mentorship of Dr. Peter W. Kalivas, examining brain circuits involved in addiction using Iontophoresis, DREADD and Optogenetics. Thibaut is currently a first year pre-doctoral student at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor pursuing his PhD in the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBD). Thibuaut works in the Du lab studying the effects of a high sugar diet on the reward circuit in a Drosophila animal model. In addition to earning all A’s in his coursework, he prepared 2 manuscripts on his work and participated in several Neuroscience education community outreach programs.

Korey Smith

Korey Smith (MUSC PREP Scholar 2016-17) is originally from the town of Merrillville, Indiana. In May of 2016 he earned a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Psychology at Johnson C. Smith University,Photo of Korey Smith located in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a PREP scholar, Korey conducted research in Dr. Jamie Peter’s emotional memory lab, focusing on reward-seeking behavior in rodents when exposed to drugs of abuse. He also worked with clinical faculty in the Sleep Lab at the MUSC Institute of Psychiatry. Korey is entering Ball State University in the fall of 2017 to pursue a Master’s Degree in the Clinical Psychology program with a Departmental Assistantship award from the University. After successfully completing his first year, he decided to pursue a different path and is now directing his energy to community service.

2015 Former Scholars

Aissatou T. Ba

Aissatou Ba was born in Senegal, West Africa and came to the United States at a young age to finish her studies. In 2013, she graduated from the College of Charleston with a B.S. in Biology. Her Photo of Aissatou T. Ba research interests include cancer and infectious disease epidemiology. She is currently doing research on colorectal cancer disparities and their possible relation to hematologic parameters, such as platelet/neutrophil: lymphocyte ratios. Her eventual goal is to conduct public health research in West Africa in partnership with the World Health Organization or a similar organization. When not studying or conducting research, Aissatou enjoys religious studies, cooking, spending time with family, and community service- counseling people on their physical, emotional, and spiritual problems.

Aissatou is currently working on her PhD at the Medical University of South Carolina in Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Science.

 

Austin D. Gray

Austin Gray is a PREP scholar from Charleston, SC. He attended The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in 2013. He then continued his Photo of Austin Gray education at The Citadel where he received his Master of Arts in Biology in 2014. His research interests include environmental sciences, aquatic toxicology, and environmental epidemiology. When not working in the lab, Austin enjoys going to the movies, writing and performing poetry, and running.

In his third semester of his PhD program, Austin presented his dissertation proposal and passed his comprehensive exams and was appointed to candidacy. Congratulations to our first PREP scholar to achieve this milestone!

 

 

Jessica Patterson

Jessica Patterson is a PREP scholar from Alpharetta, GA.Photo of Jessica Patterson
She earned her Bachelor's of Science in Psychology from Clemson University in 2015. Her research interests include behavioral neuroscience with an emphasis on neuropsychiatric disorders and addiction. In her free time, Jessica enjoys reading, exercising, and playing with her puppy.
Jessica is currently Human Resources Administrator at Portwatch Logistics.

 

Jada Suber

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Jada Suber is a PREP scholar from Clinton, South Carolina, conducting immunology research in the lab of Dr. Chentha Vasu.Photo of Jada Suber
In May 2015, she graduated from Presbyterian College in Clinton, South  Carolina, with a degree in Chemistry and a minor in Creative Writing. With aspirations to further her education through a graduate program, she has strong interests in contributing to the field of scientific research. During the summers of 2013 and 2014, Jada participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research program at the Medical University of South Carolina. Jada is also a writer and photographer, having combined those pursuits in a self-published children's book as well as a photography business.

Jada is currently in a PhD program at UNC Chapel Hill studying Immunology. Jada attended 2 conferences this past year, presenting her work while completing all of her course requirements.