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UTRGV biology graduate wins coveted NSF Graduate Fellowship

Dr. Teresa Feria Arroyo, a UTRGV associate professor of biology, has been a mentor to Ramiro Patino, who graduated May 14 this year with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Patino, who has been awarded a coveted National Science Foundation graduate fellowship, was selected from among 17,000 applications; only 2,000 students were awarded the fellowship. (UTRGV Photo by Kristela Garza)

By Jennifer L. Berghom

EDINBURG, TEXAS – JUNE 22, 2016 – The tattoo on Ramiro Patino’s left forearm — of a 2-Azetidinone amide, a chemical compound that serves as a building block for some penicillin-derived antibiotics — serves as a reminder of two things: his love of science and his need to remain humble.

“I have a passion for science, for biology and chemistry, and I wanted a tattoo related to organic chemistry,” he said. “I thought it would be funny, because I’m allergic to penicillin. I feel that remaining humble is really important for science.”

Patino graduated May 14 from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley with a bachelor’s degree in biology, after a successful scholastic career: Most recently, he became the third student from UTRGV and legacy institution UT Pan American to receive a prestigious graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which advances him beyond master’s work directly into his doctoral studies.

The NSF received almost 17,000 applications for the 2016 competition and, of those, only 2,000 were awarded the fellowship.

NSF fellows receive a three-year, $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, research opportunities and professional development. They are allowed to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

Patino will now go on to study infectious diseases at the University of California San Francisco, where he skips graduate courses and jumps to pursuing his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. The program lasts five to six years, which starts this September.

A Reynosa native, Patino transferred to UTPA in 2013 after two years at the Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas and stayed at UTRGV because of the research opportunities.

“UTRGV will always have a special place in my heart,” Patino said.

He was part of the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program and was paired with Dr. Teresa Feria Arroyo, an associate professor of biology, as his mentor. During his time at UTRGV, Patino has studied Chagas disease with Dr. Feria. Together, the two have co-authored two journal papers and have a third one being published.

Patino completed an internship at UCLA through the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) last summer, where he studied the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. He won a national award at the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Seattle last fall for his research how some white blood cells contribute to inflammation during infections with the parasite, based on his work at UCLA.

Other awards include outstanding poster presentations from the Texas Academy of Science in San Antonio in 2015 and from the SACNAS National Conference in Los Angeles in 2014. He also received a SACNAS Travel Scholarship that same year.

Feria said she is proud of Patino and feels lucky to be his mentor.

“He’s an outstanding student given his passion, his love for research, and his initiative,” she said. “To see students like Ramiro come to work makes me feel like this is worth it. You feel confident that your students are going to do well, that you can get into other activities and you know they’re going to be doing the right thing.”

UTRGV graduate and NSF Graduate Fellow Ramiro Patino says the tattoo on his forearm of a 2-Azetidinone amide – a chemical compound that serves as a building block for some penicillin-derived antibiotics – is a personal joke that reminds him of his love of science and his need to remain humble: He’s allergic to penicillin. (UTRGV Photo by Kristela Garza)

UTRGV graduate and NSF Graduate Fellow Ramiro Patino says the tattoo on his forearm of a 2-Azetidinone amide – a chemical compound that serves as a building block for some penicillin-derived antibiotics – is a personal joke that reminds him of his love of science and his need to remain humble: He’s allergic to penicillin. (UTRGV Photo by Kristela Garza)

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