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Stephanie Cantu's Honors Thesis wins Award

Biology honors student Stephanie Cantu won the award for the best honors thesis of 2019.  Ms. Cantu is an honors student in the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Vitek, studying Zika virus infection patterns in mosquitoes.  She started working in a research lab early, taking advantage of the research opportunities for undergraduates.  She has worked on bacterial resistance and gene discovery, and was even invited to conduct research at the Imperial College of London. 

Stephanie Cantu's Honors Thesis wins Award

As a junior and senior, she worked in Dr. Vitek’s laboratory examining vertical transmission in disease vectors, and has presented her research at international conferences.  These opportunities further cemented her interest in research with a medical or public health perspective.  Following graduation, she plans to pursue translational medical research in cancer biology.  Ms. Cantu shares the award with a fellow student from the chemistry department.

Outstanding Talk

Dr. kathryin Perez's student Dominique Alvear won Best Student Oral Presentation at the International conference for the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society today. She was up against graduate students of all levels and gave a great talk.


Two of Dr. Kathryin Perez received awards at the Texas Academy of Science Conference (Feb. 2019). They were:

Dominique Alvear received the award for Top Undergraduate Oral Presentation in the Freshwater Sciences category.

Briante Najev received the 3rd place award in the Graduate Student Competition.

Medical Entomology Information

UTRGV Application to the Undergraduate Certificate in Medical Entomology

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Biology Department is proud to announce the development of a new certification program.  This certification program, a certificate in Medical Entomology, was developed in conjunction with the Western Gulf Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease, as well as the UTRGV Center for Vector Borne Disease.  The goal of this program is to train students in the broad field of Medical Entomology, a field that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated a strong need to expand the pool of qualified professionals.  The UTRGV certificate will allow students to be recognized for completing a rigorous series of courses designed to both train students for careers and encourage their interest in the field of Medical Entomology.  This certification program will benefit students who have a wide variety of interests and career goals – including students interested in human or public health fields, veterinary studies, pursuing graduate education in Medical Entomology, or those who are interested in pursuing a job in the field after graduation. 

Students in the program will take the UTRGV course Medical Entomology, which is currently offered in the fall semesters during even years.  In addition, students will take at least one supporting course in each of three related areas: Disease Biology (course options include General Microbiology, Medical Microbiology and Immunology, General Virology, and Medical Genomics), Invertebrate Biology (course options include Invertebrate Zoology, Animal Parasitology, and Entomology), and Ecology (course options include Microbial Ecology, Disease Epidemiology, and Global Change Ecology).  These courses align with the biology degree at UTRGV, so courses you take will meet requirements for both the biology degree and the certification.  For practical experience in the field, students will be required to conduct a semester long research project or public health internship (must be approved by the advisory committee and overseen by a UTRGV faculty member). 

While the program is designed for UTRGV students who are rising sophomores, the program is open to all students (including non-degree-seeking students) to apply.  The completion of the certification will be included in your transcript.  To be accepted into the program, students must have 30 or more undergraduate credit hours, have successfully completed the two Introductory Biology classes (or their equivalent) with a grade of C or better, and have a cumulative GPA of no less than 2.75.  To remain in the program, students must receive no less than a “B” in any of the courses related to the certification, and have a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher.  The final component to complete the program will require students to provide a written summary of their experience in the program to the program supervisor, as well as give a brief seminar presentation on their research or internship experience.

If you have any questions about this program, please contact Dr. Christopher Vitek (  The program will accept new applications each spring, to begin in the following fall semester.  Applications for Fall 2018 are due by Monday, August 13, 2018.  Applications should be sent to Dr. Christopher Vitek (

Thirteen RGV HOSA Chapter Members Selected at the HOSA State Competition

RGV HOSA chapter selected 14 members of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) State Conference in Grapevine, TX earlier this month. Thirteen members have placed in their events and will be advancing to the International Conference in Dallas this June where they will not only be competing against universities across the United States but with other students from around the World.  

students at conference

Right to Left: Sam Gutierrez (Public Health Team: 1st), Gabriela Valdez (Public Health Team: 1st), Mary Grace Chiu (Public Health Team: 1st) , Ricardo Reyna (Public Health Team: 1st), Servando Martinez (Creative Problem Solving Team: 1st), Alemy Rodriguez (Creative Problem Solving Team: 1st), Briana Gonzalez (Pharmacology: 1st), Krystal Garcia (Creative Problem Solving Team: 1st), Naomi Gutierrez (Creative Problem Solving Team: 1st), Victoria Gonzalez (Health Career Photography: 1st), Rey Barron (Extemporaneous Writing: 1st), Brandon Tiu (Public Health Team: 1st), and Daniel Delgado (Sports Medicine: Finalist)

Biology Department’s Commendation for Excellence in Organismal Biology

Students recognized for this achievement (in alphabetical order):














































Biology Department’s Commendation for Excellence in Quantitative Reasoning

Capstone students earn this recognition from the Department of Biology for achieving a score of 70% or greater on the Scientific Methods Test. This year out of 251 biology students taking the test 28 students reached this benchmark. This is a very challenging test with a national average of 50% among college students. A score of 70% or greater is an accomplishment and we want to recognize our students that have achieved excellence in this important scientific skill set.

Students listed in alphabetical order:

  • Estefania Alexandre-Cantu
  • Elizabeth Alukal
  • Sanam Babbar
  • Anushka Bhowal
  • Alberto Cantua
  • Natalya Gallaga
  • Estefania Gonzalez
  • Mary Guerra
  • Marco Jauregui
  • Divya Kompella
  • Jessica Lora
  • Carlos Maldonado
  • Ariza Martinez
  • Servando Martinez
  • Leticia Orozco
  • Javier Parra
  • Tomas Ream
  • Sidney Charm Reyes
  • Ramiro Rodriguez
  • Vanessa Sanchez
  • Josue Serna
  • Siddanth Singh
  • Abdussamad Syed
  • Alondra Torres
  • Olivia Totten
  • Erica Valdes
  • Darryn Vasquez
  • Manuel Zavala

Biology Department’s Certificate of Excellence in Cell Biology & Genetics

Sixteen BIOL 1406 students demonstrated knowledge of Cell Biology and Genetics on the departmental Cell & Genetics test earning the Biology Department Certificate of Excellence in Cell Biology & Genetics while in General Biology.

Students listed in alphabetical order:

  • Eduardo Alvear
  • Matthew Bernal
  • Yolanda Cavazos
  • Daniel De La Cruz
  • Natalia De La Garza
  • Miguel Fernandez
  • Antonio Gonzalez
  • Leslie Hernandez
  • Marco Jauregui
  • Solomon Koomson Dadzie
  • Tabatha Martinez
  • Melany Rodriguez
  • Dulce Salas
  • Alejandro Silva
  • Karla Wong
  • Andrea Zarate