In-House Summer Research Opportunities

Summer 2019 Student Scholarly Activity Award

The School of Medicine is pleased to announce the Summer 2019 Student Scholarly Activity Award. These are awards up to $2000 for students participating in the MEDI 8127 Scholarly Activities course elective. Deadline for application is April 1, 2019. Please see below for mentors or visit the SOM research webpage Find a Mentor.

Please see attached application package including instructions.

Faculty Mentor and Research Description

Kelsey Baker, PhD - Department of Health & Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Professions
To evaluation the feasibility of non-invasive neuromodulation to improve motor recovery in Veterans and patients with spinal cord injury (SCI). In addition, seeks to use neurophysiology and neuroimaging techniques to better define incompleteness of SCI as to improve the standard of care.

Sue Ann Chew, PhD - Department of Health & Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Professions
Research interest includes the development and characterization of biomaterials for tissue engineering and the treatment of cancer. 
Current projects: 1) Development of a porous biodegradable biomaterial system to deliver mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) expressing a miRNA that can induce osteogenesis and an miRNA that can induce angiogenesis for bone tissue engineering
2) The development of a biodegradable biomaterial system to locally deliver chemotherapy and anti-angiogenic drugs concurrently at the tumor site for the treatment of glioblastoma.

Ruth Crutchfield, SLP.D., CCC-SLP, - Communication Sciences & Disorders Program, College of Health Affairs
Currently executing controlled studies where the following question is being answered: Do intervention methodologies commonly used in English dominant populations in the areas of language and speech sound production effectively remediate Spanish dominant populations that present with communication disorders?
Current Research:
Language Disorders and Intervention in multi-cultural populations
Speech Disorders and Intervention in multi-cultural populations
Awareness levels of communication disorders in Hispanic populations

Francisco Fernandez, MD - School of Medicine 
Creating "Senior WISE Wellness In the Service of Elders" - A Mini Medical School on Aging. Through Senior WISE educate the community through science to promote the uptake of UTRGV's research findings into routine healthcare with the best treatments possible.

Samir Iqbal, PhD, PE - Department of Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering & Computer Science
The research spans around measuring pehontypical behaviors of cancer cells using high-speed imaging and data analytics.

Dean Kyne, PhD - Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts
Research interests are in the areas of Disaster Studies, Sustainability, Resiliency, and Social Capital Environmental Justice.  He is interested in interfacing with the School of Medicine in the areas of Neuroscience, Aging, Longevity, Resilience, CSL (Community Service Learning) and can contribute his expertise in Geographic and Information System (GIS) applications and analysis.

Christopher Jenkinson, PhD - STDOI
Genotyping DNA samples obtained from a study of the association between known genetic variants and type 2 diabetes and/or obesity. We wish to survey a large number of new DNAs, on hand, to search for genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes and/or obesity. The project will use quantitative PCR to map the variants.

Ying Jia, PhD - Department of Biology, College of Sciences
Animal venoms, such as snake and spider venoms, are complex mixtures of pharmacologically active proteins and peptides. We focus on cloning and purifying venom molecules for subsequent biomedical applications.

Dea Joon Kim, PhD - School of Medicine
My lab focuses on signaling mechanisms in environmental skin cancer using mouse model. I am also interested in chemoresistance mechanism in cancer.

Satish Kumar, PhD - STDOI
Project 1: Modeling nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in iPSC derived hepatic culture: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD/steatosis) is a state of metabolic dysregulation characterized by excessive lipid accumulation into hepatocytes and can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and hepatocellular injury. We have developed an induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) based hepatic culture system of mature hepatocytes and biliary/cholangiocytic structures, which better recapitulate the developmental and functional characteristics of the liver. In this project we will use this hepatic culture system to model NAFLD/steatosis by lipid overload challenge and quantitatively measure number of hepatic steatosis related cellular phenotypes using a high content imaging system.

Project 2: Experimental investigation of the nuclear response to depleting and repopulating mitochondrial DNA/function in Human cells: Mitochondrial retrograde regulation is the general term for mitochondrial signaling and is broadly defined as cellular responses to changes in the functional state of mitochondria - a process that is likely to have far-reaching implications in the development, aging, disease, and environmental adaptations. This project examines the changes in the expression of nuclear genes induced by depleting and repopulating mitochondrial DNA (surrogate of mitochondrial function) in human cells in in-vitro culture.

Alejandro Lopez-Juarez, Ph.D. - Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Affairs 
The research in my lab is focused on the function of glial cells and their interaction with other brain cell types.  We use combination of genetic, molecular, biochemical, imaging, and bioinformatic tools to understand brain function in vivo. Our main models of study are genetically engineered mice, that allows to mimic genetic disorders and/or recapitulate symptoms of human neurological diseases. 

Ming-Tsan P. Lu, PhD - Department of Teaching & Learning, College of Education & P-16 Integration
Research interests include educational positive psychology, STEM education HSI, teaching and learning, and experiential learning.

Yu-Cheng Lin, PhD - Department of Psychological Science, College of Liberal Arts
We are a growing team of cognitive science researchers working to understand the cognitive mechanisms underlying human language and decision making processes. In our lab, we conducted research on lexical processing (reading and listening), language development, and education studies in bilinguals and monolinguals in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan. Other areas of research include food decision-making, numerical cognition, special education (dyslexia and learning disabilities), and health literacy. Our studies make use of a wide range of research methodologies, including real-time experimental techniques such as eye-tracking and mouse -tracking methods. The general goal is to achieve a richer view of cognitive processes by combining these research methods.

Upal Roy, PhD - Department of Health & Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Professions
Research interests include HIV-1 infection, Drug development and delivery, Therapeutics, and Nanomedicine. He has a long-lasting interest in biological characterization of the drug for its therapeutic potentials in HIV infection. In this regard, he has developed several unique humanized mouse to reproduce human immune system and also developed several delivery platforms for targeted drug delivery. His work has always been very multidisciplinary and collaborative. The ultimate goal of his research is to develop next-generation therapy for people living with HIV and neurological disorders.

Ryan D. Russell, PhD - Department of Health & Human Performance, College of Health Professions
Project 1: A cross-sectional study aimed at identifying early pathological microvascular and metabolic function (microvascular blood flow in skeletal muscle, adipose, and liver; metabolic flexibility) likely contributing to increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Participants are healthy or have T2D, ages 18-70.

Project 2: A 6 week resistance training study aimed at identifying the reversibility of pathophysiological function in the microvascular and metabolic systems (highly-related to project 1).

View what is tested in Dr. Russell's Health Performance Lab

Samuel K. Synder, MD, FACS - School of Medicine
Endocrine surgery data base

Andrew Tsin, PhD - School of Medicine
Molecular events in Microvascular Diseases in the Eye: Diabetic Retinopathy and Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

Chun Xu, MD, MSc, PhD - Department of Health & Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Professions

Title: Pharmacogenetic study of CYP2C19 and CYP3A4 with treatment responses in SLE patients in the US Hispanic population.

Background: Inter-inpidual variability has been major problem to optimize disease management, specific autoimmune diseases. Precision medicine or personalized medicine holds promise for clinical care via tailor-made therapeutic strategies. Pharmacogenetic testing (PGx) is currently available for a wide range of autoimmune disorders. Tangible benefits to patients are currently being observed on a daily basis, including improved outcomes and reduced total health care costs. However, PGx-guided therapy faces many barriers to full integration into clinical practice and acceptance, whether practitioner, patient or payer. Among the genes suggested for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) treatment responses, we are interested in CYP3A4 and CYP2C19. Increasing evidence support that genetic variants in these two genes in association with cyclophosphamide (CPA) treatment among patients with SLE (Fujita et al., 2013, Takada et al.,. 2004) in the non-Hispanic populations. We aimed to investigate whether genetic variants of these genes can predict the response in SLE patients in the US Hispanic/Latino population.

Study design: We will genotype these variants in 100 patients with SLE and treatment responses. Genotyping will be performed using the TaqMan assay in a 96-well format at the QuantStudio6 Sequence Detection System (Applied Biosystems, Inc.) followed by data analysis.

Expect outcomes: Our future findings will help with genetic marker discovery for drug metabolizing enzymes, which could predict treatment response, adverse reactions and clinical efficacy of certain medication, such as CPA in the US Hispanic population. This is a necessary first step towards building clinical tools that will help assess clinical benefit and risk before undergoing CPA treatment in SLE patients.