Research Opportunities

Research Opportunities for Medical Students

UTRGV School of Medicine students have the opportunity to work with STDOI researchers in laboratories located in Brownsville, Edinburg, and San Antonio. Current projects with opportunities for students from the School of Medicine are listed below.

Occasionally, short-term (eight to ten weeks duration), entry level research associate positions are available to assist with grant-funded projects. Please check the HR website for availability of these positions.

Stem Cell Laboratory (Kumar and Blangero Lab, Edinburg) 

The Department of Human Genetics’ Stem Cell Biology laboratory located on the UTRGV Edinburg campus develops in-vitro cell-models of human inherited disorders to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in disease risk and the underlying genetic components influencing disease phenotypes. The lab uses state of the art induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to generate disease specific target cells for which tissues can be difficult to obtain without invasive surgery or which only become available post-mortem.

Many STDOI research programs focus on common complex disease genetics and gene identification utilizing large family-based studies. The Department of Human Genetics has a large repository of blood derived immortalized cell lines (lymphoblastoid cell lines) established from > 2000 participants of its San Antonio Mexican American Family Studies (SAMAFS). A transgene integration free methodology developed in-house is used to reprogram these human blood derived cell lines into iPSCs for in-vitro disease modeling.

Two students can be accommodated during the summer of 2020. There are several different options for project choice based on the area of disease interest and the ongoing research programs in the laboratory. The research projects generally involve both wet and dry lab components but could be solely wet-lab or dry-lab (analysis of the existing research data).

  • Opportunities for wet lab work include introduction and basic training in cellular reprogramming and differentiation, cell-based disease modeling, deep cellular phenotyping using florescence and bright field microscopy, flow cytometry and high content screening, and DNA, RNA and protein analysis using candidate gene and genome wide approaches.
  • Opportunity for dry lab work include alignment and analysis of candidate gene or genome wide DNA and RNA sequence data, including genome wide gene expression data. In-silico functional annotation analysis of the identified candidate gene(s). Statistical analysis of the quantitative cellular phenotypic, genomic and genotypic data.

Contact Satish Kumar, Ph.D., at

Curran and Blangero Laboratories

Genetic Analysis of Complex Diseases

STDOI investigators have been leading a long-term study of Mexican American individuals belonging to very large extended pedigrees from San Antonio since 1991. During the course of the study, vast amounts of phenotypic and genomic data have been collected. The phenotypic information associated with the project is primarily related to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, and brain structure and function. 

Three students can be accommodated during the summer of 2018 at the STDOI-Brownsville. There are several different options for project choices, based on the area of disease interest. Research projects could be solely wet-lab, solely dry-lab (analytical) or involve a combination of work in both wet labs and dry labs. 

  • Opportunities for wet lab work involve several aspects of human molecular genetic analysis including such tasks as the extraction of DNA and RNA from human blood samples, genotyping of DNA sequence variants (both low and high-throughput), sequencing of both DNA and RNA, and phenotyping assays in human plasma samples. 
  • Opportunities for dry-lab work involve working with members of the statistical genetic analysis team to analyze genetic and phenotypic data using the state of the art STDOI computing resources, including an 11,000 processor computer cluster, and the software, SOLAR, that was developed in-house by STDOI investigators and is now used by over 5000 users across the world for analysis of genetic data.

Contact Dr. Joanne Curran at

GATE Laboratory

Genetic and Translational Epidemiological Research on Complex Diseases

As part of STDOI, our research group has been involved in genetic studies of complex diseases such type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, diabetes complications, gallbladder disease, metabolic syndrome, childhood obesity and its cardio-metabolic correlates, acanthosis nigricans, birth weight and adulthood diseases, premature birth, HIV and arboviral infections. The major goals of these studies are to identify genetic and environmental factors and their interactive influences on variation in a given complex trait. Importantly, we have been using advanced molecular, omics, statistical, and statistical genetic technologies to localize, identify and functionally characterize genetic variants or biomarkers that contribute to susceptibility to a given disease or variation in a given quantitative trait related to a disease. 

  • Opportunities for wet lab work involve introduction and use of the following laboratory techniques: Extraction of DNA and RNA from human blood samples, Quantitative RT-PCR, Genotyping, DNA gel electrophoresis, Western Blotting, Cell culture, Cellular differentiation, and Multiparametric flow cytometry. 
  • Opportunities for dry-lab work include clinical epidemiology design; application of mathematical models to health; univariate and multivariate statistical analysis; statistical genetic analyses to analyze genetic and phenotypic data obtained from family- and population-based studies; and bioinformatics. Several computer programs such as SOLAR, SPSS and Excel will be used to perform statistical and statistical genetic analyses. Training in analysis of whole-genome gene expression datasets (e.g., RNA-Seq) also is available.

Three to six students can be accommodated in the summer of 2018 at STDOI-Edinburg in the EREBL Laboratories. Available mentors include Drs. Ravi Duggirala, Chris Jenkinson, Srinivas Mummidi, Rector Arya, and Juan Carlos Alvarenga.

Contact Dr. Chris Jenkinson at