Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

PREP Scholars and Faculty Mentors


BCM PREP Scholars have the freedom to choose a BCM Faculty Mentor based on their research interests found in the seven GSBS graduate programs:  Cancer & Cell Biology; Chemical, Physical & Structural Biology; Development, Disease Models & Therapeutics; Genetics & Genomics; Immunology & Microbiology; Neuroscience; Quantitative & Computational Biosciences. Select Faculty Lab websites provide information on the focus, projects and people working within them. PREP Scholars and faculty mentors are listed from the past five years.


18th-Year Cohort 2020/2021


Item Term
Katie Brandel-Ankrapp

Item Definition

Undergraduate Institution: Michigan State University
I’m an avid reader, writer, and endurance runner. Lover of cats and all things related to the brain and behavior. During my time at Michigan State, I worked on a project identifying novel gene targets regulated by chronic cocaine administration within the mouse ventral hippocampus to nucleus accumbens circuit.
Research Interest: Molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying addiction, anxiety, and mood disorders
Mentor: Benjamin Arenkiel, Ph.D.


Item Term
Estephanie Balbuena

Item Definition

Undergraduate Institution: Hunter College
I am interested in pursuing a career in neuroscience investigating how injury to the central nervous system affects motor or cognitive function. My ultimate goal is to develop more effective therapeutics that will allow full functional recovery following a severe injury. A fun fact about me is that I photograph and write creatively during my spare time.
Research Interest: Neuroscience
Mentor: Huda Zoghbi, M.D.


Item Term
Gabriela Gryc

Item Definition

Undergraduate Institution: Grinnell College
I’m Polish-American. I enjoy biking and experimenting with food and I have a 3rd-degree black belt in Taekwondo (I hope to continue martial arts in Houston!)
Research Interest: Neuroscience (Neurodegeneration), Molecular Biology (Cancer, Chemotherapeutic Resistance)
Mentor: Joanna Jankowski, Ph.D.


Item Term
Brianna Lopez

Item Definition

Undergraduate Institution: Arizona State University
I have done undergraduate research for the past three years. I have been involved in a number of research programs including FURI, SOLUR, and ASU/NASA Space grant programs. In my free time I enjoy all things nerdy such as DnD and anime!
Research Interest: Infectious Disease
Mentor: Jason Kimata, Ph.D.


Item Term
Peter Cruz Parrilla 

Item Definition

Undergraduate Institution: Haverford College
I am working towards preparing myself to pursue a Ph.D. in Computational or Theoretical Chemistry (or a related discipline). Additionally, I am very passionate about helping others, learning, and increasing accessibility to education in chemistry and the other sciences. Being originally from Puerto Rico, I moved to the United States when I was almost 11 years old. A fun fact is that I have two ferrets that fill my life with joy (and sometimes a bit of stress) with their fun and highly intelligent ways of interacting with their environment. They are truly fascinating pets.
Research Interest: Biophysics, Computational Chemistry, Drug Discovery
Mentor: Steven Ludtke, Ph.D.


Item Term
Katherine Perks

Item Definition

Undergraduate Institution: University of Texas Austin
While at UT Austin, I conducted research under Dr. Jonathan Pierce to identify the genetic basis for rescue of motor freezing in dopamine-deficient C. elegans, a model for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Parkinson’s disease. In my free time, I work as an editorial photographer and contribute to multiple student-run publications. I also enjoy playing sand volleyball.
Research Interest: Computational Neuroscience, Neurotechnology
Mentor: Jeffrey Yau, Ph.D.


Item Term
Harim Delgado-Seo

Item Definition

Undergraduate Institution: Universidad Ana G. Mendez
I am a warm-hearted and aspiring neuroscientist who is hungry to make positive contributions to the biomedical field. As a hobby, I like to draw and paint portraits and peaceful moments in my life.
Research Interest: Neuroscience
Mentors: Hsiao-Tuan Chao, M.D., Ph.D. & Minghsan Xue, Ph.D.


17th-Year Cohort 2019/2020 


Yonaida Valentine

Undergraduate Institution: Binghamton University
Graduate Institution: The Ohio State University
Research Title: Is the Spectrin Cytoskeleton Required for Axon Regeneration?
Mentor: Matthew Rasband, Ph.D.

Sumayyah Khan

Undergraduate Institution: University of Houston
Graduate Institution: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UT Health Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Research Title: Quantifying alpha dynamics in human visual cortex: an intracranial study
Mentor: Brett Foster, Ph.D.

Garrett Lindsay

Undergraduate Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara 
Graduate Institution: Scripps Research Institute 
Research Title: A Novel Therapeutic Approach for Treatment-Resistant Prostate Cancer
Mentor: Damian Young, Ph.D.

Anayah Ferris

Undergraduate Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Graduate Institution: University of Iowa
Research Title: The Role of RNA Splicing in Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
Mentor: Chonghui Cheng, M.D., Ph.D.

Jayso’n Davidson

Undergraduate Institution: Hampton University
Graduate Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Research Title: Gene Therapy Treatment for Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia.
Mentor: Xander Wehrens, M.D., Ph.D.

Miranda Torres

Undergraduate Institution: University of Texas at Dallas
Graduate Institution: Northwestern University
Research Title: Reproducible Behavioral and Cellular Deficits in a Rat Model of Contactin-Associated Protein-Like 2 Deficiency
Mentor: Rodney Samaco, Ph.D.

Joe Martinez

Undergraduate Institution: Carnegie Mellon University
Graduate Institution: California Institute of Technology
Research Title: Engineering Lactobacillus reuteri for probiotic delivery of therapeutics.
Mentor: Robert Britton, Ph.D. 


16th-Year Cohort 2018/2019 


Brooke Hull

Undergraduate Institution: University of Georgia
Graduate Institution: Princeton University
Research Title: Zika virus proteins interact with host cellular pathways in Drosophila
Mentor: Shinya Yamamoto, Ph.D.

Zevin Condiotte

Undergraduate Institution: Washington University
Graduate Institution: California Institute of Technology
Research Title: γ-glutamylcysteine Synthases Increase Lactobacillus reuteri Anti-inflammatory Properties
Mentor: James Versalovic, M.D., Ph.D. 

Grace Adeniyi-Ipadeola

Undergraduate Institution: Texas A & M, College Station
Graduate Institution: Baylor College of Medicine
Research Title: Ascaris Larvae Excretory-Secretory Products Are Potential Targets for Vaccine Development
Mentor: Jill Weatherhead, M.D.

Azaria Anderson

Undergraduate Institution: University of Nevada
Graduate Institution: University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Research Title: Seizures increase ∆FosB expression in brain areas related to psychiatric comorbidities in Alzheimer’s disease
Mentor: Jeannie Chin Medina, Ph.D.

Minerva Solis

Undergraduate Institution: University of St. Thomas
Graduate Institution: Baylor College of Medicine
Research Title: Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM1) is a novel theca cell specific androgen regulated gene in the ovary
Mentor: JoAnne Richards, Ph.D.

Thomas Fair

Undergraduate Institution: Winston Salem State University
Graduate Institution: Baylor College of Medicine
Research Title: Novel Nuclear Localization of JPH2 C-Terminal Fragment in Heart Failure
Mentor: Xander Wehrens, M.D., Ph.D.

Madelyn Szilagyi-Jones

Undergraduate Institution: Case Western Reserve University
Graduate Institution: Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Research Title: Loss of Magel2 alters anxiety-like behavior in the rat.
Mentor: Rodney Samaco, Ph.D.


15th-Year Cohort 2017/2018 


Barbara Nassif

Undergraduate Institution: University of Houston
Graduate Institution: University of Texas Health MD Anderson Cancer Center
Research Title: Role of the androgen receptor in estrogen receptor mutant breast cancer
Mentor: Suzanne Fuqua, Ph.D.

Kelsey Heavener

Undergraduate Institution: Simmons College
Graduate Institution: Columbia University Medical
Research Title: Modeling breast cancer through CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing
Mentor: Yi Li, Ph.D.

Markia Smith

Undergraduate Institution: University of Delaware
Graduate Institution: University of North Caroline Chapel Hill
Research Title: Generation of broader repertoire Epstein-Barr virus specific T cells for EBV+ lymphomas
Mentor: Clio Rooney, Ph.D.

Giovanni Monterroso

Undergraduate Institution: Northeastern Illinois University
Graduate Institution: Michigan State University
Research Title: Possible target for treating metabolic disorders?
Mentor: Atul Chopra, M.D., Ph.D.

Elizabeth Borneman

Undergraduate Institution: Georgetown University
Graduate Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Research Title: Seeing to See: Visualizing concepts for better understanding in neuroscience and machine learning
Mentor: Xaq Pitkow, Ph.D.

Kenneth Guzman Rodriquez

Undergraduate Institution: University of Puerto Rico-Cayey
Graduate Institution: University of North Caroline Chapel Hill
Research Title: Synthesis of (+)JQ1 analogs with enhanced metabolic stability
Mentor: Damian Young, Ph.D.


14th-Year Cohort 2016/2017 


David Cardenas 

Undergraduate Institution: University of Houston Downtown
Graduate Institution: University of Houston School of Medicine
Research Title: Activation of epigenetically silenced genes to target aggressive breast cancer phenotypes
Mentor: Jeff Rosen, Ph.D.

Taylor Jefferson 

Undergraduate Institution: Baylor University
Graduate Institution: Northwestern University
Research Title: Abnormal Purkinje cell firing during development in Car8wdl mice
Mentor: Roy Sillitoe, Ph.D.

Faith Joseph 

Undergraduate Institution: Xavier University of Louisiana
Graduate Institution: Baylor College of Medicine
Research Title: The role of CD5 in T-Reg Induction
Mentor: Maria Bettini, Ph.D.

Dakari McCoy

Undergraduate Institution: University of New Mexico
Graduate Institution: University of Southern California
Research Title: Virtual reality manipulations of visual and non-visual cues for proprioception
Mentor: Jeffrey Yau, Ph.D.

Dominique Thompson

Undergraduate Institution: Northwestern State University
Graduate Institution: Baylor College of Medicine
Research Title: Examining biomarkers of environmental polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in placental and cord blood samples
Mentor: Melissa Suter, Ph.D.

Antonio Valentin-Acevedo

Undergraduate Institution: University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla
Graduate Institution: Baylor College of Medicine
Research Title: HIV-1 replication block autophagy by preventing cleavage of GAG-LC3
Mentor: Sue Crawford, Ph.D.

Justin Branch

Undergraduate Institution: The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Research Tech, Baylor College of Medicine
Research Title: Validating splice altering variants in Leber congenital amaurosis patients 
Mentor: Rui Chen, Ph.D.