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Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

I&M Admissions Committee

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The I&M Admissions Committee includes 10 faculty and 6 graduate students. To help you get to know these people with whom you will be meeting on your interview days, we asked them to share some information about themselves. The members of the committee are listed below by alphabetical order of last name.

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Christine Beeton, Ph.D. (Program Director)

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Dr. Christine Beeton
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. After high school, I moved to the French mainland and obtained a B.S. in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille.

Why did you decide to pursue science?
Volunteer work in an Immunology research lab during my undergraduate got me hooked!

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
The collaborative spirit, clearly visible during my interview, is what drew me and keeps me at BCM.

What are your research interests?
My research focuses on targeting ions and ion channels for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, mainly multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. As sources for ion channel modulators, I often turn to venom toxins.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
I spend as much time as possible outdoors, gardening or exploring the wetlands around Houston. I enjoy wildlife photography and Houston is a perfect place for this, being on one of the major migration routes for birds and monarch butterflies.

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Robert Britton, Ph.D.

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Robert Britton, Ph.D.
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in Biology.  I then attended Baylor College of Medicine to pursue my Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology.  

Why did you decide to pursue science?
As an undergraduate I was able to work in two different research laboratories that allowed me to do independent research.  Those experiences made it clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career in research. 

What are your research interests?
I became interested in how microbes impact human health while a postdoctoral fellow at MIT and built an independent research program at Michigan State University in the area of the human microbiome impact on health and disease.  In 2014 I moved back to Baylor College of Medicine as part of the Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research.  We currently are exploring several projects in the area of microbial therapeutics and hope to translate this work into solutions for the prevention and treatment of human disease.

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Doug Burrin, Ph.D.

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Doug Burrin, Ph.D.
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Indiana and went to the University of Purdue for undergraduate education and Nebraska for doctoral training.

Why did you decide to pursue science?
I decided to pursue science when I started my postdoctoral training at BCM.

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
I came to BCM because I wanted to train with a specific person that became a great mentor in my early career.

What are your research interests?
My research interests are in pediatric nutrition and gastroenterology and my work is focused on how nutrition influences development and the risk for disease in premature infants.

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Andre Catic, M.D., Ph.D.

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Andre Catic, M.D., Ph.D.
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Germany and went to medical school in Ulm. I wrote my dissertation on novel tuberculosis vaccines. In 2001, I came to the US to pursue a Ph.D. in Immunology at Harvard Medical School.

Why did you decide to pursue science?
I always wanted to be a scientist, preferably in astrophysics. At that time, there was hardly a market for such a choice, so I went to medical school instead. Luckily, I was able to fulfill my dream by becoming a biomedical scientist.

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
BCM is amazingly collaborative. I love the research being done here, the collegiality, and the proximity to a large medical center.

What are your research interests?
Our lab is working on protein quality control in cancers and in aging, with a focus on blood stem cells.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
I spend my time off with my family and try to convince my eight-year-old daughter how cool science is.

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Cintia De Paiva, M.D., Ph.D.

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Cintia De Paiva, M.D., Ph.D.
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Brazil, and I went to Medical School there.

Why did you decide to pursue science?
I decided to pursue science because I felt connected to the biological questions, and I was fascinated to find some answers.

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
Because of BCM's reputation as a strong science place.

What are your research interests?
Dry eye, autoimmunity, Sjogren Syndrome, microbiome, aging.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
I spend the time with my family.

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Joseph Hyser, Ph.D.

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Dr. Joseph Hyser
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I am from a farming town called Belvidere, in Northern Illinois. For undergraduate school, I attended Augustana College, where I majored in Biology and Philosophy. Then I came to BCM in 1999 for my Ph.D. studies in Molecular Virology in Dr. Mary Estes’ laboratory. I remained at BCM for my postdoctoral work where I became interested in viral ion channels and calcium signaling during infections. In 2014, I started my own lab here in the Center for Metagenomic and Microbiome Research and Molecular Virology and Microbiology department.

Why did you decide to pursue science?
There is something enthralling about empirically testing the world around us to try to decipher how it works at a foundational level. Science, particularly biology, lends itself to this kind of investigation. 

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
I choose BCM for my Ph.D. studies because, at the time, it had a long standing reputation for virology research. Over the past 20 years, I have chosen to remain at BCM multiple time. BCM is a ‘think tank’ of biomedical research, making it an exciting place to work. The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world, providing unique opportunities and an amazing depth of local expertise. Lastly, Houston is a great city to live. Here you can find local neighborhoods with a small town quality, as well as vibrant entertainment and night life options.

What are your research interests?
Our interests focus on how pathogens reprogram host signaling pathways to promote their replication. Largely we study enteric viruses, including rotavirus and calicivirus, but are broadly interested in any microbe that manipulates host signaling pathways.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
My husband is a native Houstonian, so we spend time with his family. We also enjoy trying new restaurants, which there are many many choices in Houston. Lastly, we enjoy traveling, especially weekend trips to San Antonio, Austin, and New Orleans.

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Thandiwe Jere (Student)

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Thandiwe Jere
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Malawi, fondly called the warm heart of Africa where I did my undergraduate (BS in chemistry) then went to medical school to qualify as a medical doctor in 2012. After working for a bit, I then transitioned to research and moved to the US in 2016 to obtain a Masters in Immunology before getting to Baylor.

Why did you decide to pursue science?
I always loved science growing up, and was partly influenced by my dad and aunt being medical doctors. If I was not going to be a doctor, I wanted to be a chemical engineer.

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
I was drawn by the collaboration, and its reputation for research and science. Being in the largest medical center also played a role in convincing me.

What are your research interests?
My research interest is autoimmune disease and rheumatology. I am particularly interested in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and understanding disease pathogenesis given the complexity of the disease and the lack of efficient treatment at present.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
I love going for outdoor walks (when the weather is not blistering hot). I am also a bit of a nerd, so reading tops my list. I enjoy learning about different cultures so I watch cooking and travel shows that showcase different cuisines and countries.  Recently I have also been enjoying quite a bit of anime.

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Jason Kimata, Ph.D.

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Jason Kimata, Ph.D.
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Hawaii, received a B.A. in Biology from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, and Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

Why did you decide to pursue science?
I enjoy nature and uncovering its secrets.  My first instinct was to be an oceanographer but somehow got stuck on a tangent studying pathogenic viruses.

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
I came here because of the outstanding and diverse resources and expertise at BCM and within the Texas Medical Center.  We have a collegial and collaborative environment for research that supports exploration and development of innovative new ideas.

What are your research interests?
My main interests are HIV virus-host cell interactions, pathogenesis, and cure strategies, but my lab also studies SARS-CoV-2.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
I like to be outdoors biking, fishing, or caring for the garden, so I appreciate the mild climate.  I also enjoy sampling the diverse cuisine offered by Houston’s multicultural population.

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Miranda Lewis (Student)

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Miranda Lewis
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Where did you grow up and go to school? 
I grew up near the Mexican border on South Padre Island, TX. I then moved to Austin for my B.S. in Microbiology at the University of Texas.   

Why did you decide to pursue science? 
Science allows me to problem solve and investigate the unknown. There are endless possibilities in virology and finding antivirals will help patients stop suffering.  

Why did you choose to come to BCM? 
Coming to BCM was an easy choice. Of course, the program offers a wide number of labs and research projects to choose from. Though, seeing how friendly the graduate students were with each other and the faculty showed me that I’d enjoy my time in graduate school here. 

What are your research interests? 
I’m interested in evaluating antivirals and using human organoids as a tool to better represent what happens in the body for these drug-viral interactions. 

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab? 
I enjoy tending to my plants and taking my dog, Rizzo, out to parks.  

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Maksim Mamonkin, Ph.D.

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Maksim Mamonkin, Ph.D.
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I went to school in snowy Siberia - but quickly thawed after arriving to Houston to pursue my Ph.D. in Immunology at BCM.

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
BCM is a fantastic place to do basic and translational research in various areas of immunology and establish collaborations with other institutions in the Texas Medical Center. 

What are your research interests?
I am a part of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy where we develop cancer therapies using engineered CAR T-cells and evaluate them in the clinic. 

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
I enjoy spending time with my family or swimming, biking and running.

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Antony Rodriguez, Ph.D.

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Antony Rodriguez, Ph.D.
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Where did you grow up ?
Costa Rica and Houston
 
Why did you decide to pursue science?
Pursuit of discovery
 
Why did you choose to come to BCM?
Proximity to family in Houston
 
What are your research interests?
miRNA gene regulation in lung disease
 
How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
Trail running

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Paul Shafer (Student)

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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Grand Forks North Dakota and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. 

Why did you decide to pursue science?
As an undergraduate I originally aspired to become a doctor, and I began volunteering in a biochemistry lab to support my medical school application. However, I ended up loving my time in the lab, and I learned that biological research was what I was truly passionate about.

What are your research interests?
​I'm interested in cancer immunology, with a particular focus on adoptive T cell therapy. 

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
The Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at BCM is one of the premier academic research centers for adoptive cell therapy. It turns out to also be an awesome training environment.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
In the pre-Covid days I enjoyed exploring great restaurants throughout the city. Now I spend more time relaxing at home with podcasts and books.

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Khanghy “Oscar” Truong (Student)

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Khanghy “Oscar” Truong
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up right here in Houston and went to undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Why did you decide to pursue science?
I think viruses are super cool! I enjoy the inquisitive and probing nature that a Ph.D. program affords, allowing me to learn about and explore my curiosities of viruses. 

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
The breadth of research here, core resources, and collaborative culture made BCM an easy choice for me. When I came here during recruitment weekend, everyone was so friendly and welcoming, I easily knew I would be happy here.

What are your research interests?
Viruses! Particularly, HIV-1 immunotherapy and cure strategies. I also have a project working with our collaborator on SARS-CoV2, which I’m very excited about. 

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
Houston has a really amazing food scene ranging from TexMex to really authentic asian food. My friends and I love going to Bellaire for Vietnamese food. Houston also has really beautiful parks, some of my favorites are Memorial Eastern Glades and Elanor Tinsley park. 

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Tiphanie Vogel, M.D., Ph.D.

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Tiphanie Vogel, M.D., Ph.D.
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I am from Southern California, and attended Claremont McKenna College.  I completed graduate and medical school at the University of Chicago, residency training here at BCM and my rheumatology fellowship training at Washington University in St. Louis.

Why did you decide to pursue science?
I have always been full of curiosity, and the puzzle of understanding human immunology and using that knowledge to modulate treatments for disease is what drew me into science.

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
When I made the decision to return to BCM as faculty, it was because of the combination of world class clinical facilities and research opportunities in human immunogenetics.

What are your research interests?
My laboratory studies rare immune diseases as a tool to better understand immune signaling in health and in autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases, searching for important components that might serve as targets for new treatments.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
I run, cook, read, travel and enjoy time with my husband and Labrador retrievers.

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Stephanie Wood (Student)

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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I am a Jersey (New Jersey) girl and I went to the University of Maine Orono for my undergraduate education.  

Why did you decide to pursue science?
I decided to pursue a pathway in the sciences because I believe it is vitally important to learn about the human body and biomedical sciences.  I want to contribute to gaining this knowledge and use it to save lives across the globe. 

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
I chose BCM because I feel it is an environment that fosters collaboration and camaraderie, which, I believe is necessary for scientific advancement. I also chose BCM because of its location in the Texas Medical Center and the ability to access unique samples and state of the art technology. 

What are your research interests?
I am interested in autoimmunity and autoinflammatory diseases. I currently study cytokine signaling pathways in rare genetic autoinflammatory disorders as a way to identify therapeutic targets to treat more common diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab? 
I spend a good portion of my free time playing sports such as rugby, soccer, and slow-pitch softball. I also like to go to museums and various exhibits around town.

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Boyang Zhao

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Boyang Zhao
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Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Shanghai, China. I went to elementary, middle, and high school in Shanghai, and then I moved to Seattle for my undergraduate.

Why did you decide to pursue science?
Discovering unknown knowledge that could benefit the patients. Pursuing science is the best way to learn more about microbes.

Why did you choose to come to BCM?
BCM has a very strong virology program in terms of faculty diversity and publication-quality. A great plus for me is the access to the resources in the Texas Medical Center including collaboration opportunities and access to clinical samples.

What are your research interests?
My research interests are studying protein structures of different viruses, which will in the future benefit the development of potent antivirals.

How do you like to spend your time when not in the lab?
Most of the time I go to the library to read papers. I also go to the national parks once per two weeks with my friends to observe the celestial body.

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