The following is a list and profiles for the recent BRASS Scholars.

Kali Deans

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Kali Deans

Kali Deans grew up in Naperville, Ill., a suburb just outside of Chicago. She received a full-tuition, merit scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2014, she graduated with a B.S. in nutritional science and a certificate in global health, and she was awarded the Meyerhoff Award for Excellence in Leadership, Scholarship and Service. During undergraduate years, her inquisitive spirit led her to join the lab of her professor, Dr. Guy Groblewski, where she studied an animal model that was thought to be critical to understanding the pathology of chronic pancreatitis. Prior to matriculating at Baylor College of Medicine, she further explored her interests in inflammatory bowel diseases through a one-year research fellowship at the University of Chicago.

Kali is currently an M.D. Ph.D. student in the Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine Program. Her interests remain associated with nutrition with a focus on inflammatory bowel diseases. As a future physician scientist, shew hopes to work with and for these patients from multiple angles of research and medicine to enhance their lifestyles and improve treatments.

In her free time, Kali enjoys going to the gym, gardening, cooking, and spending time with her friends and family. She is a big fan of new experiences and exploring all that Houston has to offer. When she has longer breaks, if she is not visiting her family, she takes advantage of the time to travel. Kali is excited to join the BRASS family and looks forward to networking with the Houston community. She would like to thank the BRASS administration and all of the donors that contribute to such a great organization.

Sarah Herzog

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Sarah Herzog

Sarah Herzog grew up in the small farm community of Greenville, Ohio. An avid violinist, she intended to study violin performance. However, after the passing of her grandmother from breast cancer and a newfound discovery of her love for chemistry, she changed plans and attended the University of Notre Dame to study biochemistry. She graduated cum laude with a B.S. in honors biochemistry and a minor in theology in May 2018. Realizing the breadth of questions needing answers in breast cancer, she made the decision to continue her education and pursue a Ph.D.

Sarah is now a first-year student in the program of Integrative Molecular and Biomedical Sciences. She has an interest in cancer biology, intending to work in breast cancer research. She hopes to integrate computer coding skills with her love of cell and molecular biology to understand cancer mechanisms and develop better treatment strategies for breast cancer patients.

When she is away from the bench, Sarah spends her time testing new recipes, playing her violin, attempting to learn guitar, and visiting Houston breweries. During baseball season, her perfect day is grabbing a local beer and cheering on the Chicago Cubs. Sarah is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the BRASS family and is excited to call Houston her new home.

Matthew Penna

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Matthew Penna

Matthew Penna was born and raised in Miami, Fla. He is the eighth of ten children. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in biomedical engineering and a minor in biology from the University of Miami in 2016. During his freshman year, Matt joined a research lab and his passion for research was ignited given his personal connection with the disease being investigated. He conducted research in the field of tissue engineering and stem cell research with projects in ophthalmology, cardiology, and neuroscience. The impact of these diseases sparked an interest in the clinical aspects of medicine as well. He began shadowing physicians and planning a career where he could adopt an all-inclusive approach to medicine as a physician scientist. 

In 2016, Matt joined the M.D./Ph.D. program at Baylor College of Medicine and began his path toward becoming a physician scientist. After spending two years in medical school, he joined the Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine Graduate Program at Baylor. He is currently a first-year graduate student with interests in neuroscience and regenerative medicine. His goal is to develop novel therapeutic options as a scientist and to apply these therapies for patients as a physician, thereby, making his dream of becoming a physician scientist a reality. Outside of lab, Matt enjoys exploring the city of Houston mostly through running and eating. His main motive for running is to continue enjoying the delicious food that Houston has to offer.

Matt is fortunate to have some family nearby. He recently became godfather to his niece Leah. His sister and brother-in-law live close to Houston in the Woodlands, and recently had their first baby this past spring. Matt is excited to become part of the BRASS community where he can meet wonderful people who share the same interests of advancing research forward in meaningful ways. 


Linda Zhang

Linda Zhang

Linda Zhang was born in Houston but grew up in Palo Alto, Calif. She graduated cum laude from University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in immunology. Her passion for translational research and immunology was inspired by her previous work on auto-antibody profiling pediatric lupus patients and evaluating functional differences in antigen processing caused by mutations strongly associated with ankylosing spondylitis.  

Linda returns to Houston as a student in Baylor's M.D./Ph.D. program. After completing two years of medical school, she is now a first-year graduate student in the department of Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine. She is particularly interested in the area of cancer biology and immunology in hopes of making discoveries in the laboratory that will address unmet clinical needs.

Outside of academics, Linda enjoys baking, cooking, and trying out the latest food spots in Houston. She also has a passion for traveling and experiencing new cultures, venturing to countries such as Morocco, Thailand, and Vietnam with her friends. Linda is extremely honored and grateful to be welcomed to the BRASS family and is excited to advocate for scientific research, and participating in future BRASS events.  

Previous BRASS Scholars

Oluwatoyosi Adewunmi
Dominique Armstrong
Andrea Ortiz
Arielle Raugh

Kristyn Hoffman
Patrick Hunt
Zachary Kadow
Michael Lam

Wanderson Cabral Rezende
Elizabeth Campbell
Carli Domenico
Joanne Hsu

Zachary Criss
Paul Fahey
Larissa Nitschke
Jarey Wang

Derrick Chu
Amanda Koire
Michael Gundry
Lin Zhu

Charlene Emerson, Ph.D.
Kathleen Manning, Ph.D.
Emily Packard
Amy Pohodich

Meagan Barry, Ph.D.
Mark Hamilton, Ph.D.
Rob Seilheimer, Ph.D.

Erol Bakkalbasi, M.S.
Sarah Ciupek, Ph.D.

Philip Boone, Ph.D.
Cathryn Cadwell, Ph.D.
Nya Nelson, Ph.D.

Mathew Burstein, Ph.D.
Minhtran Ngo, Ph.D.
Beatriz A. Santillan, Ph.D.

Chris McGraw, Ph.D.
Shelly Buffington, Ph.D.
Matthew Bainbridge, Ph.D.

Heather Franco, Ph.D.
Geoff Preidis, Ph.D.
Molly Schroeder, Ph.D.

Chris Bland, Ph.D.
Mark Edson, Ph.D.
Misha Koshelev, Ph.D.

Hsia-Tuan Chao, Ph.D.
Shannon Griswold, Ph.D.
Ankur Nagaraja, Ph.D.

Eric Hyun, Ph.D.
Verena Kallhoff-Munoz, Ph.D.

Matthew Rose, M.D., Ph.D.

Brenda Bohnsack, M.D., Ph.D.
Michiya Nishino, Ph.D.
Sara Copeland Shalin, Ph.D.

Michael Greenbaum, Ph.D.
Stacy Johnson, M.D., Ph.D.

Lynnette Burks Nance, Ph.D.
Mark Pennesi, M.D., Ph.D.

Vincent Wang, M.D., Ph.D.

Isaac Brownell, M.D., Ph.D.
Sergy Lemeshko, M.D., Ph.D.

Matthew Baker, Ph.D.
Laura Mackey Lorentzen, Ph.D.

Julia Elvin, M.D., Ph.D.