Baylor College of Medicine

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Three new McNair Scholars join Baylor College of Medicine as the College hosts the 12th annual McNair Symposium

Graciela Gutierrez


Houston, TX -

The McNair Scholars program at Baylor College of Medicine has announced three new scholars focusing on how cell and neural activity affect behavior and neurodegenerative disease.

This year marks the 12th annual McNair Symposium, held March 28, where McNair Scholars and McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholars present their latest research.  

Established by The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and managed by the McNair Medical Institute, the McNair Scholars program pursues collaborative and transformational research by identifying and recruiting leading scientists in the neurosciences. The McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholars program supports students for six years through medical and graduate school with a goal of training physician-scientists who conduct research while caring for patients.

The event will include a poster session and oral presentations by McNair Scholars and McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholars and a keynote talk titled “Toward a General Brain-Computer Interface,” by Dr. Thomas Reardon, a neuroscientist and vice president of research and head of neural interfaces at Meta.

Newest McNair Scholars named over the past year include:

Dr. Michael Bround

Dr. Michael Bround is an assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology at Baylor studying the biology of mitochondria, an organelle responsible for generating the energy necessary to power cells. His works looks at how cells communicate with mitochondria to optimize energy production, regulate mitochondrial quality control and initiate pathological cell death processes, which can be a major driver of several significant human diseases, such as cardiac infarction, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and muscular dystrophy.

His recent research has focused on necrotic cell death in muscular dystrophy. He found that genetic inhibition of mitochondria-dependent cell death nearly eliminates all disease in mouse models of muscular dystrophy, which suggests a new therapeutic approach.

Bround joined Baylor after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Nicole Provenza

Dr. Nicole Provenza is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor studying the neurophysiology underlying cognition and emotion and the effects of neuromodulation on neural activity and behavior. Her lab will focus on understanding how the brain supports behavior in the real world throughout everyday life.

Provenza’s lab integrates neural activity and deep behavioral phenotyping to inform neural signatures underlying real-world functional deficits in psychiatric disorders. The goal is to pioneer the development of personalized treatment strategies that more effectively guide brain activity and behavior toward healthy states.

Provenza completed her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Brown University, where she focused on identifying neural biomarkers of distress in patients with treatment-resistant obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Her recent work during her postdoc at Baylor revealed a neural biomarker of clinical response after deep brain stimulation for OCD.

Dr. Shelly Buffington

Dr. Shelly Buffington is an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and a member of the Center for Precision Environmental Health at Baylor. Her research focuses on how gut microbiota contribute to brain development, function and behavior and how environmental factors throughout a female’s lifespan affect neurodevelopment in offspring and future offspring. Buffington’s work also will help to identify therapeutic approaches to reduce risk for neurodevelopmental disorders linked to maternal environmental exposures. 

She earned her Ph.D. and completed her postdoctoral work at Baylor where she found that the hologenome, the combination of host and microbial genes, control behavioral phenotypes in multiple mouse models for autism spectrum disorder. She and her colleagues also demonstrated that a maternal high-fat diet induces long-term, functional changes in the offspring gut microbiome that are causally related to autism-like social deficits. 

She joined the faculty at the University of Texas Medical Branch before returning to Baylor in her current position. 

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