Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Initiative for Maximizing Student Development Awards and Accomplishments


2023 IMSD Awardees


NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
Katie Brandel-Ankrapp, 2023

F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award

  • Alyssa Emig, 2023 - Regulation of neuroectoderm morphogenesis by Nodal signaling programs.
  • Jessica Felix, 2023 - Metabolite regulation of adipocyte differentiation in obesity
  • Vicki Mercado, 2023 - Characterizing the Impact of Gestational Diabetes on Immunity and Group B Streptococcal Virulence in the Maternal Reproductive Tract
  • Andrea Ortiz, 2023 - CaMKK2 in macrophages promotes obesity-induced insulin resistance and inflammation.

HHMI 2023 Gilliam Fellows Program
Alyssa Paparella, 2023

Lathisms Scholarship
Daniel Palacios, 2023

American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Future Leaders Mentoring Fellowship
Daniel Palacios, 2023

2023 BCM Women of Excellence Award
Alyssa Paparella, 2023

2023 Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Council for the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to serve on the Roundtable on Mentorship, Well-Being and Professional Development

  • Alyssa Paparella, 2023, 1st Place – Resume and LinkedIn Profile Competition
  • Ashley (Hayden) Monahan, 2023, 3rd Place - Graduate Student Symposium
  • Ashley (Hayden) Monahan, 2023, poster award, Marlyd Mejia, 2023, elevator pitch competition

2022 IMSD Awardees


The Best Qualifying Exam Award
Alyssa Paparella, 2022

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
Mariah Berner, 2022

1st Place at the 18th DLDCCC Symposium – Scientific Image Competition
Powering the cell to evade chemotherapy?
Mariah Berner, 2022

3rd Place at the 18th DLDCCC Symposium – Poster Competition
Wnt signaling regulation of cellular heterogeneity and cooperation in TNBC 
Madelyn Esquivel 

F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the role of the microbiota in shaping vaginal immunity and susceptibility to infection.
Marlyd Mejia, 2022

T32 Training Grant (CCB Program) for the research titled: Wnt signaling regulation of matrix composition in lung colonization during TNBC metastatic.
Erika Mendoza Mendoza, 2022


2020/2021 IMSD Awardees


Lehman Award Commencement Speaker
Sabrina Green, 2021

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Predoctoral Fellowship
Jacob Ortega, 2020
Gabriella Perez, 2020

National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Service Research Award Predoctoral Fellowship (F31)
Kali Deans-Fielder, 2021
Andrea Ortiz, 2021
Matthew Penna, 2021
Navish Bosquez, 2020

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program
Alyssa Paparella, 2020

American Society of Hematology Minority Graduate Student Abstract Achievement Award
Marcus Florez, 2020


Baylor College of Medicine Awards


Outstanding BCM Graduate Student

  • Deborah K. Martin Award
  • Outstanding Graduate Student and/or Deborah K. Martin Award Nominee
  • Richard Dickason Award for Outstanding
  • Outstanding Urology Student
  • Best Teaching Assistant

Entering Students

  • BCM Presidential Students
  • BRASS Scholars
  • DeBakey Scholars
  • Mary Greenwood Scholar

Academic Awards

  • MSTP Program Award for Basic Sciences
  • Claude W. Smith Awards from Integrative Molecular and Biomedical Sciences
  • Anthony R. Means Award from MCB
  • John Trenton Award for Academic Excellence

National and International Awards

  • American Psychological Society Minority Neuroscience Fellowship
  • Ford Foundation Minority Pre-doctoral Fellowship
  • National Science Foundation Minority Fellowship
  • Neuroscience Society Pre-doctoral Fellowship
  • UNCF/Merck Pre-doctoral Dissertation Fellowships
  • HHMI Gilliam Fellowship
  • Co-investigator Children's Cancer Research Fund
  • NIH National Research Service Awards
  • MARC Pre-doctoral NRSA Fellowships
  • AHA
  • Department of Defense Cancer Pre-doctoral Fellowships
  • SACNAS Poster Awards
  • American Society for Bone and Mineral Research
  • Young Investigator's Award
  • Award of Excellence Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies
  • ASPET Doris Shockley Best Abstract Award
  • Endocrine Society Presidential Poster Finalist
  • Endocrine Society Minority Mentoring Poster Award
  • FOCIS Trainee Satellite Symposium Research Award
  • Gordon Conference Best PhD Poster
  • WAESCO Third Place Research Award
  • Society of Toxicology
  • Cambridge Health Institute of Cancer Models Symposium First Place Research
  • FASEB Poster Award Vision Research
  • Weintraub Award to Outstanding U.S. Ph.D. Students
  • American Society of Cell Biology
  • FEBS Course: International ABC Proteins: Young Investigator Award
  • 11th International Congress of Human Genetics-Best Poster Presentation
  • International Tularemia Conference
  • EAPSI Fellowship (Singapore)
  • Nominated to attend Nobel Prize Lectures
  • Selected to Attend Nobel Prize Lecturers Meeting in Germany
  • Congress on Human Genetics
  • International Workshop of Neuroendocrinology Bronze Medal Poster Award
  • NIH Supplements to Mentors’ Grants
  • Lynch Addiction Research Award

Houston Area Fellowships

  • BCM Licensing Group Internship
  • Houston Area Biophysics Grant
  • Keck Nanobiology Training Fellowship
  • CPRIT Fellowship
  • Genes and Environment
  • National Library of Medicine
  • Keck Pharmacological Sciences
  • Keck Center Fellowships for Interdisciplinary Bioscience Training
  • Pharmacoinformatics Keck Fellowship
  • Lynch Addiction Research Award

Leadership Awards/Medical Awards

  • Houston Outreach Medicine Education & Social Services Clinic
  • Award for Outstanding Leadership Potential
  • M.D./Ph.D. Program Service Award
  • M.D./Ph.D. Highest Honors
  • Woman of Wonder - Quaker Oats Award

Mentoring/Professional Development Programs

  • AARC Scholar-in-Training
  • Endocrine Society FLARE Award
  • Endocrine Society FLARE Internship
  • FASEB Teaching/Mentoring Award
  • GlaxoSmithKline Summer Internship
  • Interdisciplinary Res Train Inst Human Drug Abuse
  • Jackson Laboratory Molecular Genetics Course
  • Neuroscience Society Scholar
  • Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program
  • UCSB Summer Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
  • National Minority Research Forum
  • Biotechnology Institute Minority and Indigenous Fellows Program
  • American Society of Microbiology Science Teaching Fellowship Program
  • University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Post-Doctoral Scholarship

Travel Awards

  • AARC Travel Award
  • ABC Protein International Conference
  • American Society for Cell & Gene Therapy
  • ARVO Conference
  • ASCB Conference
  • American Society for Cell & Gene Therapy
  • American Society Human Genetics
  • American Society for Microbiology
  • American Physiological Society travel
  • Behavior, Biology, and Chemistry: Translational Research in Addiction
  • Cold Spring Harbor Asia
  • Building Future Faculty
  • Developmental Biology Conference
  • College on Problems of Drug Dependence Scientific Meeting
  • EMBO Intern Conference
  • FASEB Conference ASPET
  • FASEB MARC Travel Awards
  • Gordon Conference
  • Hypertension Canada
  • International Congress on Human Genetics
  • International Gordon Conference
  • International Neuroendocrinology Workshop
  • Johnson & Johnson Travel Award
  • Keystone Conference
  • NIAAA to NHSN International Scientific Conference
  • SACNAS Conference
  • Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer
  • Society for Study of Reproduction
  • Tenneco Fellow. NeuroStereology Workshop
  • Woods Hole Marine Biological Lab
  • US-South America Neuroscience Workshop
  • ASPET Washington Fellow
  • 2014 CPDD Oral Presentation

Research Awards

  • BCM Graduate Student Symposium
    • Outstanding Platform Presentation
    • Commendation for Platform Presentation
    • First Place Poster
    • Second Place Poster
    • Third Place Poster
    • Poster Finalists
    • Honorable Mention
  • BCM/UT Research Symposium Awards
  • Biochemistry Retreat Awards
  • Breast Center Retreat Awards
  • Claude W. Smith Award
  • Huffington Center on Aging Retreat Awards
  • Immunology Retreat Awards
  • M.D./Ph.D Program Retreat Awards
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology Retreat Awards
  • Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
  • Molecular Virology and Microbiology Retreat Awards
  • Molecular Surgeon Young Investigator
  • Structural Computational Biology & Molecular Biophysics Retreat Awards
  • Translational Biology & Molecular Medicine Awards
  • University of Houston Neuroscience Research Center
  • Integrative Molecular and Biomedical Sciences Retreat Awards

Selected Accomplishments


Underrepresented students have found tremendous success at Baylor College of Medicine, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Victor Acevedo, Ph.D., showed that fibroblast growth factor receptor-1 (FGF1) plays a role in the initiation, progression and maintenance of prostate cancer and found a potential window to slow or even reverse early stage prostate cancer.

Claudia Arambula [Geldres], Ph.D. Found that chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG4)-redirected T lymphocytes could be used to treat a variety of solid tumors, and observed that combining CSPG4 T-cells and TSP1 increased the anti-tumor ability of the T-cells.

Lori Banks, Ph.D. Studied β-lactamase antibiotic resistance and
found that for the IMP-1 enzyme, substitutions at Asn233 increased,whereas substitutions at Cys221 decreased antibiotic resistance. Also found that Ser237 and Arg276 co-evolved to promote antibiotic resistance in the TEM-1 β-lactamase

William Buitrago, Ph.D., created a transgenic mouse model of a human disease that causes skin blistering and found a way to use siRNA to cure it.

Carlos Cantu, III, Ph.D., and Cristina Materon, Ph.D., identified regions of ß-lactamase that affect antibiotic resistance.

Anjelica Gonzalez, Ph.D., created a computerized microscopic system that she used to identify six molecules that are important in neutrophil attachment, spreading or migration.

Cristhian Ildefonso, Ph.D., Found that adenovirus could be used as a safe transgene vector within the eye and that the interaction between hyaluronan and CD44 helped increase adenoviral transgene expression, useful for gene therapy for ocular oncologic and degenerative diseases.

Rossitza Irobalieva, Ph.D., Solved the 3-dimensional structure of an RNA associated with HIV— at the time the smallest structure ever solved by cryo-EM and the largest structures solved by NMR. Her data may be useful for developing a vaccine to prevent AIDS.

Alaina James, M.D., Ph.D., identified effects of mutations in the androgen receptor from prostate tumors.

Richard King, M.D., Ph.D., developed a computer model to explain spacing of neurotransmitter release sites.

Christian Marin Muller, Ph.D., Patented a microRNA (MiR-198)that can attenuate pancreatic cancer, and founded a cancer therapy company, Speratum, in Costa Rica. He is currently serving on the Scientific Ethics Committee for the Ministry of Health of Costa Rica. [2014 TED talk (] (in Spanish).

Francisco Naya, Ph.D., cloned a factor regulating the insulin gene and produced a transgenic mouse model of diabetes.

Aaron Orozco, Ph.D., developed a method to enrich fetal DNA from the mother’s blood to avoid invasive prenatal diagnosis of disease.

Meagan Pitcher, Ph.D., demonstrated that the pR255X mutation within MECP2 could be rescued by introduction of wild-type, full length MECP2, which is mutated and truncated in Rett syndrome, a devastating neurodegenerative disease.

Ashley Ramirez Herrick, Ph.D., Used gene expression microarray profiling to distinguish subsets of tumors based on their expression of kinases and identified therapeutic targets in estrogen receptor a negative breast cancer samples.

Ramiro Ramirez-Solis, Ph.D., produced the first line of embryonic stem cell derived transgenic mice at Baylor.

Jonathan Respress, Ph.D., Observed that chronic phosphorylation of ryanodine receptor type 2 (RyR2) leads to RyR2-mediated Ca2+ leak, which accelerates the development of heart failure

Wilmer Roberts, M.D., Ph.D., discovered that a drug in testing to treat high blood pressure caused failure in embryonic chicken and mouse heart development.

Maria Rodriguez-Rozas, Ph.D., developed a bimolecular fluorescence method to screen 8000 proteins and identified those that interact with the BRCA1 tumor suppressor.

Javier Sanchez, Ph.D., discovered a new mechanism by which the protein implicated in Alzheimer’s disease causes memory loss.

Hector Sandoval, Ph.D., found the first evidence of specific targeting of mammalian mitochondria for degradation during red blood cell development which may be applicable to treating people with some types of anemia, neurodegenerative diseases, or cancer.

Nancy Urizar, Ph.D., published a Science paper defining the mechanism by which a natural product, gugglesterone, lowered cholesterol was featured in hundreds of television, radio, magazine, newspaper and website communications worldwide, including CNN.