The following are a sampling of alumni from the Hirschi lab.
Jian Yang, Ph.D.
I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Peking University in China. Subsequently, I came to the United States and obtained a Ph.D. in plant biology from the University of Texas. My Ph.D thesis was based on Arabidopsis apyrase functional characterization in pollen exine development. My postdoctoral training was obtained in Dr. Kendal Hirschi's USDA lab at Baylor College of Medicine, where I had the opportunity to expand my area of interest and develop my skill set beyond plant biology. I undertook a project to study dietary plant microRNA uptake in mammalian consumers. I used mouse as a model to demonstrate that a particular plant small RNA, MIR2911, which is derived from 26S rRNA, is abundant in most plant foods and is bioavailable to animal consumers. I also worked on a plant calcium antiporter CAX1 and 3 and characterized their roles in anoxia tolerance, through genetic analysis, physiological characterization, RNA-seq, and hormone analysis, etc. I've transitioned my career from academia to industry. Specifically, I work as a molecular biologist performing next generation sequencing-related work for various ongoing clinical trials. Outside of work, I consider myself an avid fisherman and outdoors man. I also enjoy playing tennis and dog training.
Cecilia Primo, Ph.D.
I am an agricultural engineer (Sp in biotechnology) and obtained my M.S. in molecular plant and cellular biotechnology from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain). I received my Ph.D. in biotechnology also from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, where I presented my thesis in June 2015, focused on the regulation of ion homeostasis (and specifically the role of Hal4 and Hal5 kinases in plasma membrane transporter trafficking) as well as the reciprocal connection between potassium and TOR signaling pathway in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
As for my post-doctoral studies (although I had to leave my beloved Valencia) I had the great opportunity to join professor Hirschi’s laboratory where I expanded my expertise in the plant transport field. At the Children’s Nutrition Research Center I did research on the basic mechanisms of plant nutrient transport and creating rationale strategies for the nutritional enhancement of crops. Specifically, I worked with the H+-Pyrophosphatase from Arabidopsis thaliana (AVP1) characterizing a novel function of this protein to work in reverse and synthesize pyrophosphate (PPi) by heterologous expression of AVP1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as. I have recently been funded to start my second postdoc at the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology of the Cell in the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium) where I aim to dissect the role of plant H+-ATPases in TORC1 regulation.
During my free time, I love reading, doing exercise (outdoors if the Belgium weather allows it), cooking, listening to music (Belle and Sebastian or Arcade Fire are some of my musts!) or traveling! Recently I have discovered Bois de la Cambre which I love exploring on the weekend for some peace of mind!
Ismail Elbaz Younes, Ph.D.
I graduated medical school from Cairo university in Egypt (land of the pharaohs). After that I came to the United States to start practicing as physician; however, my CV needed work. I thus started a three year stint at Baylor College of Medicine where I managed to get a lot of publications before applying for residency positions. I obtained lots of interviews thanks to the research and because I am awesome. I matched into University of Illinois (don’t mess with the bulls). After residency, I will join the Moffitt Cancer Center for my hematopathology fellowship, then after finishing that I will start my molecular fellowship in Cleveland clinic. In my free time, I play soccer (I take it way too seriously-but ask about my bicycle kicks), watch movies and play piano.
Murli Manohar, Ph.D.
I hail from Patna, the capital and largest city of the state of Bihar, India. I graduated with a B.S degree in agriculture from the Allahabad Agricultural Institute, obtained M.S degree in biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, and earned my Ph.D. in molecular and environmental plant sciences from the Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. During my Ph.D., I worked with professor Kendal Hirschi on the aspects of functional and structural characterization of calcium transporters. After my Ph.D., I joined Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University and currently serving as a senior research associate. My research at BTI is largely focused on understanding the role of small-signaling molecules in mediating plant-pathogen interactions. I am also a co-founder of Ascribe Bioscience, agricultural biotech start-up company based in Ithaca, N.Y., and currently leading its R&D effort as a chief technology officer. Ascribe is developing biopesticides and other agricultural products based on soil microbiome-derived naturally occurring small signaling molecules. I have published more than 20 peer-reviewed research articles and several book chapters and served as editor/reviewer for peer-reviewed journals including Nature, Scientific Reports, Frontiers in Plant Science, etc. In my time away from work I enjoy long-driving, cooking, watching science-fiction movies, my family, and especially time with my son.
Hui Mei, Ph.D.
Originally from China, I obtained my B.S. in biology from Yunnan University. After moving to the United States, I studied molecular biology under the guidance of professor Kendal Hirschi and received my Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. During my Ph.D. years, I developed my interest in genetics, especially in human genetics (a big jump from plant to human). I completed my clinical fellowships at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. I am board certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics & Genomics in cytogenetics and clinical molecular genetics. I worked at Diagnostic Laboratory of Baylor College of Medicine for two years, focusing on mitochondrial disorders. I joined GeneDx, a world leader in clinical genetic testing, and switched to cardiology genetics. With the rapid advances in technologies and applications, I enjoy being a geneticist and working in this challenging field. Besides my work, I am a very positive person. I like cooking, gardening, camping, and hiking with my family.
Jay Morris, Ph.D.
I got my B.S. at Texas Tech in food science; I am a Red Raider to the core. During my Ph.D. research in the Hirschi Lab, I focused on two main research projects. The first was investigating the functions of a cation transporter in mineral uptake and homeostasis in plants. The second project was developing in vivo mouse models to study the nutritional impact of modified food stuffs. Building upon that, I was a part of a multidisciplinary team who conducted a first of its kind clinical trial in young adults assessing the nutritional availability of increased calcium from intrinsically fortified carrots. I am currently a medical science liaison for a cancer diagnostic company. Prior to COVID, I was always traveling from meeting to meeting and enjoying the nomadic work schedule. Hopefully soon that chaos will return. In the non-work hours I enjoy playing golf, Tech sports, the Atlanta Braves, and traveling to far off places.
Toshiro Shigaki, Ph.D.
I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Ph.D. in plant pathology. From 1999 to 2010, I was a research associate in Hirschi lab (note from Hirschi- he was awesome). After I left the lab, I worked as a principal scientist in biotechnology at the Papua New Guinea National Agricultural Research Institute until 2016. In 2016, I came back to Japan after 27 years of absence. I am currently the director of Pacific Agriculture Alliance, a researcher at the University of Tokyo, and a consultant for a biotech startup BlueNalu in San Diego, among other duties. I have plant pathology projects in Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines funded by JICA and the Japanese government. My wife is from India, and we have an eleven-year-old daughter. I enjoy going out with them.
Stephanie Trejo Corona
I am a senior at Rice University pursuing degrees in biochemistry & cell biology and kinesiology. Originally from the Natural State of Arkansas, I am very easily impressed by the big buildings in Houston or any major city in Texas. I have been in the Hirschi lab since January 2020, and I was able to enjoy a good three(ish) months in lab (and the beautiful greenhouse) until the pandemic hit. I currently do remote bioinformatics analyses on RNA-seq and metabolomics data from plant studies in our lab. When I’m not doing homework, I enjoy shopping, exercising, playing ultimate frisbee, listening to audiobooks, hiking, camping, volunteering at Houston Methodist, and most importantly, eating Chipotle.
Alex Sosa III
I am a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, where I served as a helicopter crew chief. After the military I enrolled at the University of Houston and am currently pursuing a B.S. in biology with a health minor. I joined the amazing Hirschi team at Children’s Nutritional Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in the fall of 2019. Being a part of this innovative team has provided an enthusiastic environment that has allowed me to hone my creative thinking and lab skills in the realm of microbiology. I will attend the University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine in the summer of 2021.
Hannah Powell, Graduate Student
I graduated with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Florida State University. I then spent three years working as a research technician in the Molecular Genetics Department at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. I am now a Cancer and Cell Biology graduate student at Baylor College of Medicine and was a rotation student in the Hirschi Lab. All my undergraduate research experience was in plant biology, so I was excited for the opportunity to see if I enjoy working in a lab that combines both biomedical and agricultural research, thus combining all my previous research experiences! Outside of science I enjoy lifting weights/bodybuilding, choreographed dancing, exploring spirituality, and taking care of my senior-childhood cat.
Iny Mathew, Research Associate
I joined as a research associate with Dr. Hirschi in March 2020. My primary research interest is to understand the mechanism of anoxia tolerance mediated by the cax1 mutants. This work could improve the plant response to low-oxygen conditions, like for example flooding. I have earned my doctoral degree in plant molecular biology form NIPGR, India, on the regulation of seed storage proteins in rice. Parts of the research has been documented in six international publications. I did my graduation in botany and biotechnology and masters in biotechnology. Prior to me starting on my doctoral journey, I worked as a lecturer in India for two years. I always enjoy learning new things both in my field of work and on the personal side. Outside of science, I enjoy music, cooking, traveling, watching TV, making handicrafts and spending time with family.
Kyung Kim, Ph.D., Research Associate
I am glad to be a new member of Dr. Hirschi’s lab in May 2022. Over 20 years, my research focused on the molecular ecology, evolutionary biology, population genetics and genomics of various species including agricultural insect pests, phytopathogenic fungi, as well as wildlife, where research findings have contributed to understanding ecology and dispersal behaviors of migratory insects, and conservation and management of endangered animals. I completed my Ph.D. at the Kyungpook National University, South Korea, in the field of evolutionary biology and empirical population genetics of domestic dog breeds in Asia. I was a USDA-ARS Post-doctoral Associate from 2002-08, working on the molecular ecology of agricultural insect pests, then worked, as a research scientist, at Iowa State University until 2022, investigating on the phylogenomics/population genomics and comparative genomics of natural organisms including freshwater mussels, fungal pathogens, and figs. I like to observe animals in the zoo and wild, and I like to play and watching soccer game. I enjoy traveling and exploring different culture in the world.
Ardawna Green, Research Technician
I graduated with a bachelors degree in biology from Prairie View A&M University aka "The Hill!" Currently I am a student in the Pre-Graduate Education and Training (PGET), a postbac program, of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine and research technician of the Children Nutrition Research Center. During my undergraduate years, I've learned to utilize various bioinformatic programs such and appreciate how genetics is one of the keys to figure out how a gene works. Upon becoming a postbac student, I gained more appreciation for the plants especially and how important it is to understand its genes such as CAX1 and CAX3 (I love the lab greenhouse, you can find me there most of the time!). One of my postbac studies involve the isolation of exosome-like nanoparticles(ELNs) from plant models such as kale and swiss chard to understand the functional relationship between the ELNs and the gut biome. Outside of work, I enjoy playing video games, drawing, music and spending time with my family (did I mention I love to try different foods?).
Hassan Hassan, Student Worker
I am a junior at Prairie View A&M University, currently majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry. After university, I plan on attending medical school and becoming a physician. Personal interests of mine include learning new languages. At the moment I’m trying to learn a French. I’m bilingual (English and Somali) and hoping to become trilingual by the end of the year. Some other interests outside of school and the lab are foreign politics, basketball and piano. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family!
Emily Ng, Student Worker
I'm currently a Texas A&M student studying microbiology, class of '23. I want to be an epidemiologist one day! I am excited to learn outside my field with the Hirschi Lab. I like to go out, meet new people, and try different restaurants! If it's too hot to be outside, I like board games, cooking (Italian is my favorite!), or getting into new games on the Switch.
I'm a junior at Texas A&M, majoring in biochemistry and genetics. I love learning about how living things work and evolve! After my bachelor's, I plan to go to a graduate program. Getting to work at the Hirschi lab has given me a newfound appreciation for how genetics can be applied to agriculture and climate. Outside of academics and research, I like to knit, play video games, go to museums and hang out with friends!