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2020 - 2021 Academic Year PREP Participants


 Amina Bradley, BS

Amina BradleyAmina Bradley obtained her Bachelor of Science in biology in May 2020 from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Her interest in microbiology and immunology began with her undergraduate work in Dr. Misty Thomas’ lab. There she studied the phenotypic evolutionary effect of microgravity on Streptococcus mutans. Amina participated in the UMass Chan Summer Undergraduate Research Program in the summer of 2019. While in the program she worked in Dr. Stuart Levitz lab studying the horizontal transmission of Cryptococcus neoformans in a murine model. As a part of the PREP program she will be continuing her work in Dr. Levitz’s lab, her current project seeks mechanistic insights into the contribution antibodies to the cryptococcal proteins Cpd1 and Blp4 play in vaccine mediated protection. She aspires to one day obtain her MD-PhD and conduct research that could be translated to the patients in her clinical practice.

 Guadalupe Mabry, BS

Mabry, Guadalupe.jpgGuadalupe earned her BS in public health from American University in 2020. During her undergraduate career she started working on calcium signaling research but found her passion in public health and transitioned into research within health disparities. Her focus was primarily within sexual and reproductive health among queer and trans folks as well the impact of systems of oppression on health outcomes among Black and Latinx communities within the DMV. Her passion for social justice and health equity led her to the PREP program at UMass where she is working with Dr. Milagros Rosal on projects relating the health outcomes within the Latinx community.                                                                        

 Maira Majano, BS

Majano, Maira.jpgMaira Majano earned her BS in Biology from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2020. As an undergraduate, she worked in Dr. Linda Huang’s cell biology lab where she was investigating the role of the Aurora B kinase during meiotic exit in S. cerevisiae. She was also an IMSD Scholar which presented her the opportunities to learn much more about different research careers and the field of research itself. Her current research interests consist of both cell and molecular biology. As for the future, Maira hopes to conduct research to learn more about diseases that can disproportionately affect different groups of people.                                                                                                                                                                                   

 Ugonna Mbaekwe, BS

 Ugonna graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a B.S in Biological Sciences. During   her undergraduate career, she was a Meyerhoff, HHMI, and MARC U*STAR scholar where she worked in Dr.   Michael Summers’ lab investigating initial protein-RNA interactions of the HIV-1 nucleation site. During her   summer she worked with Dr. Robert Horvitz, looking at cell-identity maintenance in C. elegans. Ugonna joined     the Pathway to Graduate Studies Program (PGSP) in 2019 at UMass Chan Medical School and works with Dr.   Francesca Massi looking at protein dynamics of an ALS-linked protein, profilin-1. After PGSP, Ugonna wants to     go to graduate school with an interest in using structural biology to look at neurological diseases. 

 Asli McCullers, BS

McCullers, Asli.jpgAsli McCullers (she/her/hers) is a Post Baccalaureate (PREP) Scholar in the Clinical and Population Health Research Program. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in Functional Biology of Animals and a minor in Music Performance from Towson University in Towson, Maryland. While completing her undergraduate degree, Asli performed research at the University of Maryland, College Park in the Public Health Aerobiology, Virology and Exhaled Biomarkers (PHAB) Lab, and additionally completed practice-based work at the Maryland Department of Health in the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, and at Susan G Komen Maryland. Asli is interested in assessing and comparing regional presence of health equity programming via public health delivery systems, and access to and utilization of primary and secondary prevention resources among minority populations. She also volunteers her time holding several positions at a vast array of non-profit organizations in hopes of making a national impact on the reduction of health disparities and promotion of health equity!

 Shayla Newman-Toledo, BS

NewmanToleda, Shayla.jpgShayla earned her BS in Biology from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2020. As an undergraduate she worked in Dr. Linda Huang’s cell biology lab, where she studied a protein that is required for prospore membrane(PSM) closure, as well as examined the role of three unknown genes in budding yeast or S. cerevisiae. Her current research interests are Neurobiology, Molecular biology, and Cell biology. Her long term goals are to conduct research that will help address and shed light on health disparities.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

 Austin Peppers, BS

Peppers, Austin_picture.jpgAustin earned his BS in Applied Health Science from Bowling Green State University. In the summer of 2018, Austin participated as a research fellow in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, where he studied the role of calcium signaling in apoptosis-induced proliferation in the Bergmann Lab. As a 2nd year PREP fellow, Austin is now in the Dohoon Kim lab  focusing his studies on understanding toxic metabolites in the tumor environment, with an emphasis on mechanisms of resistance. Outside of the lab, Austin enjoys hiking with his wife and his dog, advocating for lung cancer, playing golf and basketball, and watching Ohio State football.

 Adriana Ponton-Almodovar, BS

PontonAlmodovar, Adriana.jpgAdriana L. Ponton-Almodovar graduated in 2020 from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico with a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences, an additional major in Biotechnology, and a minor in Biology. As an undergraduate, she was a Junior Research Associate from the Puerto Rico IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (PR-INBRE) of the NIH. Adriana’s research project focused on the viability and oxidative stress response of hepatocellular carcinoma cells after exposure to CdSTe Quantum Dots. Adriana had the opportunity to present her undergraduate research project at several scientific meetings and conferences. Currently, she is in Dr. Gang Han’s laboratory following her interest in the use of nanoparticles in biomedical applications.

 Erika Serrano-Diaz, BS

SerranoDiaz, Erika.jpgErika R. Serrano-Díaz received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao Campus in Industrial Chemistry in 2020. As an undergraduate student, she worked with Dr. Rolando Oyola studying the inhibition of  -amyloids aggregations using benzazepines compounds. While a student, she received the NIH MARC U-Star fellowship. During the summer of 2018 she participated in SURF program at Scripps Research where she worked under Dr. Laura Bohn studying an alternative method to deliver opioids for chronic treatments. In 2019, she participated in SURF program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center under Dr. Noelle Williams studying the antibiotic resistance with pharmacokinetics analysis. Ultimately, her interest is to conduct research in pharmacology to study the mechanism of impactful health diseases in the area of neurodegeneration and addiction.

 Tenzin Tsepal, BS

Tsepal, Tenzin.jpgTenzin Tsepal grew up in a Tibetan Refugee camp in India and immigrated to the US during high school. While obtaining her BS in biology at Bay Path University, she worked in Dr. Yadilette Rivera-Colón’s lab on identifying the resistance mechanism of aminoglycoside modifying enzymes. As a 2019 UMass Chan SURP student, she worked in Dr. Daniel Bolon’s lab on engineering temperature-sensitive alleles of Ran and its accessory protein in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Now as a PREP student, she is back in the Bolon lab to study the relationship between HSP90 and its client proteins. Her goal for the future is to pursue research in the field of chronic illnesses and investigate the interface of socio-economic factors and biological determinants that make these illnesses so widespread in our society.