Current Trainees


Valerie Rodriguez, Gina Torres Matias, Summer Fair, Bryce White and Dayron Leyva Rodriguez (left to right)
Do you see yourself in this picture? It could be you!

Valerie Rodriguez

ValerieRodriguezIn 2016, I decided to volunteer in a research laboratory with the purpose of exploring the area, and developing the skills required to become a competitive graduate student. Under the mentorship of Dr. Edu Suarez, I had the opportunity to work on a project focused on testing the use of naked Calcium Sulfide (CaS) nanoclusters as cell-specific targeted treatment for non-small cell lung carcinoma. In addition, I participated in the Summer Accelerated Biomedical Research (SABR 2018) Program at Texas Tech University Health Science Center. During this experience, I conducted a research project under the mentorship of Dr. Sharilyn Almodóvar focused on the interactions of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) with target cells in the pulmonary microenvironment, leading to pulmonary vascular dysfunction. My role was to measure inflammatory cytokines released in the lung microenvironment infected with HIV using co-cultures in vitro, which includes lymphocytes, Smooth Muscle Cells and Endothelial Cells. Having these experiences, I realized that conducting research helped me tremendously to improve my critical thinking and technical skills. In June 2019, I graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences with a major in Biomedical Sciences. To further strengthen my competitiveness, I decided to apply to OSU's Discovery PREP program to be better prepared for graduate studies. In this year, I expect to increase my experiences and improve myself in the research field.

Gina Torres Matias

GinaMatiasI am from Puerto Rico where I attended the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. In June 2019, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology. In my third year I joined a neuroscience research lab as a research assistant which sparked in me the interest in conducting research. Through the Puerto Rico Louis Stoke Alliance for Minority Participation I was able to develop and perform a research project under Dr. Zaira Mateo mentorship. In this project we used the nematode C. elegans to study the effects of excessive sugar consumption vs sweetener consumption and its relation with development, lifespan, memory and learning. This project is important because patients with diseases such as diabetes and obesity are recommended to use sweeteners like stevia because it doesn’t activate a glycemic response. These experiences fueled my interest to pursue graduate studies in the biomedical field. The Discovery Post-Baccalaureate Research and Education Program offers me the opportunity to gain more experience, learn research techniques and enrich my professional development. Being in a PREP program allows me to be better prepared to enroll in graduate research program.

Summer Fair

SummerFairI am an aspiring physician scientist who is interested in developing novel methods to characterize the development of the central nervous system. My overlapping interests in science and medicine have led me to both basic science and clinical experiences. I am most passionate about inventive research approaches that resolve the disconnect between scientific discovery and clinical treatments. I began to entertain my interest in scientific inquiries of development at an early age –in grade school, I performed “backyard” experiments to study Land Snail growth at my grandmother’s Seattle home and brought my very first “lab notebook” to school to share results with my science teachers. Though the focal point of my scientific interests evolved to the application of development to neuroscience and medicine, my relentless curiosity still remains. I engaged in basic science research under the direction of José J. Otero, MD, PhD throughout my undergraduate career to complement my formal neuroscience education at The Ohio State University (OSU). There, I carried out several inquiries regarding the genetic and mechanistic underpinnings of autonomic dysregulation. My undergraduate research extended beyond the facilities of OSU, too. I traveled to the University of São Paulo, Brazil, where I acquired basic science skills to conduct collaborative autonomic nervous system physiology studies in rodent models. After graduation, I conducted clinical and translational autonomic nervous system research as a postbaccalaureate scholar at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. There, I engaged in a variety of studies to apply basic science and clinical findings to the innovation of clinical management and diagnostic procedures employed in autonomic nervous system dysfunction. I have returned to Columbus as a PREP scholar to continue to develop my skills as a basic scientist as I apply to MD/PhD combined-degree programs. My participation in PREP has afforded me the opportunity to conduct research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the growing field of Genomic Medicine.

Bryce White

BryceWhiteI come from a small town in rural Ohio called Yellow Springs. I graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina with a bachelors of science in biology. During my undergraduate career I was involved in research through the Research Initiative for scientific enhancement or RISE program. During my first project, under the mentorship of Dr. Antoinette Maldonado-Divincci, I used a mouse model to look at how withdrawal from alcoholism can affect the production of steroids that are naturally produced in the brain. We found that levels of corticosterone ( a steroid produced in the adrenal gland that keeps the brain in homeostasis when you have stressful experiences) were higher in regions of the brain that dealt with your happiness, and reward complex (Nucleus accumbens) as opposed to a brain region that was responsible for other functions such as memory (amygdala). I have also been employed at the North Carolina Research campus where I was investigating the effects that an extract made from a hibiscus sabdariffa plant had on the growth rate of leukemia cancer cells. These experiences are some of the main reasons why I am so passionate about research. The topics that I had the fortune of investigating are very important to the well being of mankind, which really made these experiences both exciting and worthwhile. I joined Discovery PREP with the goal to learn new research skills, and to further prepare myself for becoming a scientific professional to ensure I am ready to conduct the most beneficial research possible. I am currently rotating through labs trying to get a feel for what type of research best suites my interests. In addition to my laboratory work I like to engage in extracurricular activities such as cooking and playing basketball.

Dayron Leyva Rodriguez

DayronRodriguezI am a political refugee who came from Cuba eleven years ago. I graduated from Niagara University in December 2018, with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and minor in Chemistry. During my undergraduate career, I was involved in a research project in the fields of Microbiology and Biochemistry. Through this project I was engaged in identifying glycoside hydrolase genes in different bacteria, enzymes that are able to cleave glyosidic bonds in sugars, under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Gallo. Our project’s goal was to create a universal blood by using these enzymes that can cleave sugars found on the surface of blood. I gained a great range of experiences, from learning how to use BLAST analysis to identifying genes, using primers and restriction enzymes to isolate genes of interest and properly growing competent cells for further transformations. This project gave me the opportunity to present our research at the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition in the summer of 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. During my last semester as an undergraduate I was able to be engaged in the teaching assistant program. An opportunity which allowed me to help students improve in organic chemistry. These experiences further fueled my passion for research. I joined the Discovery prep program with the intent to develop the ability of critical thinking, learning new research skills, and exploring new fields within the Biomedical Science community. I am a person passionate about science, but I like to enjoy social life. I like to play soccer or swim whenever I can. In my spare time, I really enjoy reading graphic novels, a hobby that I acquired thanks to a professor who introduced this genre in an English class back in college. Finally, I am a person who loves animals, so whenever an animal show is being broadcast on television, I feel compelled to watch it.

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