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Hilary BrightHilary Bright

I graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in May 2016, with a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Before attending UMBC, I was a part of the Science and Technology Program at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, located in Prince Georges County, MD. During my undergraduate career, I was part of the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program and was also funded by the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Currently, I am conducting research on the protein thymine-DNA glycosylase (TDG) in the laboratory of Dr. Alexander Drohat. TDG is an enzyme that removes thymine from T:G mismatch pairs. Our lab is primarily focused on determining how TDG recognizes T:G mismatch pairs, and its likely role in epigenetic regulation.

After finishing my time at UMB, I plan to pursue a MD/PhD in Human Genetics.

Kaia-AmoahKaia Amoah

"I am a 2017 graduate of Hampton University where I received a BS in Cellular and Molecular Biology. I am fortunate to have had a diversity of research experiences, which has exposed me to various areas of concentration for my plans to pursue a MD/PhD. I was introduced to scientific research my freshman year of college when I interned at the Feinstein Institute in New York. At Feinstein, I researched prostate cancer epidemiology-- specifically analyzing biomarkers for prostate cancer metastasis.  The following summer, I served as a research intern at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine where I examined Rotavirus genome replication. Most recently, I served as CRAB fellow at my undergraduate institution, and worked on a continuing research project that examined the genetic diversity among the red crab population in the Atlantic region. I have presented my research at various conferences and symposiums throughout my undergraduate career.

Currently, I work under the direction of Dr. Thomas Blanpied, who is conducting exciting research that examines the structural organization at synapses and the role that this plays in neuronal propagation. Specifically, my project will examine the role of Kynurenic acid in cognitive diseases such as Schizophrenia.

From this experience, I plan to build an extensive network of mentors in the field while also laying a strong foundation for what awaits me in my career as a physician-scientist. I thank STAR-PREP for giving me the opportunity to do just that."

Mc Millan ChingMc Millan Ching

I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) with a BS in Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology, and a BA in Philippine Language, Linguistics, and Literature. I conducted various research projects during my tenure as an undergraduate student in several academic and research institutions in the US and overseas. I was once a visiting scholar under Toshio Miki, PhD of the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine investigating the engraftment of human amniotic epithelial stem cells in transgenic animal models for congenital liver diseases. I then participated in an international research training for tropical medicine, under the supervision of Sirida Youngchim, PhD, in Chiang Mai University, Thailand where I studied the pathogenesis of Penicillium marneffei, a fungal pathogen endemic to Southeast Asia that causes the AIDS-defining illness penicilliosis. I also worked under Linda Chang, MD of the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu for her clinical research on the effects of Cognitive Memory (CogMed) training in patients with HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND). During my time at the UHM, my research thesis, sponsored by Dulal Borthakur, PhD, centered on the investigation of the molecular transport of iron via metal-chelating pathways in leguminous plants.

Here, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, I am currently conducting research under the guidance of Jocelyn Reader, PhD, and Amy Fulton, PhD, whose research is focused on investigating the role of PGE2  pathway members EP4 and MRP4 in stem-like and tumor-initiating phenotypes of ovarian and breast cancers. My project is centered around investigating the effects of interrupting MRP4 and EP4 signaling pathways in ovarian cancer.

My ultimate goal is to become a physician scientist who can perform both PCR and CPR!

Dominique-EarlandDominique Earland

I graduated with Honors from Southern Methodist University with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights with Distinction in 2017. During my undergraduate career, I developed interests in maternal health and birth outcomes after completing social science and public health research.

I was fortunate to study these topics in a global health perspective while conducting research in the Epidemiology department of Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We focused on the predictors and prevalence of anemia in pregnancy in Western Jamaica. I was able to apply the knowledge I gained in a local setting through the Embrey Human Rights Community Outreach Fellowship. I developed an education and resource toolkit to address the high maternal mortality rate in Texas with the Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) of Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas.

I want to purse an MD/PhD to directly serve the health needs of the community as well as develop clinical research knowledge required to improve standards of care.  Currently, I am working under Dr. Miriam Laufer, whose research is focused on malaria pathogenesis, disease burden, and drug resistance. We are studying the genetic polymorphism of MSP1, a malaria parasite surface protein, in asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum infections.

Edith HernandezEdith Hernandez

I graduated from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 2017 with two B.S. degrees in  Biology and Psychology. My main research interests revolve around the concept of drug abuse, addiction, and related behaviors. I am interested in pursuing a combined MD/PhD degree, which would allow me to continue my research endeavors and have the opportunity to apply my knowledge in the clinic as well.

My first 3 years at UTEP, I worked with Theodore V. Cooper, PhD, in the Prevention and Treatment in Clinical Health (PATCH) Lab. I assisted in the management of the smoking cessation clinic, StopLite and was part of the A Smoke-Free Paso del Norte Initiative and Tobacco Control Network in the bi-cultural region of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. During my time working with Dr. Cooper, I participated in tobacco-related clinical research focused on treatment and youth prevention. Having seen the clinical aspect of addiction, I became curious about the neurobiological mechanisms that drive drug dependence and joined the Behavioral and Neural Plasticity Lab with Eddie Castañeda, PhD. I became familiar with the dopamine system by exploring potential diagnostic behavioral biomarkers during early neurodegeneration in the onset of Parkinson’s Disease. Subsequently, I led my own independent study during my last year at UTEP, looking at the neural mechanisms involved in amphetamine-induced behavioral sensitization. Additionally, I volunteered with Katie Serafine, PhD, in the Behavioral Pharmacology Lab at UTEP to enhance my skillset and learn about pharmacological assays used to test the impact of diet to drug sensitivity.

To further prepare myself for a combined degree, I branched out from my addiction-based research in the summer of 2016 to learn about health-related research in a developing country. I participated in the Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) Program, in which I traveled to Ambato and Pelileo, Ecuador to establish a culturally-appropriate labor and delivery method for the indigenous female population at The Hospital of Pelileo. We spent 2 months working in conjunction with the hospital’s staff and traveling to remote areas of the Andes with the local Promotores de Salud in the hopes of improving health care access to the Quechua people.

Currently as a STAR-PREP Scholar at UMB, I am excited to start my research with Joseph Cheer, PhD, exploring a novel calcium imaging method in freely moving animals using mini-endoscope technology. Our lab is centered in exploring the neuromodulation of motivated behaviors by the endogenous cannabinoid system. My project will be centered around determining the impact of this system in spatial and working memory.


Elena Muse

I graduated from Emory University, in May 2017, with a BS in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology. There, I conducted research in the Boulis laboratory in the Neurosurgery department. I worked on a pilot study delivering Heat Shock Factor 1 (HSF1) via adeno-associated virus 9 vector (AAV9) with intent to up-regulate heat shock proteins (HSPs) in transgenic rat models that mimic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The aim of my research was to alleviate protein aggregates through the increased levels of HSPs.

In addition, I had the opportunity to work in the Sampson lab at Duke University during the summer of 2016. I worked with T cells that were genetically engineered with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). These CAR T cells target type III epidermal growth factor (EGFVRIII), which is a glioma tumor specific mutant receptor. After witnessing promising results from this therapy, this project sparked my interest in continuing to work in immunotherapy.

I have the privilege to work in Dr. Davila’s lab whose focus is on tumor immunology and immunotherapy. I’m currently working on engineering artificial antigen presenting cells. The basis of my work over the next year will involve utilizing these aAPCs to expand T cells of known specificities; we will genetically modify them to express specific MHC I and tumor peptides.

My goal at UMB is to gain more knowledge and obtain expertise in common protocols involved in being a researcher in immunotherapy, while concurrently expanding my academic portfolio in order to pursue an MD/PhD.

Kayla-Rayford‌Kayla Rayford

I graduated from Bowie State University in May 2017 with a BS in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Before matriculating to Bowie State, I was in the UCLA Pre-College Science Education program which allowed me to conduct oral cancer research at UCLA’s school of Dentistry. Though my university did not have much research funding for students, I utilized my summers by participating in research opportunities at other universities such as The University of Oregon and Georgetown University.

Currently, I am working in Dr. Frieman’s lab understanding the mechanisms of diabetes enhanced MERS-CoV pathogenesis. Our lab primarily focuses on interaction between SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and host organisms. With this extensive research experience and resources and guidance from STAR-PREP leadership, I hope to gain admission into a great graduate program in Microbiology/Immunology.