Graduate Students

Ahn, Songyeon (Song)
DiGiovanni Lab

I am a graduate student working in the Dr.DiGiovanni lab. My current project is about studying the relationship between obesity and prostate cancer progression, especially the role of the chemokine CXCL12. My lab is located at DPRI which is off campus and I don’t take classes anymore, so it is hard to see people on campus. But I am happy to meet with you at TG Pharm or other Pharmacy events. I love listening to K-pop and I love drinking coffee!

Chen, Ruizhuo (Rachel)
Fonken Lab

I am a graduate student in Dr. Laura Fonken’s lab. I received a master’s degree in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan. Before that, I received my BS in Pharmacy from China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing, China. I am currently investigating the effects of early-life light at night exposure on susceptibility to immune challenges and mood disorders. Outside the lab, I like to see musicals and practice (and try out others’) cooking.

Chu, Christopher (Chris)
DeMorrow Lab

I received my Bachelors of Science in Human Physiology from Sargent College at Boston University and my Masters of Science in Exercise and Health Sciences from the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Currently I am working on understanding the mechanisms behind acetaminophen-induced acute liver injury. My hobbies include martial arts, weightlifting and shooting.

D’Amico, Alexandra (Lexie)
Vasquez Lab

I received my BS in Biotechnology from University of Houston. I am a graduate student in Karen Vasquez’s lab studying the role of Flap Endonuclease 1 (FEN1) on alternative DNA structure-induced genetic instability. Alternative DNA structures form at repeating elements in the genome and have been reported to be enriched at mutation “hotspots” in human cancer genomes. Our lab has found that FEN1 associates with and cleaves these DNA structures, resulting in the suppression of alternative DNA structure-induced genetic instability, suggesting that FEN1 is required for maintaining genomic integrity at mutagenic “hotspots”. My project aims to fill in a fundamental gap in knowledge of how FEN1 impacts the mutagenic processing of alternative DNA structure-forming sequences, thereby influencing genomic instability. Outside of the lab, one of my favorite things to do in Austin is to enjoy a morning jog around Lady Bird Lake.

Eguiarte-Solomon, Fernando
DiGiovanni Lab

I received a BS with honors in Pharmaceutical and Biological Chemistry from National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). I’ve been enrolled in 5 universities in 3 different countries and UT Austin has definitely proven to be best at how much it does for the well-being of its students; facilitating all of the resources that are needed to succeed academically and personally. The College of Pharmacy itself has shown to be excellent at promoting collaborations and clear communication at every level, honoring the spirit of this dynamic city where the community comes first. As a graduate research assistant in the Pharmacology-Toxicology division of the Pharmaceutical Sciences doctorate program, I am being trained in the study of the molecular mechanisms within signaling networks involved in skin cancer progression. My project has provided me with expertise in executing experimental protocols and molecular methodologies using in vitro systems and genetic knockout and tumor animal models.

Guerin, Steven
Nixon Lab

I’m originally from Albuquerque NM, where I received by BS in Biology from the University of New Mexico. I came to the University of Texas in 2018, and soon joined the lab of Dr. Kimberly Nixon to study the effects of alcohol on adult neurogenesis. I love the local coffee scene here in Austin, and enjoy hitting up my favorite barbecue spots on the weekends!

Huynh, Van
Vasquez Lab

I have a BS in Pharmacy from The University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I am a graduate student working in Dr. Vasquez’s lab. I study the mechanisms by which the cells respond and repair DNA interstrand crosslink, causing lethal damage to the cells, and how high mobility group box (HMGB) proteins play a role in these complicated processes. I feel fortunate to be a part of this lab where I have a great learning environment with a wonderful advisor, great mentors and friends. Outside the program, I am enjoying being a best friend with my 4 year old son. I am also interested in cooking and DIY activities.

Klattenhoff, Alex
Vasquez Lab

My name is Alex Klattenhoff, and I am a fifth-generation Texan from the Austin area. I spent my youth pursuing academics, high-fantasy-related activities, music as a band nerd and a piano teacher, and camping in the outdoors as an Eagle Scout. I carried most of that with me through my Bachelor’s degree in Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology from Texas A&M University and my Master’s degree in Gene Therapy and Vaccines from the University of Pennsylvania. Motivated by my productive experience as a lab manager within the laboratory of Dr. Dawit Kidane here at the University of Texas, I entered the Pharmacology and Toxicology Division to pursue my PhD under the mentorship of Dr. Karen Vasquez. Although I still keep my young self alive by remaining social, playing the piano, and still playing D&D with my friends, I spend the majority of my effort in the lab working on my thesis topic regarding the aberrant DNA repair of oxidative lesions within non-B DNA structures in relationship to cancer mutagenesis.

Kompella, Pallavi
Vasquez Lab

I am an American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE) pre-doctoral fellow in Karen Vasquez’s lab. I received my MS in Biotechnology from Sadar Patel University, Gujarat, India. My research goal is to better define the molecular mechanisms of obesity-related cancers (ORCs). I study how diet-induced obesity impacts DNA damage and repair and contributes to cancer development.

I also believe that preparing the next generation of researchers is one of the major responsibilities of every researcher. As an experienced tutor, teaching assistant and the President of Present your PhD Thesis to a 12 year-old Project at UT, I constantly strive to foster enthusiasm for science in children. To have a broader impact of my research on public, as often as possible, I try to present my research findings to middle and high school students in fun and interactive ways.

Li, Tonia
Vasquez Lab

I am a graduate student in the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology in Dr. Karen Vasquez’s lab. My current project focuses on the impact of age on DNA repair mechanisms at mutation hotspots. I finished my undergraduate degree at Emory University with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 2017. After graduation I worked as a laboratory technician in a bioengineering lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Sanchez, Kevin
Fonken Lab

I am in Dr. Laura Fonken’s laboratory and am studying the mechanisms by which estrogen deficiency and resulting neuroinflammation can increase vulnerability to neurodegenerative diseases and mood disorders. I completed a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology at Florida State University. My favorite aspect of Austin is the extensive cultural diversity, along with plenty of fantastic restaurants and food trucks. My interests outside of work include acrylic painting, playing the piano, and going on hikes with my dogs.

Shen, Xin
Powers Lab

I am a graduate student from the Pharmacology and Toxicology program at the pharmacy school of The University of Texas at Austin. I finished my undergraduate study in Biochemistry at UT Austin in 2019. I will be in Dr. John Powers lab that focuses on targeting miRNA in pediatric cancer neuroblastoma. I am interested in cancer research, and my commitment is to contribute to new discoveries that will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of people across the globe.

Streifer, Madeline

I attended The University of California at Santa Cruz (go slugs!) where I received a BS in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. My background in neurodegeneration brought me to The University of Texas at Austin where I am currently a rotating graduate student. Outside of lab, I enjoy the music and food that Austin has to offer.

Thakur, Megha
DiGiovanni Lab

I received my BS in Pharmacy and my MS in Pharmacology from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bangalore, India. I’m investigating the role of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) in development of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma under the guidance of Dr. DiGiovanni. I’m overwhelmed by the love and support we get by our faculty and staff and feel proud to be the part of Pharm./Tox. Division. People in Austin are very welcoming and friendly. It’s home away from home. Let’s “KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD”!!!

Thompson, Ryan
Nixon Lab

I attended The University of Kentucky where I received a BS in Psychology. My interest in how alcohol affects the nervous system took me from Kentucky to The University of Texas at Austin to join Dr. Kimberly Nixon’s lab at the University of Texas in 2018. Outside of lab, I enjoy the music and food Austin has to offer.

Wilder, Carly
DiGiovanni Lab

I am a graduate student in the DiGiovanni lab working on a novel therapeutic treatment option for melanoma skin cancer. I have a BS in Biology and MS in Environmental Toxicology from the University of Washington. The compound I am evaluating is an engineered human enzyme that depletes extracellular methionine. The idea behind my work is that cancer cells require higher levels of methionine than non-cancerous cells to grow and survive, so by depleting extracellular methionine cancer cells will be starved of this essential amino acid resulting in decreases in cell viability. So far, I have found that the enzyme is effective at inhibiting cell growth in cell culture and in animal models. When I have free time I enjoy running in Austin and skiing when I can get back to the Pacific Northwest.

Zhao, Shengyuan (Tim)
Kidane Lab

I am in Dr. Kidane’s lab, and my research interest is to understand how base excision repair deficiency impacts on gastric cancer etiology. I received my BS in Pharmaceutical Science from Fudan University, Shanghai, China in 2016. Dealing with carcinogens and mice is quite hard, but determination and a lot, lot of coffee help me power through.

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