We are very proud of our undergraduate students conducting research and want to share their achievements!
If you would like to share your Student Success stories with us, please email your information to: email@example.com.
Faculty Mentor:Tongyu Cao Wikramanayake, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Angel Leiva is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Research Training Program and an Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Undergraduate Program Scholar. Angel Leiva has conducted several cancer-related research projects in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine over the past 3 years. Initially, he was engaged in clinical cancer research with Keyvan Nouri, M.D., Director of Mohs, Dermatologic and Laser Surgery, and participated in a research project concerning the predictive factors that determine scar severity. During his time in the clinic, Angel co-authored four review articles in cancer research and contributed to Dr. Nouri’s book “Lasers in Dermatology.” Angel then worked with Dr. Nouri and Dr. Wikramanayake, and examined the expression of a putative cell adhesion protein called MPZL3 in cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. He presented the results as a nominated scholar at the 2010 Annual Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Conference and at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). As a result of his accomplishments in the lab, Angel was nominated for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) and earned a summer internship to conduct cancer research at New York University School of Medicine. He worked in Dr. Michele Pagano’s HHMI lab to study the protein expression of the CRL4/CDT2 complex, an E3 ubiquitin ligase, which can induce PCNA monoubiquitylation in response to replicative stress and observed that when CDT2 proteasomal degradation is inhibited, the cells showed a marked increase in resistance to replicative stress stimuli; a hallmark that may be responsible for the increase in the rate of survival for cancerous cells undergoing replicative stress. Currently, Angel is studying the role of MPZL3 in sebaceous gland development as his Honors thesis project for graduation in Spring 2012. After he obtains his baccalaureate in Biology and Chemistry, he plans to continue cancer research as an M.D./Ph.D. candidate.
Mentor:Priyamvada Rai, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami
Research published as second author: BMC Biotechnol. 2012 Jan 16;12(1):3. [Epub ahead of print] Creation and validation of a ligation-independent cloning (LIC) retroviral vector for stable gene transduction in mammalian cells. Patel A, Munoz A, Halvorsen K, Rai P. Journal Article
Student: Maria Giribaldi
Faculty Mentor:Priyamvada Rai, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami
2011: Won the award for Outstanding Senior Honors Thesis in Biology. 2010:Recipient of one of five highly prestigious Sylvester Cancer Center Summer Undergraduate Research fellowships. Project Title: Targeting Tumor Suppressor Pathways Implicated in Generation of Androgen-Refractory Prostate Cancer Cells. Also co-author in the prestigious cancer research journal Oncogene Enhanced elimination of oxidized guanine nucleotides inhibits oncogenic RAS-induced DNA damage and premature senescence. P Rai, J J Young, D G A Burton , M G Giribaldi, T T Onder and R A Weinberg Oncogene Journal Article
Student: Rafael Hernandez – College of Arts & Sciences, Biology
Faculty Mentor: Helena Solo-Gabriele, Ph.D., University of Miami, Professor, Civil, Architectural & Environmental Engineering
Rafael is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Research Training Program scholar entering his senior year. He conducted research on sinus node cells at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in the summer of 2009 as part of the Leadership Alliance program. Rafael was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman international scholarship to study abroad at Sussex University in Brighton, England during spring of 2010. He is currently performing research in environmental science under the Oceans and Human Health center at RSMAS. Rafael is interested in pursuing a PhD in epidemiology upon receiving his Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from the University of Miami.
Project Title: Characterization of the abundance and growth of the fecal indicator bacterium enterococci in the supratidal zones of Hobie Cat Beach, a nonpoint source beach, before and after a complete renovation of the beach transect, in order to reevaluate the use of enterococci as a pathogen indicator organism in public beaches.
Student: Sara Rodriguez
Faculty Mentor: Samita Andreansky, Ph.D., University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Sylvester Cancer Center Assistant Professor Department of Pediatrics, Microbiology and Immunology and Medicine
Sara Rodriguez, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Research Training Program, has two abstracts that were or will be presented in meetings, one of which won the best presenter award last year: Abstract:Rodriguez S., Lybarger L. and Andreansky S. MHC Class I single-chain construct expressing immunodominant epitopes as Viable DNA Vaccines Against Influenza Virus. Science, Technology & Diversity for a Sustainable Future, Anaheim, California, September, 2010. Abstract:Rodriguez S., Lybarger L. and Andreansky S. Development of MHC Class I single chain constructs as effective DNA vaccines for influenza virus. Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, Phoenix, AZ, November 4, 2009 (Best Presenter Award in Immunology Section).
Student: Raul Caso
Faculty Mentor:Marta Torroella-Kouri, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine
Raul Caso has been conducting cancer research in my laboratory since the summer of his freshman year at the University of Miami. In the summer of 2009 he was awarded one of ten prestigious American Cancer Society Research Fellowships, during which time he began his work on the characterization of blood monocytes found in mice with advanced mammary tumors. In 2010 he was accepted as a member in the American Association for Cancer Research and was awarded the prestigious American Association for Cancer Research-Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Award, which provided him with a stipend to attend the prestigious American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting in 2010 and 2011. In addition, in the summer of 2010 he was accepted into the highly competitive Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program at Harvard University Medical School, where he conducted research in a viral oncology laboratory studying the molecular biology of Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus. Currently, Raul is continuing to work in my laboratory where he is contributing to the completion of a manuscript we are submitting to a peer-reviewed journal.
Raul was co-author of an article published in 2009 in Cancer Research [Identification of a new subpopulation of macrophages in mammary tumor bearing mice that are neither M1 nor M2 and are less differentiated. Cancer Research, 69; (11): 4800-4809. Marta Torroella-Kouri, Risset Silvera, Dayron Rodriguez, Raul Caso, Alwi Shatry, Shannon Opiela, Dan Ilkovitch, Reto A. Schwendener, Viyaya Iragavarapu-Charyulu, Yoslayma Cardentey, Natasa Strbo and Diana M. Lopez].
Also, Raul’s very interesting project on the study of blood monocytes from mice bearing advanced mammary tumors was published in October 2010 in the International Journal of Oncology[Blood monocytes from mammary tumor-bearing mice: early targets of tumor-induced immune suppression? International Journal of Oncology, 37; (4): 891-900. Raul Caso, Risset Silvera, Roberto Carrio, Viyaya Iragavarapu-Charyulu, Ruben R. Gonzalez-Perez and Marta Torroella-Kouri.]. This publication contributed relatively new information relating to the role of monocytes in tumor progression.
Raul will present the abstract of the manuscript we are in the process of submitting for publication, of which he is co-author, at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in April 2011 [Tumor microenvironment induces profound immune suppression: Macrophages from peripheral and tumor locations differ in their degrees of inflammatory impairment. Marta Torroella-Kouri, Dayron Rodriguez, Risset Silvera, Mehrdad Nadji, Raul Caso, Roberto Carrio, and Gracielena Rodriguez.]. Raul will also be presenting the results of his publication on blood monocytes at the 2011 Research, Creativity, Innovation Forum at the University of Miami.
Student: Nayma Casamayor
Faculty Mentor:Roy Levitt, Ph.D.
Nayma Casamayor, a biology major with minors in chemistry and psychology, is a member of the University of Miami Class of 2010. She grew up in Havana, Cuba, and began school in the United States in the 11th grade. After her graduation from high school, Nayma attended Miami Dade Community College for two years as a member of the Honors College, and received her Associate’s Degree in Biology. She then transferred to the University of Miami. With her interest in research and a plan to get an M.D./Ph.D., Nayma searched for opportunities with UM medical faculty.
She discovered a position with Dr. Roy Levitt at the Translational Research Division of the Department of Anesthesiology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and began working with his laboratory in the spring of 2009, as an undergrad work/study student. While Nayma had no experience in biological lab procedures, she received comprehensive training from the lab manager, Dr. Qiongzhen Li. Nayma’s introductory experience in the lab was on mouse models of lung disease and addiction, through which she developed experience with rudimentary lab techniques. Nayma then transitioned to a project in one of the Division’s major areas of emphasis, genetics of pain, which enabled her to earn credits and refine her techniques. She also was part of a project on the regulation of stem cell-mediated repair of lung injury in aging and smoking.
As part of this team, Nayma quickly demonstrated her ability, becoming proficient in the laboratory, and providing valuable contributions. Through her own determination and leadership, Nayma ensured productivity, continuing her work with the team during the school year and past graduation, resulting in a publication. She graduated in May 2010, with a Bachelor’s of Science in biology. Nayma recently became a full-time laboratory assistant for Dr. Levitt’s lab and has applied to medical school. She still plans to obtain her M.D/Ph.D., and is considering Anesthesiology among the possibilities for her area of specialization.
Student: Heather Miller
Faculty Mentor:Rakesh Singal, M.D.
Heather graduated from the University of Miami with a B.S. in Biology and Spanish in May 2010. During the last two years of her undergraduate education she volunteered as research assistant in Dr. Singal’s lab, conducting research on prostate, bladder and pancreatic cancer. In the summer of 2009 she was awarded the American Cancer Society Summer Fellowship at Sylvester Cancer Center. Most of her time was in the lab was focused on a project relating to the epigenetics of pancreatic cancer. Her summer project led to further research and culminated in the publication of ‘Methylation-mediated Silencing of TMS1 in Pancreatic Cancer and its Potential Contribution to Chemosensitivity’ in Anticancer Research in October 2010. For her project in Dr. Singal’s lab, she received the best thesis award for the Honors in Biology program. Heather is currently continuing her studies as a medical student at Florida International University College of Medicine.