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Approved MARC-U*STAR and RISE Mentors


Note: Mathematics and Statistics will work with faculty from other departments


Biomedical Engineering
Computer Science


Biology Mentors

Bernard Arulanandam, Ph.D.
Professor of Microbiology & Immunology, UTSA

Mucosal Immunity Research Group: Focuses on understanding host-microbe interactions and identifying approaches to induce optimal mucosal protection and immunity.

Edwin Barea-Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Professor of Neurobiology, UTSA
Department Chair of Biology, UTSA

The focus of my research is on the neurobiology of aging. The central hypothesis of my aging research program proposes that aged related impairments in cognition and synaptic plasticity share similar underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms. According to our model, oxidative stress causes impairment in neuronal excitability and maintenance of long-term potentiation (LTP), a form of synaptic plasticity believed to mediate learning and memory processes. The impairment in these physiological processes ultimately impairs spatial learning and memory in aged animals.

Astrid Cardona, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Neuroimmunology & Fractalkine Receptor Biology, UTSA

Our studies use experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) as a model to investigate pathological events related to Multiple Sclerosis. The primary focus is to determine the contribution of the fractalkine receptor (CX3CR1) to disease severity. Fractalkine (CX3CL1) and its receptor CX3CR1 provide a physiologically-relevant neuron-microglia communication mechanism. Some of the questions we are addressing include: Does CX3CR1 play a role in the trafficking of microglial precursors? Does CX3CR1-deficiency on microglia or peripheral cells enhance neuronal/axonal pathology? How does CX3CR1-deficiency alter CNS immune responses? We intend to clarify the role of fractalkine/CX3CR1 in the brain, research that is instrumental for potential development of therapeutic agents.

Gary Cole, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology, UTSA

Coccidioides is a human fungal pathogen that can also cause mild to fatal respiratory disease (coccidioidomycosis, San Joaquin Valley fever, desert rheumatism) in immunocompetent individuals. Although about 50% of the people exposed to Coccidioides may only experience mild discomfort and do not seek medical intervention, clinical evidence suggests that reactivation of the respiratory disease can occur months to years after the original insult. Research in my laboratory is focused both on development of human and veterinary vaccines against fungal diseases, and investigations of virulence mechanisms of medically-important fungi.

Thomas Forsthuber, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Immunology, UTSA
Adjunct Professor of Pathology, UTHSCSA

Cellular immunology, T cell immunity, autoimmune diseases: The immune system plays a fundamental role in the defense against microbial pathogens. However, erroneous activation of the immune system can lead to autoimmune diseases. This laboratory pursues several lines of investigation to understand how T cells contribute to autoimmune diseases and protection from infection, and how to modulate T cell immunity for therapeutic purposes in humans.

Matthew Gdovin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology, UTSA

Current research is designed to examine the developmental aspects of the neural control of respiration, focusing on central pattern generation and central respiratory chemoreception. Recent developments include an in vitro brainstem preparation of the bullfrog tadpole Rana catesbeiana that is well oxygenated throughout and more importantly, retains robust, spontaneous respiratory rhythmicity and central chemoreception. Ongoing research is directed at describing the cellular and molecular changes which take place in both central respiratory pattern generating and chemoreceptor neurons during development. We also study mechanisms underlying Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Luis Haro, Ph.D.
Professor of Cell & Molecular Biology, UTSA

Program centers on the identification, isolation and characterization of new human pituitary and placental hormones (growth hormones/cytokines/chemokines) and delineation of their biological roles in normal physiology (metabolism, growth, differentiation, aging, immunology, brain function) and abnormal physiology (cancer, diabetes, HIV infection). The hormones studied include synthetic mutants (site-directed mutants, deletion mutants), naturally occurring hormones and post-translational or alternatively spliced hormones. After isolation of these hormones, their structures are determined and their biopotencies were tested in a variety of in vitro (cell culture and organ explant culture) and in vivo bioassays that measure the immunologic, lactogenic, metabolic, physiologic, and anatomic affects associated with these hormones.

Brian Hermann, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, UTSA

Student projects in my lab will revolve around cell-fate decisions in Spermatogonial Stem Cells. SSCs are adult-tissue stem cells in the mammalian testis that balance self renewing and differentiating fate decisions to give rise to and sustain the entire spermatogenic lineage. The molecular mechanisms that control these fate decisions in SSCs are largely unknown. transcriptional programs critical for SSC function. We are testing the hypothesis that specific transcription factors form regulatory networks to execute gene expression programs important for SSC fate decisions (self-renewal and differentiation), and ultimately, spermatogenesis. My laboratory also studies fertility preservation in male cancer patients. While there are currently no options to preserve/protect the future fertility of prepubertal boys who are not yet making sperm, several technologies are on the horizon to preserve fertility. We are testing a novel approach to protect spermatogenesis chemotherapy-induced cytotoxicity by exploring the impact of several cytokines, including G-CSF and SCF.

David Jaffe, Ph.D.
Professor of Neurobiology, UTSA

Research focuses on synaptic integration and neuronal excitability in young, adult, and aged neurons of the hippocampal formation—a region of the brain important for certain aspects of learning and memory and one of the first areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer's disease. Using a combination of single-channel patch-clamp recording methods, whole-cell recording techniques, fluorescence calcium imaging, and computer modeling we are studying how voltage-gated channels are distributed within the dendritic tree and how this interacts with synaptic inputs to drive a neuron to fire. Other interests of the lab include how intracellular calcium dynamics in neurons, and its effects on membrane excitability, are affected in the aging brain and how these changes affect the computations made by neurons in aging animals.

Karl Klose, Ph.D.
Professor of Microbiology, UTSA

Research is focused on studying the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes cholera, and Francisella tularensis, the bacterium that causes tularemia. Cholera is a life-threatening diarrheal disease that remains a persistent problem for the developing world. Inside the host, the bacteria adhere to the surface of intestinal epithelial cells and produce a number of virulence factors. Another area of interest is the study of pathogenic mechanisms of Francisella tularensis, a potential bioweapon, with particular interest in determining how this bacterium evades killing within host macrophages. The ultimate goal is the development of novel vaccines and therapeutics against this disease.

Richard LeBaron, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Cell & Molecular Biology, UTSA

Proteoglycans: examining the biological functions of a large chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (versican). The amino acid sequence of versican contains several potential binding elements, to include a hyaluronan binding domain at the N-terminus and two EGF-life units, a lectin-like unit and a complement regulatory protein-like unit at the C-terminus. The presence of these structural motifs suggest that versican interacts with several molecules and may play a structural role in tissue by “linking” molecules together. Versican binds to hyaluronan with high affinity (Kd in the nM range). The role of versican in the central nervous system (CNS) is now being studied. Versican is synthesized by glial cells in the CNS and co-localizes with myelinated axons. The untrastructural localization of versican with myelin and with glial cells will be examined by light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.

Jose Lopez-Ribot, Pharm.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Biology, UTSA

Research focuses on opportunistic pathogenic fungus Candida albicans. C. albicans is part of the normal human microbiota. However, as an opportunistic pathogen it is capable of causing overt disease (candidiasis), but usually only in hosts with defective immunity. The frequency of candidiasis has increased dramatically in the last decades as a result of an expanding population of immunocompromised patients. As a result, candidiasis is now the fourth most common nosocomial infections. Even with treatment using available antifungal agents, mortality rates lie in the 30- 40% range for these infected patients. As an opportunistic pathogen, it is clear that mechanisms of host immunity and pathogen virulence intertwine, giving rise to the highly complex nature of host-fungus interactions. However, most investigations into these topics are overwhelmingly "one-sided" which has resulted in a dangerous dichotomy between "microorganism-centered" and "host-centered" views of candidal pathogenesis.

Martha Lundell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics, UTSA

Current research is focused on elucidating a mechanism of differentiation for one particular neuronal cell type, the serotonergic neurons in the ventral nerve cord of Drosophila. The sophisticated molecular and genetic techniques available in Drosophila allow one to ask specific questions on cellular differentiation that cannot be asked in any other model system.  A number of genes and cell signaling pathways have been characterized, that are important to the development of the serotonergic lineage and are now examining how these molecules interact to specify serotonin cell fate. Another area of research in the laboratory is the relationship of genomic instability and aging. Investigation includes the genomic instability using a transgenic Drosophila lacZ-reporter system.

John McCarrey, Ph.D.
Professor of Cell & Molecular Biology

Research in my laboratory is centered on the development, differentiation, and manipulation of mammalian germ cells - the cells that form the gametes (sperm in males and eggs in females). Our primary experimental system is the mouse; however, we also conduct studies in baboons, opossums, and other mammalian species. We are interested in 1) differential gene expression in germ cells and the mechanisms that regulate this; 2) X-chromosome activity and inactivity in germ cells; 3) genomic imprinting and how this becomes established during gamatogenesis; 4) animal cloning and abnormalities this process may induce in genetic and epigenetic programming mechanisms; and 5) manipulation of germ cells from baboons to generate transgenic non-human primates.

Paul Mueller, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology, UTSA

The goal of his research is to elucidate the regulatory pathways that control eukaryotic cell proliferation, particularly in relation to embryogenesis and development. Eukaryotic cells, from yeast to human, divide by following a series of events known as the cell cycle. In turn, advancement through the cell cycle is driven by a family of cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs). Strict regulation of the CDKs ensures that cell proliferation takes place only in the proper temporal order and only under the proper conditions. For example, the cell cycle of a normal cell will stop or slow its progression in response to specific developmental signals or perceived damage to cellular components. When this regulation fails, developmental abnormalities and disease states such as cancer can arise. In our research, we use the model system Xenopus (African clawed frog) to study these problems. Xenopus offers the advantage of combining both biochemical and developmental approaches.

Christopher Navara, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Reproductive and Developmental Molecular Biology, UTSA

I have two central interests that I am pursuing in my on-going research. The first involves understanding the basic biology of embryonic stem (ES) cells. These cells represent a unique stage of mammalian developmental and offer the possibility of greater understanding of embryogenesis, differentiation and pluripotency. Additionally based on my preliminary data I believe that these cells share many of the hallmarks of very early cancer cells (including high telomerase activity, continued cell cycle progression, and chromosome instability) and I believe that studying ES cell maintenance and differentiation can inform our knowledge of cancer and cancer progression. I am also interested in the practical application of these cells, the use of non-human primate ES cells as potential mechanisms for developing transgenic models and the use of nhpES cells and non-human primates in the treatment and understanding of disease.

Carlos Paladini, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Neuroscience, UTSA

Research focuses on two broad approaches to study dopamine system physiology: 1) direct manipulation of receptor interactions on individual dopamine neurons in vivo and in vitro to investigate normal physiology and function; and 2) behaviorally-induced changes of receptor interactions via drug self-administration assays, which will determine the causal relationship between altered receptor interactions and drug-seeking behaviors. To achieve the first goal, we measure physiological responses (i.e., current, voltage and calcium fluxes) of dopamine neurons to electrophysiological stimulation and direct application of pharmacological agents. For the second goal, we use behavioral measures and electrophysiological techniques in tandem. Through combined electrophysiological, imaging, pharmacological, and behavioral methods we investigate dopamine neuron function to arrive at the functional contribution of this system in both normal and pathological states.

Robert Renthal, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry, UTSA

Research focus includes: 1) Insect sensory reception: How is information stored and transferred by social insects? Ant colonies are considered to be prime examples of "self-organizing" systems. This idea is being tested by examining the mechanisms of pheromone signaling by ants, using methods ranging from proteomic analysis and electron microscopy of ant brains to studies of whole colony behavior; and 2) Cell membrane assembly: How are integral membrane proteins assembled in lipid bilayers? Using biophysical and genetic methods, studies are involved in association and folding of model transmembrane peptides and integral membrane proteins.

Fidel Santamaria, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Computation and Neural Systems, UTSA

Research includes a wide set of experimental techniques, such as whole cell recordings and confocal/2-photon microscopy in vitro, as well as extracellular recordings in vivo. Modeling work has spanned from detailed morphological and physiological models of the cerebellar cortex to Monte Carlo simulations of molecular diffusion in spines and dendrites using massive parallel computers. Although the fundamental concepts studied are applicable to all neurons, most of them work has been done with the cerebellum. The very regular structure of the cerebellar cortex allows us to ask questions about the computational power of this network applied to different tasks and problems using in vivo and in vitro techniques. For these reasons the lab is initially using the cerebellum as a model system.

Stephen Saville, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Genetics, UTSA

Primary studies the opportunistic pathogenic fungus Candida albicans. C. albicans is part of the normal human microbiota but it is also capable of causing disease (candidiasis), both superficial and severe, in an expanding population of immunosuppressed patients. Some of the highlights of this research program are: i) the role of morphogenetic conversions (shape changes) in the pathogenesis of candidiasis, ii) analysis of global gene expression changes during infection and iii) high throughput screening of small molecule libraries in an attempt to identify potential new therapeutic agents for candidiasis.

Janakiram Seshu, B.V.Sc., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Bacterial Pathogenesis, UTSA

Research interests focus on two infectious diseases: 1) Lyme Disease: Determining the role of linear plasmid 54 (lp54) encoded genes of B. burgdorferi in the infectivity of mammalian hosts and characterization of the mechanisms of interactions of B. burgdorferi with mammalian-host cell surfaces; 2) Q fever: Identification of T cell epitopes of C. burnetii and modification of select C. burnetii antigens to enhance protective T cell response against virulent C. burnetii.

Johnny Short, Ph.D.
Department of Pharmacology Research Instructor, UTHSCSA

Research is focused on the role of cullin-RING-ligases (CRLs) in the dysfunction of monocytes and macrophages in response to diabetic stressors and how these protein complexes impact progression of diabetic nephropathy. Both in vitro and in vivo models of monocyte/macrophage function are utilized, and work is primarily with mouse models of diabetic nephropathy.

Valerie Sponsel, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology, UTSA

Research looks at growth and development in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which is easy to grow, has a short life cycle, has a small genome, and produces thousands of seeds per plant. By making genetic mutants of Arabidopsis we are able to select for mutant plants in which processes that are known to be controlled by gibberellins are altered. For example, by screening for and selecting plants that are extremely short or extremely tall we can investigate whether these mutants are altered in their biosynthesis or response to gibberellin. An investigation into which biochemical processes have been altered or perturbed in a mutant can lead to a clearer understanding of how those processes operate in wild-type individuals. In turn this information may be use to determine how plant growth or development could be manipulated in a specific manner to improve crop productivity and yield.

Garry Sunter, Ph.D.
Professor of Plant Pathology, UTSA

Main research focus is directed toward the study of plant gene expression, DNA replication and plant-pathogen interactions using single-stranded DNA plant viruses of the family Geminiviridae as a model system. One aspect of the research involves transcriptional regulation. In many viral systems, gene expression follows a temporal sequence that is closely coordinated and during the initial stages of infection viral DNA replication and transcription rely entirely on the host and in many cases some of the viral proteins initially expressed are subsequently involved in the regulation of other viral genes. A second interest involves the role of viral genes in host gene activation. Geminiviruses rely primarily on host replication and transcriptional machinery to express their genes and amplify their genomic DNA.

Judy Teale, Ph.D.
Professor of Immunology, UTSA

Studies include the immunobiology of infectious diseases concentrating on two different pathogens. The first pathogen is Mesocestoidescorti, a cestode parasite that serves as a model of neurocysticercosis (NCC), an infectious disease of the central nervous system that results in epileptic seizures and symptoms associated with increased intracranial pressure. Both cellular and molecular approaches are being used to delineate the associated immune response and resulting pathology. The second pathogen is Francisella tularensis, a Class A bioterrorism agent that causes severe morbidity and mortality when inhaled. Current studies indicate that this pathogen suppresses the early immune response by inducing immunosuppressive cytokines.

Todd Troyer, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, UTSA

Dr. Troyer's research focuses on understanding the neural mechanisms underlying complex temporal behavior. Research activity is centered around two major projects: 1) Behavioral analysis and computational modeling of vocal development in songbirds. Goals: to collect and analyze a large database of song collected from juvenile bird and to construct computational models of song learning; and 2) Use of theory and modeling to explore temporal (timed) coding in neurons and explore the possibility that neural circuits use interacting encoding schemes operating on different time scales to multiplex information.

Andrew Tsin, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry and Physiology, UTSA

Research focus is to understand the biochemical and cellular/molecular events in the eye related to normal visual functions and to abnormal/disease conditions. A major emphasis of this is to investigate the mechanism of pigment regeneration in the cone visual system. Using animals models, the kinetics of cone pigment bleaching and regeneration are studied in details using biochemical methods. The cellular mechanisms of cone pigment regeneration are also studied using Muller cells and retinal pigment epithelial cells in culture. An additional emphasis is to learn how hyperglycemia and/or insulin induce vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) secretion by retinal cells. Growth factors such as VEGF, transforming growth factor (TGF), and bone morphological proteins (BMP) are assayed for protein end-product using ELISA. The expression of these proteins is measured by RNA protection assays.

Matthew Wanat, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology, UTSA

Research examines the neurobiology mediating motivated behavior, with a particular focus on the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in these processes. Research approach utilizes a number of experimental techniques including electrophysiology, voltammetry, pharmacology, and behavioral manipulations.

Yufeng Wang, Ph.D.
Professor of Bioinformatics, UTSA

Research focuses on the comparative genomics, molecular evolution, and population genetics of gene families. Approaches range from the use of cutting edge bioinformatic and genomic tools, to statistical modeling and analysis based on evolution and population genetics theory. Interest is in (1) the evolutionary mechanisms and population genetics of infectious diseases; and (2) the molecular evolution of vertebrate gene families, with a particular emphasis on the age distribution and functional divergence of duplicated genes, which are believed to provide the raw material for functional novelty in higher eukaryotes.

Nicole Wicha, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology, UTSA

Research focuses on understanding how the brain processes language in real time using both behavioral and brain-imaging techniques, in particular event-related brain potentials (ERPs), which is a non-invasive direct measure of electrical brain activity with excellent precision in the time domain. These techniques to study the brain processes underlying language comprehension, such as how the monolingual brain comprehends written and spoken sentences, and when and how different sources of linguistic information (e.g., grammar and word meaning) affect our ability to understand an utterance.

Floyd Wormley Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Microbiology & Immunology, UTSA

Studies involve using Cryptococcus neoformans as a model organism to study host-fungal interactions for the purpose of developing novel immune therapies and/or vaccines to treat or prevent invasive fungal infections. C. neoformans, the causative agent of cryptococcosis, is a fungal pathogen that frequently infects the central nervous system (CNS) of immune compromised individuals causing life-threatening meningoencephalitis. Exposure to C. neoformans via the inhalation of cryptococcal spores into the nasal passages is very common in the general population. Nevertheless, cryptococcal infections in the United States predominantly pose a significant health risk in immune compromised populations (i.e., individuals receiving corticosteroid therapy, individuals with lymphoproliferative disorders and organ transplant recipients).

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Biomedical Engineering Mentors

Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D., P.E.
Peter Flawn Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA

Dr. Agrawal specializes in the area of orthopedic and cardiovascular biomaterials. His primary interests lie in the areas of tissue engineering and drug delivery. Currently his lab is investigating the effects of the architecture of tissue engineering scaffolds on nutrient supply and cell behavior. It is also using tissue engineering approaches to establish in vivo models for coronary artery disease. In the area of drug delivery his group is developing new techniques to tether drug molecules to metal surfaces using self assembled monolayers (SAMs). His work in these fields has resulted in several patents, many of which have been licensed to commercial entities.

Mark Appleford, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA

The focus of my research is to examine bone cell interactions with biomaterials and to study the pathways of cell differentiation into mature tissues. To clarify cell-biomaterial interactions we examine the integrin receptor activity of cells during their first contact with a biomaterial. Sub-cellular signaling pathways have been identified to track key players such as the stress activated protein kinases (SAPK), viability markers such as P38 and differentiation gene transcription factor RUNX2. By following pathways from outside the cell, through internal protein signaling and finally to the production of specific proteins by the cell, we can help explain the mechanisms responsible for implant rejection or successful long-term integration. Our laboratory has developed a variety of techniques to measure these signals within 3D scaffolds to better understand the mechanisms of cell behavior. The laboratory also explores the tissue-level formation of new bone through the use of bioreactor tissue engineering. By studying the morphology of the new tissue we can help refine ideal culture conditions for replacement grafts while identifying the precise fluid shear mechanical forces associated with differentiation pathways.

Rena Bizios, Ph.D.
Peter Flawn Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA

The research activities of my laboratory have focused on cellular and tissue engineering, tissue regeneration, biomaterials (including nanostructured ones), mechanisms of cellular responses to stimuli (chemical, mechanical, magnetic, electrical), and biocompatibility (specifically, cell/biomaterial interactions). For this purpose, information and insight that have become available through recent advances in a number of disciplines such as cellular/molecular biology, biochemistry, materials science, etc., has been utilized. Examples of such endeavors include: modification of material surfaces with immobilized, bioactive compounds such as select adhesive peptides; micropatterning of material surfaces in order to direct and control subsequent adhesion of specific cell lines in designated domains; and novel material formulations (specifically, nanoceramics and nanocomposites) with unique biocompatibility and/or improved mechanical and electrical properties. Cellular, in vitro models have been used to evaluate the cytocompatibility of these constructs and to determine the chemical conditions and biophysical (specifically, pressure, electric and magnetic) stimuli needed to promote neotissue growth. This research exemplifies alternative strategies and novel approaches of great potential for tissue regeneration purposes in tissue engineering and other biomedical applications.

Ender Finol, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA

In my Vascular Biomechanics and Biofluids Laboratory (VBBL), we investigate the dynamics of blood flow and its relationship with disease. During the past two decades, biofluid mechanics has become appreciated by researchers in medicine and biology as a key discipline to study the cause of arterial disease and the regulation of haemostasis in normal and diseased blood vessels. The ability to model biological flow systems experimentally and numerically is now an important component to fundamental research of vascular disease. It is of great interest to both clinical researchers and bioengineers to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of flow-induced parameters in arterial geometries under diverse flow conditions. Image-based modeling techniques and numerical methods can provide quantification of flow and structural variables for select regions of interest. With the continuous improvement of computer architecture and the development of sophisticated modeling tools, one can envision large-scale computational solutions of a multiphysics problem being used by physicians as diagnostic tools in the future. The current research projects at VBBL can be broadly classified in the areas of (1) computational biomechanics, and (2) design and optimization of medical devices. The ultimate goal of this research is to optimize the treatment options of vascular diseases and design better medical devices for these options.

Hai-Chao Han, Ph.D.
Professor of Mechanical Engineering, UTSA

Research goals are to establish a biomechanical model of artery buckling and to determine the role of mechanical factors in artery buckling. The research objectives are to establish biomechanical models for three common forms of artery buckling under blood pressure and axial elongation. Both theoretical model analysis and experimental measurement approaches will be used to determine the critical loads that lead to arterial buckling including the critical internal blood pressure, axial elongation, and twist angle. The effect of arterial diameter, length, wall thickness, material nonlinearity, and initial curvature on artery buckling will be evaluated. Model predictions will be compared to experiment results using porcine arteries and veins.

Yufei Huang, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, UTSA

Research is focused on developing computational approaches for understanding gene regulation and cancer biology, specifically in the following topics: 1) analyzing high throughput data including microarray data, Mass Spectrometry data, protein array data; 2) integrating disparate high throughput data for the purpose of uncovering gene networks; 3) metabolic pathway reconstruction and analysis for infectious disease; and 4) understand the regulatory role of noncoding RNA  in cancer. The long-term goal is to develop computational algorithms and software for data integration, uncovering gene networks, etc.

Joo Ong, Ph.D.
Department Chair of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA
Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA

Research is focused two main projects related to calcium phosphate ceramics for use in medicine: 1) research on repairing bone defects as a result of orthopedic trauma. Projects involved have included modifications of scaffold architecture and the evaluation of bone responses to optimized scaffold properties; and 2) to better understand the biological basis for successful orthopedic and dental implant therapy by elucidating the phenomena that govern osseointegration. Central to achieving this goal is the need to understand the mechanisms which control early responses of bone cells, both at implant surfaces and in the micro-environment associated with the cell-implant interface.

Liang Tang, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA

Our group has great interest in advancing and integrating nano-biotechnology and biomolecular engineering for diverse clinical applications. Specifically, the primary research focus includes development, characterization and application of nano-biosensing system for rapid medical diagnostics and mechanistic probes into various diseases such as cardiovascular diseases. We are also interested in applying bio-imaging techniques coupled with cardiac electrophysiological study in order to investigate the mechanisms underlying cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death.

Anand Ramasubramanian, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA

Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke, are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the West, and are on a rapid increase in rest of the world too. Our goal is to understand and conquer cardiovascular diseases, and improve the quality of life. A number of cardiovascular diseases can be traced to an imbalance in the otherwise tightly regulated interactions between different cellular and acellular components (such as proteins and lipids) of blood. Since blood is a flowing fluid, the cells and molecules constantly experience different types and magnitudes of force, which can influence their interactions, and hence the fine line between health and disease. My vascular bioengineering research program has two broad themes: Understanding the role of biophysical regulation or mechanobiology of fluid flow on systemic infection and inflammation; and Development of novel high-throughput screening systems for antimicrobial drug discovery. Some of the problems that we are currently working on are (1) elucidating the role of blood shear stress on Chlamydia pneumoniae exacerbated atherosclerosis; (2) investigating the role of agitation on platelet storage; and (3) development of a microarray-based drug screen against Candida albicans.

Matthew Reilly, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA

My research focuses on developing treatment for presbyopia and cataracts. Presbyopia is the gradual recession of the nearest point at which your eye can focus as you age. This condition affects all humans and primates and usually presents clinically around 40-45 years of age when the near focal point is no longer within arm's reach, making reading difficult. Cataract is the loss of transparency in the ocular lens and the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Cataract is treated by surgically replacing the opaque natural lens with a synthetic intraocular lens. Current treatments for presbyopia and cataracts use optical lenses to give clear vision for reading and at long distances. My goal is to restore the body's natural ability to focus at all distances by mimicking the natural mechanism used by the young eye. This involves complex materials interactions and a detailed knowledge of the optical and mechanical properties of the natural lens, as well as materials which can reproduce these properties. My lab focuses on using novel instrumentation to measure the properties of the natural lens and candidate prosthetic materials. This experimental approach is coupled with bio-optomechanical modeling to understand the fundamental specifications which a prosthesis must achieve to be successful.

Xiaodu Wang, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, UTSA

Current research focus is to explore whether the bone remodeling process is one of mechanisms of introducing age-related changes in the collagen network. Moreover, it is attempted to examine whether such changes contribute to the decreased toughness of aged bone. To address these issues, secondary osteon and interstitial bone specimens will be directly tested so that effects of bone remodeling on the molecular, microstructural, ultrastructural, and mechanical properties of bone in these regions can be studied individual. Recent developments include techniques and approaches to perform the experiments required for testing bone specimens from secondary osteons and interstitial bone regions.

Jing Yong Ye, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UTSA

Dr. Ye's research covers a wide range of areas in biomedical optics and nanobiotechnology, with special emphasis on the development of cutting-edge ultrasensitive and ultrafast laser-based detection techniques and methodologies to address critical issues at the frontier of biomedical science and technology. His research activities involve: 1) ultrafast laser interaction with nanoparticle targeted cancer cells, 2) in vivo fiber-optic biosensing and imaging of multifunctional nano-devices for drug delivery, 3) fiber scanning multiphoton microscopy, 4) photonic crystal biomolecular assay, 5) novel optoacoustic sensor development, 6) in vivo two-photon flow cytometry, 7) adaptive optical aberration correction in confocal microscopy, and 8) single-molecule fluorescence imaging and spectroscopy.

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Chemistry Mentors

Stephan Bach, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry, UTSA

Mass spectrometry has critical applications in a wide variety of diverse scientific disciplines. It is the analytical engine that powers proteomics, drug discovery, and environmental assessment, to name a few. Our interests are focused on several unique and challenging areas. The aqueous chemistry of transition metal complexes (cis-platin derivatives), developing analytical methods for small molecules of medical interests (anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants), using mass spectrometry for assessing fate and transport of pollutants, and developing methods for using laser desorption techniques coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry for the rapid screening of small molecules.

Doug Frantz, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry, UTSA

The centralized theme of research in my lab involves the application and development of new synthetic methodology in organic chemistry that can provide new avenues of chemical reactivity while keeping practicality as a viable and equally important goal. Many of the reactions we develop are mediated by late-transition metals catalysts that are fine-tuned through the use of real-time quantitative techniques allowing us to rapidly screen new reactions and parameters with unparalleled efficiency in academia. Furthermore, my lab is also involved with several medicinal chemistry programs aimed at developing new small molecule probes towards studying the mechanisms of stem cell differentiation. Students in my lab learn techniques in synthetic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical organic chemistry and drug discovery and development.

Waldemar Gorski, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry, UTSA
Chair of Chemistry, UTSA

Research focus includes 1) Electroanalysis: development of electrochemical sensors and biosensors for biologically important molecules. In particular, development of sensitive electrochemical sensors for hormone insulin and new amperometric biosensors based on the immobilized oxidase enzymes for glucose, lactate, and glutamate; and 2) Electrocatalysis: preparation and characterization of inorganic catalytic surfaces for the development of a variety of electrochemical devices such as sensors, biosensors, biological fuel cells, and clean chemical reactors. The focus here is on the design of multicomponent inorganic systems displaying synergistic effects.

Donald Kurtz, Ph.D.
Lutcher Brown Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, UTSA

A major aspect of our research focuses on the structure, function, and catalytic mechanisms of bacterial and archaeal non-heme iron enzymes that reductively scavenge diatomic oxygen and nitrogen species. These scavenging and sensing reactions require specialized active sites with novel iron coordination environments and novel mechanisms, which we follow by rapid kinetic and spectroscopic techniques as well as protein X-ray crystallography. We are also attempting to develop an oxygen-carrying protein as a blood substitute. A related project focuses on proteins that catalyze storage and release of intracellular iron. An exciting new development is the use of these iron storage proteins as scaffolds to enclose metal and semiconductor nanoparticles for photochemical H2 production and photo-initiated delivery of toxic iron to cancer cells.

Oleg Larionov, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry, UTSA

The research in my group spans methodology and complex molecule synthesis. In this context, the development of novel selective and efficient reactions will be followed by their implementation in the total synthesis of biologically active natural products and analogs, with a special focus on compounds targeting cancer. In our search for new reactions we strive to develop catalytic and generally applicable processes with potential to streamline present day synthetic approaches and solve their long-standing problems. In total synthesis we accentuate brevity, efficiency and flexibility in generation of molecular complexity.

George Negrete, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry, UTSA

Research focus includes 1) Asymmetric Synthesis: Development of new asymmetric synthesis methodologies; 2) Green Chemistry: Design and implementation of aqueous synthetic organic methods; 3) β-Homoamino Acids: Design and implementation of new approaches to prepare diverse β-homoamino acids; 4) Novel Lipopeptides: Synthesis and properties of fatty-derivatized amino acids; and 5) Chemical Carcinogenesis: Synthesis and properties of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon analogs including BPDE-deoxynucleoside adducts.

John Zhao, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry, UTSA

Research focus includes: 1) Asymmetric synthesis and reactions: Design and synthesis of new chiral ligands for asymmetric epoxidations, C-H oxidations and episulfidations, and application of these new methodologies in asymmetric synthesis; 2) Small ring compounds: Synthesis and reactions of dioxiranes, cyclopropanes, episulfides, oxaziridinium salts and organometallic peroxo complexes; 3) Oxidation: Novel asymmetric oxidations with dioxiranes, oxaziridinium salts and MTO; and 4) Phosphorus chemistry: Application of cyclopropylphosphine oxides in the synthesis of heterocyclic nature products.

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Computer Science Mentors

Kay Robbins, Ph.D.
Professor of Computer Science, UTSA

Research focuses on visualization, analysis and management of multimedia data sets, particularly those generated from scientific experiments in three major application areas: biological applications (in neuroscience, immunology, and bioinformatics), pattern forming systems and geophysical systems. Recent developments include extracting wave structure from experimental data and am applying these techniques to understand the structure of cortical response. A major software development project called Davis has been developed to implement the data analysis techniques in a practical working system for scientists.

Jianhua Ruan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Computer Science, UTSA

Research interests lie in the broad areas of bioinformatics and computational biology, with an added interested in developing data-analytical methods and tools to make complex biological data more understandable and useful. Specifically, current algorithmic developments are in: 1) Functional and structural properties of biological networks: Identify topological properties to characterize biological networks, Connect these topological properties to biological functions, and understand high-order organizing principles of biological networks; 2) Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory networks: Identify cis-regulatory elements and modules; 3) Microarray data analysis: Gene co-expression networks; and 4) RNA secondary structure prediction.

Qi Tian, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Computer Science, UTSA

High throughput data in biology is accumulating rapidly, coming from not only genome sequencing projects and microarray experiments, but also from genetic polymorphism measurements, protein interaction experiments, SAGE experiments, protein mass spectroscopy experiments and the like. They are being used to build models of cellular processes. These include cell-cycle control models, metabolic networks, regulatory networks and so on. High throughput microarray technology has provided tempo-spatial specific expression profiles of thousands of genes simultaneously. However, the use of these data present several problems to biologists, whether they intend to establish links between single nucleotide polymorphisms and demographic history, examine conditional expression of genes using cDNA microarrays, examine protein expression using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectroscopy or construct regulatory networks.

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Physics Mentors

Lorenzo Brancaleon, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physics, UTSA

Two main research areas include: (i) protein conformational changes induced by exogenous molecules: research investigates the binding of porphyrin-like photosensitizers to globular proteins (currently lactoglobulin and tubulin) and the effect of the irradiation of the porphyrin/protein complex on the conformation (secondary and tertiary) of the protein; and (ii) use of smart materials for the formation of coexisting phospholipid phases: investigating the deposition of phospholipid bilayers on highly epitaxial ferroelectric film.

Andrey Chabanov, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physics, UTSA

Dr. Chabanov's current research interests are in electromagnetic wave phenomena in periodic and disordered media and their applications in photonics. He uses microwave, infrared and optical measurements to study transport in complex, inhomogeneous materials and structures. His research includes microwave properties of magnetic photonic crystals and their applications in antennas, propagation and localization of microwaves in random cavities and waveguides, fabrication and optical properties of photonic band gap materials for photonics applications, photon localization and lasing in disordered microstructures.

Liao Chen, Ph.D.
Professor of Physics, UTSA

Research focus includes: 1) Atomic force microscopy: current pursuit includes extensions and applications of this new formula into various biomolecules; 2) Molecular motors: current efforts are to build a three-dimensional multi-body model and to establish atomistic simulations for refining the model parameters; 3) Non-equilibrium statistical physics - Langevin dynamics (stochastic processes) is ubiquitous in materials physics, chemistry, and engineering. Yet its solution is very difficult to achieve for most problems of fundamental and practical importance. Base on its path integral formulation, systematic approximations and numerical methods are being developed for physical and biochemical systems; 4) Transition and reaction pathways: research efforts in this area are to compute fluctuations around the minimum energy path and to develop efficient algorithms for transition path sampling; and 5) Electronic transport in semiconductor nanostructures.

Miguel Jose-Yacaman, Ph.D.
Professor of Physics, UTSA
Chair of Physics, UTSA

My research interests have always been very broad. However, my primary interest has been the structure and properties of nanoparticles including metals, semiconductors, and magnetic materials. I have done research on: synthesis and characterization of new materials most of them nanoparticles, surfaces and interfaces, defects in solids, electron diffraction and imagining theory, quasicrystals, archaeological materials, and catalysis.

Dhiraj Sardar, Ph.D.
Professor of Physics, UTSA

Laboratory research is focused on the syntheses of lanthanide-based nanoparticles, having characterized the optical properties of these nanoparticles. The development of RE-doped metal oxide nanoparticles for biosensors has been proposed, with the objective that RE-doped nanoparticles that will be suitable for imaging and immunoassay applications will be designed. Rare earth (RE)-doped metal oxides are a promising new class of particles that can serve as a luminescent tag or reporter for affinity or immunoassays in biomedical, environmental, food quality, and drug testing probe. These nanoparticles possess several attractive attributes such as a small size, a large Stokes shift, sharp emission spectra, long luminescence lifetime, and good photo-stability. The small size of RE nanoparticles would allow them to replace fluorescent molecules or complexes in analytical applications. The large Stokes shift enables one to subtract the excitation wavelength by filtering, while the long lifetime allows the time-gated detection and subtraction of the background autofluorescence.

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Psychology Mentors

Michael Baumann, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology, UTSA

Dr. Baumann’s primary research streams involve studying how people work together in groups and when they do, or do not, work well (intra-group processes and group decision making), factors affecting the impressions people form of each other (impression formation), and how each of these is influenced by things like emotional state (effects of affect on decision making and behavior).

Deborah Mangold, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology, UTSA

Dr. Mangold's program of research focuses on the HPA and opioid systems and has recently expanded to include investigations of the effects of genotype, acculturative stress and familial violence on neurohormonal, immune and health outcomes.

Mary McNaughton-Cassill, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology, UTSA

The stress of modern technology and media on the psychological and physical well being of individuals, and developing means of helping individuals to cope effectively with such stress.

David Pillow, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology, UTSA

How individuals construe the self and negotiate identity in relationships, with concentrations regarding (a) the effects of an ADHD diagnosis and medication on self-evaluation and (b) perceptions of belongingness versus exclusion. Other interests include the structure and function of g.

Rebekah Smith, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology, UTSA

Memory in young and older adults; Prospective Memory, False Memory, Memory correction and improvement; Multinomial Modeling

Tina Zawacki, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology, UTSA

Health related social behaviors including alcohol use, sexual transmission of HIV and sexual violence.

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