MERIT Scholar Biographies

First Year MERIT Scholars

scholar capersDr. Patrice Capers received her BS in Biology from Spellman College in 2008 and her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from Morehouse School of Medicine in 2013. She is performing her postdoctoral research training with Dr. David Allison focusing upon nutrition, obesity and disease.

 



scholar walkerMs. Vyvyca Walker received her BS and MS in Chemistry from Jackson State University in 2005 and 2008, respectively, and will receive her PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan in September, 2013. She will perform her postdoctoral training with Drs. Anupam Agarwal and James George examining the role of heme oxygenase in immune-mediated in post-transplant vascular disease and end-stage organ failure.

 



Second Year MERIT Scholars

scholar nelsonDr. Michael Nelson received his BS in Biology from Cedarville University in 2005 and his PhD in Microbiology from UAB in 2012. He is performing his postdoctoral research training with Dr. John Shacka, Assistant Professor of Pathology. His research focuses on delineating the role of the lysosomal enzyme alpha galactosidase in regulating the clearance of alpha synuclein; this work has therapeutic implications for Parkinson’s Disease. As a MERIT Scholar, Dr. Nelson has received a Career Enhancement Award from the UAB Office of Postdoctoral Education. He has selected Dr. Rosianna Gray, Professor and Chair of Natural Sciences at Stillman College, as his MERIT Teaching Mentor.

 


 

scholar hertzThird Year MERIT Scholars

Dr. Marla Hertz received her BS in Microbiology from University of Maryland (College Park) in 2006 and her PhD in Microbiology from UAB 2011. She is performing her postdoctoral research training in the laboratory of Dr. Mary-Ann Bjornsti, Professor and Chair of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Her research focuses on protein-protein interactions in DNA damage and replication. For this work, she recently received 3rd place at the 2013 national IRACDA meeting poster competition. In 2013, Dr. Hertz co-organized the national SERYM conference held at UAB. She is working with Dr. Marlon Rhem, Professor of Chemistry at Oakwood University, as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.

 

 


scholar mansDr. Robert Mans received his BS in Neurobiological Sciences from the University of Florida in 2005 and his PhD in Neurobiology from UAB in 2011. He is performing his postdoctoral research training in the laboratory of Dr. Lori McMahon, Professor of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology. His research focuses on mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Mans is working with Dr. Glenn Phillips, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Oakwood University, as his MERIT Teaching Mentor.

 

 


scholar paulDr. Latoya Paul received her BS in Biological Sciences from Southern University and A&M College in 2003 and her PhD in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University in 2010. She is performing her postdoctoral research training in the laboratory of Dr. Steve Watts, Professor of Biology. Her research focuses on the impact of environmental stressors on embryonic development. Dr. Paul is working with Dr. Marlon Rhem, Professor of Chemistry at Oakwood University, as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.

 






MERIT Scholar Alumni

scholar ammDr. Hope Amm received her BS in Biological Sciences from St. Mary’s College in 2002 and her PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology from UAB in 2010. While a MERIT Scholar At-Large, she performed her postdoctoral research training in the laboratory of Dr. Mary MacDougall, Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery. Her research focused on molecular mechanisms of tooth development and resulted in 3 original manuscripts. As a MERIT Scholar, Dr. Amm presented her work at multiple national and international meetings and was appointed to serve as the Vice President of the American Association of Dental Research National Student Research Group, UAB Chapter. Dr. Amm’s MERIT Teaching Mentor was Dr. Mary Jane Krotzer, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs at Stillman College. At Stillman College, Dr. Amm provided guest lectures and tutored undergraduates in several biology courses; she also developed and conducted a new, advanced course in cancer biology. Currently, Dr. Amm is continuing her scientific research with Dr. MacDougall at UAB.



scholar hardy


Dr. Tabitha Hardy received her BS in Biology Education from Alcorn State University in 2000, her MS in Biology from Jackson State University in 2004, and her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from Indiana University School of Medicine in 2010. She performed her postdoctoral research training with Dr. Trygve Tollefsbol, Professor of Biology. Her research focused on dietary factors and epigenetic regulation of cancer and culminated in 5 original manuscripts. As a MERIT Scholar, Dr. Hardy presented her work at multiple national meetings and received an NIH Loan Repayment Award. Dr. Hardy’s MERIT Teaching Mentor was Dr. O’Neal Wright, Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences at Stillman College. At Stillman College, she provided guest lectures and tutored undergraduates in several biology courses, including a new, laboratory in genetics. Dr. Hardy also taught classes and served as a lecturer in the UAB Department of Biology. Dr. Hardy transitioned to an Assistant Professor of Biology appointment at Stillman in Fall, 2013. 

 


 

scholar mans2Dr. Keri Barksdale Mans received her BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Mississippi State University in 2004 and her PhD in Neurobiology at UAB in 2010. As a graduate student, Dr. Mans participated in a neuroscience outreach program at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, AL. As a MERIT scholar, Dr. Mans performed her postdoctoral research training in the laboratory of Dr. Rosalinda Roberts, Professor of Psychiatry. She utilized both rodent and human models to research structural and metabolic deficits that occur in the schizophrenic brain. Dr. Mans presented her research at several national meetings; it has culminated in 2 original manuscripts that have been submitted for publication. Dr. Mans’ MERIT Teaching Mentor was Dr. Marion Fintel, Professor of Natural Sciences at Stillman College. At Stillman College, Dr. Mans created and taught a course in molecular biology, served as a guest lecturer, and mentored undergraduate thesis candidates. Currently, Dr. Mans is serving as an Instructor in the UAB Prep, CIRTL and Professional Development Programs.

scholar perez

 


Dr. Jessica Perez received her BS in Biology from Universidad de Puerto Rico- Recinto Universitario de Mayaguez in 2001 and her PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from UAB in 2010. As a MERIT Scholar At-Large, she performed her postdoctoral research training with Dr. Rosa Serra, Professor of Cell Biology. Dr. Perez’s research focused on TGFβ signaling in chondrocytes; she has presented her work at both national and international meetings. Dr. Perez is a recipient of an NIH National Research Service Award (F32). Dr. Perez performed her teaching experience in the Department of Natural Sciences at Stillman College with Dr. O’Neal Wright as her MERIT Teaching Mentor. Currently, Dr. Perez is continuing her research with Dr. Serra at UAB.

 

 

merit sestero


Dr. Christine Sestero received her B.S. in Biology from The College of Idaho in 2000 and her Ph.D. in Microbiology at Idaho State University in 2006. Following the receipt of her degree, Dr. Sestero began her postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Chander Raman, Professor of Medicine at UAB, examining the role of T cell activation in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease. In 2009, Dr. Sestero joined the MERIT Program with Dr. Rosianna Gray, Professor and Chair of Natural Sciences at Stillman College, serving as her MERIT Teaching Mentor. As a MERIT Scholar, Dr. Sestero’s research has culminated in four original manuscripts either in press or submitted for publication. At Stillman College, she provided guest lectures and tutored undergraduates in several biology courses; she also developed and conducted a new, advanced immunology course. Dr. Sestero transitioned to an Assistant Professor of Biology faculty appointment at the University of Montevallo in Fall, 2012.