PRIME Scholars and Alumni

  • Jazmine Benjamin (PRIME Y1)

    JB PRIMEMentor: Dr. David Pollock
    Program/Theme: Graduate Biomedical Sciences - Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology
    Current Research: Sodium-Independent Mechanisms of Blood Pressure Control
    Future Career Direction: Science Policy - K-12 STEM Education and Healthcare

    Poster Presentation: Black in Physiology Conference (2021)
    Oral Workshop: Black in Physiology Conference (2021)

    GSG Professional Development & Travel Award, APS Early Career Policy Fellowship, 2021 Student Excellence Award, 2022 Blazer Way Award

    University of South Carolina – Aiken, Biology & Geology Department: TITLE: Renal mitochondrial gene expression is dependent on time of day in diet-induced obesity

    Vanderbilt Integrated Training Alliance Symposium: TITLE: Renal mitochondrial gene expression is dependent on time of day in diet-induced obesity

    Open Science Presentations, University of South Carolina Physical Sciences Department: TITLE: Renal mitochondrial gene expression is dependent on time of day in diet-induced obesity

    American Physiological Society WEH Data Diuresis Session: TITLE: Renal mitochondrial gene expression is dependent on time of day in diet-induced obesity

  • Han Eckenrode (PRIME Y1)

    Mentors: Lisa Curtis and Anupam Agarwal
    Program/Theme: Graduate Biomedical Sciences: Pathobiology, Pharmacology, and Physiology (P3)
    Current Research: The effects of gender affirming hormone therapy on kidney physiology and pathobiology

    • Eckenrode, H., et al. (2021). "Kidney Disease Prevalence in Transgender Individuals." Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: CJN.04660421.
    • Eckenrode, H. Curtis, L. (2022). Q&A: AKI, CKD prevalence in transgender patients. J. Keenan. Healio News, Healio Nephrology.


    • GSG Professional Development and Travel Award (Spring 2022)


    • “Transgender Kidney Health” UAB NRTC Core Concepts in Kidney Research, June 2021 [not sure if this is too early or not]
    • “Effects of Gender Affirming Hormone Therapy on Kidney Health” UAB GBSO Symposium, August 2021


    CCTS - TL1TR003106- July 2022 - June 2023

  • Taylor Person (PRIME Y1)

    Mentors: Drs. Jan Novak + Colin Reily

    Program: MSTP

    Presentation: IIGAN (19th International Symposium on IgA Nephropathy) 2021 - Virtual Conference

  • Cailin Kellum (PRIME Y2)

    ckMentor: Dr. Jennifer Pollock
    : GBS Theme: Immunology

    Current Research: Exploring the Early Life Stress Immune Phenotype Leading to Vascular Impairment and Inflammation in adulthood
    Future Goals/Career Direction: To be a PI focused on immunological based interventions of inflammatory damage conducting translational research


    • Poster Presentation Experimental Biology 2022
    • Poster Presentation, Hypertension 2021
    • Poster Presentation ET17, 2021
    • Poster Presentation at Experimental Biology, EB 2020
    • Poster Presentation, Department of Medicine Training Research Symposium (DOM TRS) 2020
    • Speaker, Nephrology Research & Training Center (NRTC) meeting 2020
    • Hypertension Moderated Poster Speaker, Hypertension 2020


    • Water and Electrolyte Homeostasis Research Recognition Award
    • Abstract based Domestic Registration Award at the APS hosted Seventeenth International Conference on Endothelin (ET-17)
    • F31 Dec 2021 fellowship applied for
    • AHA Predoctoral fellowship 2021 applied for
    • Second-Best Place Oral Presentation Awardee, Translational Physiology Interest Group at EB2021
    • Kidney STARS Award, American Society of Nephrology


  • Mary Bunten (PRIME Y3)
    Mary BuntenPRIME Mentor: Dr. Matthew Renfrow I GBS Theme:; Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics

    Current research topic: Phenotyping IgA Nephropathy via protein and proteomic analysis of circulating immune complexes

    Future goals (career direction):
    Work in informatics consulting and be the PI of an IgA Nephropathy-focused lab

    UAB GBS Symposium 2020
    - Poster Presentation“Identification of Proteins Associated with IgA1-containing Circulating Immune Complexes in Patients with IgA Nephropathy”
    ASN 2020 - Poster Presentation “Identification of Proteins Associated with IgA1-containing Circulating Immune Complexes in Patients with IgA Nephropathy”
    ASN 2020 - Oral Presentation - ASN Early Program: Basic Research Forum for Emerging Kidney Scientists.

    ASN Young Investigator Award
    ; sponsored by the NIH/NIDDK - Basic Science Forum for Emerging Kidney Scientists - ASN Kidney Week 2020
    ASN Kidney STAR - ASN 2020
  • Alana Jones (Alumni)

    Screen Shot 2020 07 14 at 9.54.02 AM Mentor: Dr. Ryan Irvin
    : MSTP, Epidemiology
    Current Research: Developing genetic and epigenetic risk scores for chronic kidney disease and renal failure
    Future Goals/Career Direction: I plan to become a physician-epidemiologist with a focus on cardiovascular disease, bioinformatics, and health disparities.


    Poster Presentation, AHA Epi/Lifestyle, March 2, 2022. Differentially methylated DNA regions in LVH: a HyperGEN Study


    • Nominated for Outstanding Graduate Student, UAB Commission on the Status of Women (Spring 2021)
    • 2nd Place Poster, UAB School of Public Health Research Day

    Funding: NIH/NIDDK Diversity F31 (July 2021-June 2024)

  • Elise Erman (Alumni)
    Screen Shot 2020 07 14 at 9.54.23 AM Mentor:Dr. James George & Dr. Anupam Agarwal

    GBS Theme:

    Current Research:
    I am exploring the role of intra-renal macrophage populations in kidney function during homeostasis and after acute kidney injury.

    Future Goals/Career Direction:
    In the future, I would love to begin my own laboratory and continue to explore the role of the immune system in the kidney, particularly as it relates to future therapeutics.

    Awards: ASN Kidney Week Reimagined 2020: Kidney STAR
  • Leslie Donoghue (Alumni)
    leslie donoghuePRIME Mentor: Dr. Palaniappan Sethu I Program: Biomedical Engineering

    Current research topic: Creating a microfluidic proximal tubular platform to accurately reproduce the structure and function of the tubule as seen in vivo and an automated and high throughput adaptation of this model can be used for evaluation of drug-induced nephrotoxicity.
    Future goals (career direction): To continue in the field of tissue engineering in hopes of developing microphysiological systems that enable physiologically based pharmacokinetics, drug discovery, and screening.
    Email I LinkedIn

    NIH NIDDK F31 for her project: 3D Tissue Chip Models to Evaluate Nephrotoxic Effects of Drugs.


    Vice President of BMEGS

  • Maheshika Somarathna (Alumni)
    Maheshika Somarathna Image PRIME Mentor: Dr. Timmy Lee I GBS Theme: Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology

    Publications from PRIME

    Current research topic
    : The Role of Nitric Oxide/Cyclic Guanosine Monophosphate (cGMP) Signaling in Arteriovenous Fistula Maturation

    Future goals (career direction):
    After obtaining my PhD, my ultimate goal is to become an independent investigator at a prestigious university, where I would lead my own innovative biomedical research team to make significant contributions to science.

    After PRIME:
    Maheshika received an NIH F31 Training grant and will continue to advance her research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in "The Role of Nitric Oxide/Cyclic Guanosine Monophosphate (cGMP) Signaling in Arteriovenous Fistula Maturation"
  • Laurence Black (Alumni)
    Laurence Black ImagePRIME Mentor: Dr. Anupam Agarwal I GBS Theme: Biochemistry and Structural Biology

    Publications from PRIME

    Current Research Topics
    (1) The site-specific role of HO-1 during acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD) and (2) the dynamic signature of renal lymphangiogenesis and its role in kidney diseases.
    PRIME Research Topic:Myeloid-specific heavy chain ferritin in AKI, its role in iron trafficking during injury, and how it regulates ferroptosis, or iron-mediated cell death
    Future goals (career direction): be an NIH-funded principal investigator in nephrology to continue to help elucidate novel pathways and mechanisms specific to the prevention and resolution of kidney disease. My ultimate goal is to eventually acquire a dean position within a graduate program, in conjunction with my research laboratory, as I also enjoy policy and development of curricular programs.
    After PRIME: Laurence is currently an NIDDK T32 Post-Doctoral Trainee at the University of Alabama at Birmingham working with mentor: Dr. Anupam Agarwal. 
    Email I Twitter 

    Presentations - 
    ASN 2020 Poster Presentation"Characterizing de novo lymphangiogenesis during AKI using 3D imaging and tissue cytometry"
  • Patrick Molina (Alumni)

PRIME Affiliates

Top candidates active in Kidney research without a spot on the T32 are given the opportunity to engage in the career development and mentoring opportunities offered through the PRIME T32 - These are top pre-doctoral scholars.

Kylie Heitman

Mentor: Dr. Christian Faul I Theme: Physiology, Pathology, and Pharmacology
Funding: Dental Academic Research Training - Pre-Doctoral - (DART - NIDCR T90/R90)
Award: ASN Reimagined 2020: Kidney STARS
Training: LEAD Professional Development Certificate

Claudia Edell

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Pollock I Theme: Immunology
Funding: CCTS TL1 Trainee
Award: ASN Reimagined 2020: Kidney STARS

Matthew Cheung
Mentor: Dr. James George & Dr. Anupam Agarwal I Theme: Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology
Funding: Immunology NIH T32 AI007051

Kayla McCullough
Mentor: Dr. Subhashini Bolisetty I Theme: Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology
Funding: Dental Academic Research Training - Pre-Doctoral - (DART - NIDCR T90/R90)

PRIME Scholar Resources

Courses & Journal Club

GBSC 700.VTZ JC- Cardio-Renal Physiol. Dr. David Pollock
The Cardio-Renal Physiology and Medicine Journal Club explores state-of-the-art topics in vascular and renal physiology and pathophysiology. Topics are rotated monthly to provide focus on the cardiovascular and renal system, while highlighting interplay between the systems based on their underlying physiology. Students will gain insight into hypothesis testing, critical thinking skills, new paradigms for research, and cutting-edge experimental methods and models. 

GBSC 741- Fundamentals of Renal Physiology. Dr. Kelly Hyndman
This course objective is to provide detailed understanding of renal physiology through a series of lectures, histology analyses, small group discussion, workshop based study problems, and simulations.

GBSC 732- Advanced Study of Renal Physiology. Dr. Subhashini Bolisetty
The objective of this course is to increase familiarity with classic renal physiology terminology, improve understanding of mechanisms for evaluating renal function, and to become familiar with the forefronts in research related to renal physiology and disease.

Career Development

PRIME students are awarded opportunity to attend professional conferences that fit their career direction and path. UAB also provides great opportunities for PRIME students to participate.
UAB Opportunities:
Center for Clinical & Translational Sciences
Graduate Biomedical Sciences
SMART Seminars
Specific Aims Seminar

In addition, consider the following opportunities:
Kidney TREKS - American Society of Nephrology: (Tutored Research and Education for Kidney Scholars), "is designed to foster interest in careers in nephrology and research through a week-long research course retreat and long-term mentorship program."
Kidney STARS - American Society of Nephrology: in conjunction with ASN Kidney Week - directed and engaging way to participate in ASN. Includes travel funds for the meeting.

Grant Deadlines (2021)

American Society of Nephrology: Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Award (Deadline TBA)

National Institutes of Health - Individual National Research Service Awards (see NRSA Training Page)
F Series: April 8, August 8, December 8

American Heart Association: Pre-doctoral Fellowship (Deadline TBA) - August 2021, prior year submission
*Please note- this is not an exhaustive list

Grant Preparation

Grant Writing Classes
Offered through GBS

SPARC: Scientific Peer-mentoring and Advisory for Renal and Cardiovascular fellows)

SMART Review: (Study section Meeting and Review Training)
A mock study section that consists of a rigorous peer review of early stage career grants including AHA predoctoral, postdoctoral, scientist development grants, NIH F-series, or any other similar grant. A review committee consisting of trainees (postdocs and predocs) and a senior member of the section are appointed for each grant cycle. The senior member facilitates the review process as if trainees are at a real study section. The goal is to provide training on how the peer review process works in regards to grants in order to gain knowledge of what actually occurs at study section. Not only does SMART reviews provide excellent peer review training, but also it greatly improves the quality of grants that are submitted. For more information regarding SMART reviews, or if you would like to serve on a panel or submit a grant for review, please contact Bryan Becker (