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11 Outstanding Biology Graduates Common Bond is their Excellence

Eleven Biology students graduating in 2021 tied for outstanding students, and all of them “are meritorious of recognition as outstanding graduates in the program,” Dr. Rosie Rosell, professor of Biology, said.

“This is one of the largest classes we ever had – more than 50 students – and these 11 all demonstrated the highest level of character, leadership and service to the department, UST and the Houston community, while also maintaining excellent GPAs,” Dr. Maia Larios, chair of Biology, said. “All have unique stories and journeys, but their common bond is their excellence.”

Viet Tran, Cecilia Nguyen, Hendra Hoang, Victor Lara, Noah Ortiz, Jamila Boukari, Taylor Sheppard Alex Emami, Amna Irfan, Youssef Ahmed and Jerry Amomoy will graduate from UST on Saturday, May 8 at 11 a.m. at NRG Stadium.

UST has outstanding success in getting graduates into medical school, and that is where many of these graduates are heading. “A total of 10 biology majors will join medical schools this fall," Larios said.

Bachelor of Arts in Biology Outstanding Graduates: Viet Tran, Cecilia Nguyen and Hendra Hoang

The Biology Department had a three-way tie for our outstanding graduates for the B.A. in Biology: Viet Tran, Cecilia Nguyen and Hendra Hoang.

“All three of these students had GPAs above 3.9. Viet and Cecilia are going on to medical school, while Hendra is planning to work on a master's before going to medical school,” Larios said.. “All three have done amazing service for the department – they are all STEM Success Center peer mentors and lab teaching assistants and hold governance positions in UST student groups.”

Bachelor of Arts in Biology Honorable Mentions: Victor Lara, Noah Ortiz and Jamila Boukari

Victor Lara, Noah Ortiz and Jamila Boukari are going to medical school.

Lara and Boukari are transfer students who graduated in less than four years from UST, while still providing outstanding service to the University (leadership positions in student groups as well as working for the STEM Success Center).

“Ortiz is truly “Mr. Natural Sciences,” Biology Professor Albert Ribes-Zamora said. “as he will not only graduate in Biology with an almost perfect GPA, but he managed to do that while pursuing two minors: one in Chemistry and one in Physics. He is a student in the JAMP program.”

Bachelor of Science in Biology Outstanding Graduates: Taylor Sheppard and Alex Emami

Sanz notes that similar to their B.A. peers, both Sheppard and Emami are going to medical school, maintained GPAs above 3.9 and served as TAs and as STEM Success Center peer mentors. Both individuals were leaders in their undergraduate research projects (Dr. Eddie Nam for Taylor, Dr. Albert Ribes for Alex).

“They trained new students and kept their research projects moving through hurricanes, floods, ice storms and a pandemic),”  Dr. Shivas Amin, Associate Professor in Biology, said.

Computational Biology Outstanding Graduate: Amna Irfan

Amna Irfran participated in the TECBio REU Undergraduate Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh where she used computational methods (machine learning) to find significant features that differentiate mild from severe rheumatoid arthritis.

“With this project, she was able to bring together her passion for bioinformatics tools and medicine, and apply both to a relevant, real-world scenario that can help improve diagnostics and patient lives,” Larios said. “Amna also served as Tri-Beta president and vice president and is currently applying to medical engineering programs.”

Bachelor of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology: Youssef Ahmed and Jerry Amomoy

Both Youssef Ahmed and Jerry Amomoy participated in undergraduate research (Youssef with Dr. Eddie Nam and Jerry with Dr. Gabe  Villares).

“Youssef is Mr. UST this year – a testament to his involvement with UST in general, as well as his high academic achievements, which also earned him offers to two of the top medical schools in the country – Baylor and UT Southwestern,” Dr. Gabriel VIllares, director of the Health Professions Advisory Committee, said.

“Jerry is also involved in student activities and, notably, earned a “Best Presentation Award” at the University of Texas Research Symposium in Austin in 2019, an event hosted by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB, the national organization that accredits UST’s Cell and Molecular Biology BS degree),” Larios said.

Larios sums up with, “These are just a few of the highlights of this extraordinary class. We are all very proud of their achievements. We know that they will go on to do great.”