15:32 PM

Biology Students Awarded Prized Mentorships

Taylor Sheppard, Lillian Nguyen, James Noriega, Cassandra Ramtahal and Daila Arredondo pose on stairs.Quality mentorship can spark growth, ignite learning and serve as a booster rocket to a successful career. UST’s Biology Department continues to score such opportunities for its students. One of the most recent is an alliance with the prestigious Schull Institute Summer Mentor Program, now in its second year.

Among the six St. Thomas Biology undergraduates accepted to participate in the prestigious Schull Institute Summer Mentor Program this year are three returning students: Cassandra Ramtahal, Eli Yazigi and Dalia Arredondo. Ramtahal, a senior, described her experience last year researching in a primary care clinic.

“Schull assigned my partner and me to genetic testing and pharmacogenetics,” she said. “We knew that different patients with the same condition could respond positively or negatively or not at all to the same medication. We also knew that genetic testing could determine which drugs are right for an individual. Given that, we identified a genetic testing company which met our criteria and would agree to work with us. Then, we looked at how to effectively implement a process, in a primary care setting, for informing the patient about testing, getting their permission, and doing a cheek swab.”

Ramtahal and her partner wrote a literary review of their research and are in the process of getting it published.

“Besides the genetic testing research, I got to shadow physicians, engage with patients, and work as a medical assistant,” Ramtahal said. “My Schull internship was the greatest experience ever.”

What Is a Schull Internship?

Schull internships focus on one or more of the following areas:

  • Genetics
  • Informatics
  • Epidemiology
  • Archival research
  • Public health

The non-profit Schull Institute, founded in 2000, is named for its founder, the late Dr. William J. Schull. He was a distinguished geneticist, radiation expert, epidemiologist, humanitarian, and international scientist. Mentoring future leaders to improve care for vulnerable populations is a huge part of the organization’s mission.

Dr. Kimberly Dunn, President of the Schull Institute and head of the HealthQuilt practice where Ramtahal interned, said, “With our summer mentor program, we’re highlighting Dr. Schull’s approach to mentoring, which is to create opportunities for gifted future leaders in science and medicine — opportunities that genuinely help them grow.”

Students Receive Recognition

All six of the UST undergraduates selected by Schull are listed here:

  • Eli Yazigi, senior
  • Cassandra Ramtahal, senior
  • Dalia Arrendondo, senior
  • Taylor Sheppard, junior
  • James Noriega, senior
  • Lillian Nguyen, senior

Additional UST Biology students chosen to participate in other remarkable summer programs are as follows:

  • Youssef Ahmed, UTMB Neuroscience Summer Undergraduate Research Program
  • David (Trey) Brittain, Baylor College of Medicine SMART Program
  • Mayra Shak, Baylor College of Medicine SMART Program

Ramtahal said, “The preparation and academic stimulation I got from my exceptional UST professors is huge. They even helped with my application process, because they do everything they can to help students like me who are interested in medicine and science.”