Activities and News - CMCT

CMCT faculty and trainees are a vibrant and active group of researchers, with regular representation at national and international conferences and on major publications.  Our faculty are supported by numerous federal and state grants as well as industry and foundation funding; trainees are funded from a variety of sources including fellowships, scholarships, and NIH grants.  Highlights of the many accomplishments and contributions of our diverse community are listed below.

Academic Year 2023-2024

Trainee News
  • Emily Hilz (PI: Gore) has developed an award-winning app that informs consumers of beauty products regarding potential risks.  Her app and research were recently featured on the cover page of "Endocrine News".
  • Lavender Hackman (PI: Tiziani) was awarded an F31 Predoctoral Fellowship from NIH - National Cancers Institute.
  • This year the CMCT Fellowship is supporting Kathryn Rhodes.
  • Samantha Lauby (PI: Champagne) was recently awarded an F32 Postdoctoral Fellowship from NIEHS.
Faculty News
  • John DiGiovanni was recently appointed to the EPA Science Advisory committee.
  • Andrea Gore recently won an R35 grant from NIH (NIEHS) for $6.8 million over 8 years. See COP press release.
  • Regina Mangieri is PI on a new R01 grant from NIH NIAAA "Disentangling the biological links between violence and alcohol use"
  • John DiGiovanni was invited to speak at the Joint Meeting of the International Ovarian Cancer Research Consortium and The International Society of Precision Cancer Medicine. His presentation title was "Targeting Amino Acid Dependency for Cancer Treatment".
  • The CMCT Symposium was held on December 14, 2023, featuring keynote speaker Donna D. Zhang, Ph.D., Musil Family Endowed Chair in Drug Discovery, University of Arizona.
  • Student and postdocs abstract winners gave presentations, including postdoc Emily Hilz (1st Place, Gore Lab) and grad students Meghan Collins (1st place, Tiziani Lab), Rachel Clark (2nd place, DiGiovanni Lab) and Erika Carlson (3rd place, Nixon Lab).
  • Research talks were given by CMCT members Sharon DeMorrow, Laura Fonken, Andrea Gore, and Som Mukhopadhyay.

Academic Year 2022-2023

Trainee News
  • The CMCT fellowship is supporting two students this year: Vishwa Patel and Mariyah Raleigh.
  • Kate Davis (PI: Fonken) and Megha Thakur (PI: DiGiovanni) were two of only 10 students selected to present their posters at the P&G 2022 Poster Competition on November 1.
  • Lexie D'Amico (PI: Vasquez) won multiple travel awards - Daniel Acosta Award, PGSA, and CMCT for her presentation at the Mammalian DNA Repair Gordon Research Conference. Her poster title was "Tissue-specific effects of aging on H-DNA-induced genetic instability in vivo."
  • Emily Hilz (PI: Gore) was recently awarded an NIH F32 fellowship for her project "Endocrine Disruption of the Developing Dopamine System."
  • Megha Thakur (PI: DiGiovanni) was one of only 6 recipients of the 2022 Scholar-in-Training Award supported by AACR and The Margaret Foti Foundation. She was invited to meet Dr. Marge Foti, AACR CEO, to discuss her research and career goals. During the conference, Megha also presented her poster “FGFR2 as a potential therapeutic target for prevention of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma."
Faculty News
  • John DiGiovanni gave the Distinguished Faculty Lecture at the 19th Annual Louis C. Littlefield Celebrating Pharmacy Research Excellence Day (CPRED) in April.

    The following CMCT faculty were awarded new grants:

  • Kevin Dalby: CPRIT High Impact High Risk RP220587 "Advanced Protein Therapeutics core" $3,995,180, CO-I with Jennifer Maynard, PhD, College of Engineering
  • Walt Fast: CPRIT High Impact High Risk RP220558 "Novel Covalent Drugs for BCL6" $249,999
  • Andrea Gore was awarded a new NIH R21 grant: "Mechanisms of EDC effects via small-RNA cargo in extracellular vesicles"
  • Seongmin Lee's project has been funded by CPRIT: "Elucidating the mutagenesis mechanism of BRAF in melanoma" $1,050,000
  • Regina Mangieri: NIH/NIMH R01 "Deciphering gene-environment interactions in pathological reactive aggression" $626,482, Co-I with Marco Bortolato, University of Utah
  • Karen Vasquez: CPRIT High Impact High Risk RP220653 “Novel Modulators of Genomic Instability in Human Cells”  $249,932, Co-I: Imee Del Mundo

The 4th Annual CMCT Symposium was a huge success! CMCT faculty and trainees were gathered in person for the first time in three years. Dr. Staci Bilbo, Associate Director of Graduate Studies, Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University, gave the keynote talk, Prenatal Environmental Stressors Impact Postnatal Microglia Function and Lifelong Health.  Research talks were also given by CMCT members Frances Champagne, Andrew Esbaugh, Kristin Nielsen, and Kimberly Nixon.

Academic Year 2021-2022

Trainee News
  • Stephanie Grant (PI: Mukhopadhyay) had an abstract selected for oral presentation at the FASEB conference on Trace Elements in Biology and Medicine in Asheville, North Carolina this past June.
  • Chelsea Friedman (PI: DiGiovanni) won 1st place for her poster presentation in the T1 to T4 in 3 Minutes Challenge. Her poster title was “The Combinatorial Effects of Curcumin and Ursolic Acid on Prostate Cancer Progression.”
  • Megha Thakur (PI: DiGiovanni) won the poster competition at the 14th International Skin Carcinogenesis Conference (ISCC) for her poster, “Role of Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor In Development of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma.”
  • Elaina Williams (PI: DeMorrow) was recently granted a CMCT travel award. She also won two awards for a presentation and a poster:
    • The Juan Codulba best short presentation at the International Society for Hepatic Encephalopathy and Nitrogen Metabolism (ISHEN) virtual meeting for “Hyperammonemia in Type C HE Induces a Senescent-like Phenotype in Neurons”
    • Poster of Distinction by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)
Faculty News
  • An article from John Richburg's lab was awarded Best Paper for 2021 by the The Society of Toxicology’s Reproductive and Developmental Specialty Section in the Society's journal, Toxicological Sciences.
  • John DiGiovanni has been awarded a new NIH NCI R01 grant for the project “Twist1 as a Target for Prevention and Treatment of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma,” totaling $1,812,815.
  • Lauren Ehrlich was recently named one of The Alcalde's Top 10 Best of the Best professors.
  • Karen Vasquez won a CPRIT Core Facility Support Award: RP170002 NGS Facility, 01/01/21 – 01/01/22, total costs: $8,000
  • Urbain Weyemi was selected for a 2021 Sloan Research Fellowship.  This 2-year $75,000 fellowship honors outstanding early-career scientists.  He was recognized for his work in cancer biology, neurodegeneration and epigenetics.
  • Som Mukhopadhyay’s latest publication was selected as NIH/NIEHS Paper of the Month for October 2021. See the UT College of Pharmacy article featured here.
  • John DiGiovanni was invited to give a Grand Rounds talk at the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio in May.
  • Som Mukhopadhyay was an invited speaker at the FASEB conference on Trace Elements in Biology and Medicine in Asheville, North Carolina this past June.
  • Karen Vasquez won the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society (EMGS) Award for Scientific Contributions.  In addition, she was the invited keynote speaker at the 26th Annual Buffalo DNA Replication and Repair Symposium in July.  Her talk title was “Novel mechanisms of genetic instability in cancer”.

At the CMCT Symposium this past September, Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf (University of Kentucky Medical School) presented the keynote lecture, Epigenomic reprogramming in response to an environmental cue.  We also had research topics presented by five CMCT members:

  • Kumar Kothapalli
  • Regina Mangieri
  • Achinto Saha
  • Graham Wang
  • Urbain Weyemi

In addition, Elizabeth Matsui presented her research on asthma disparities and gave an overview of their new research unit, the Center for Health & Environment: Education and Research (CHEER).

Academic Year 2020-2021

Trainee News
  • Congratulations to Pallavi Kompella, Ph.D., who recently received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award.  Dr. Kompella has recently earned her Ph.D. in Karen Vasquez’s lab, where she is currently a researcher.  Under the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, she is conducting research in Spain at the Biomedical Research Institute of Málaga.
  • Cherish Taylor (PI: Som Mukhopadhyay) recently won 1st place in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition for her presentation “SLC30A10 Protein: The Key to Discovering Treatments for Manganese-induced Parkinsonism.”
  • Carly Wilder (PI: John DiGiovanni) was recently awarded UT’s Office of Graduate Studies Dissertation Writing Fellowship for Spring 2021.
  • Aram Lyu (PI: Lauren Ehrlich) was first author on a publication recently accepted by Blood.
  • Stephanie Grant (PI: Sharon DeMorrow) was first author on a publication recently accepted by the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Faculty News
  • Laura Fonken’s lab received an R01 through NIH NIA titled, “Targeting age-related neuroinflammation and postoperative cognitive decline: a microbial-based approach.”  The award is for $492,985 over 5 years.
  • Sean Kerwin received an NSF grant titled ,”Exploring NAlkynylazole Cyclizations in Synthesis” for $490,000 over 3 years.
  • Karen Vasquez’s lab had a recent publication that was an Editors’ Highlight Feature Article for Nature Communications, titled, “Distinct DNA repair pathways cause genomic instability at alternative DNA structures.”

Academic Year 2019-2020

Trainee News
  • Songyeon Ahn (PI: John DiGiovanni) was one of only two graduate students across the nation to receive the 2019 North American Graduate Fellowship from the American College of Toxicology (ACT). She also won 1st prize at the Charles River Fast Facts Competition during the ACT annual meeting.
  • Four graduate students of CMCT members received the University Graduate Continuing Fellowship for 2020-2021:
    • Megha Thakur – DiGiovanni lab
    • Lexie D’Amico – Vasquez lab
    • Pooja Mandke – Vasquez lab
    • Cherish Taylor – Mukhopadhyay lab
  • Elaina Williams (PI: Sharon DeMorrow) won a junior investigator award to attend the bi-annual meeting of the International Society of Hepatic Encephalopathy and Nitrogen Metabolism for her abstract entitled “Let-7f Expression Is Upregulated in the Frontal Cortex During Acute Liver Failure and Contributes to Hepatic Encephalopathy via Downregulation of IGF1 Expression.”  She also was awarded in the category of Best Basic Science at the poster presentation for her poster entitled “Characterization of a Novel Mouse Model of Type A Hepatic Encephalopathy.”
  • Alfred Tuley, a recent postdoc in Walt Fast‘s lab, started a new job as a tenure track Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Faculty News
  • Andrea Gore was recently awarded the 2019 Civitatis Award, which honors outstanding citizenship at UT Austin, for dedicated and meritorious service to the university above and beyond the regular expectations for teaching, research, and writing.  She will receive the award at the University Awards Dinner in April.
  • Kevin McBride received a $3.5 million CPRIT Core Support Award to produce recombinant antibodies for research needs.
  • Som Mukhopadhyay and lab members wrote a publication on the regulation of brain manganese that won the NIEHS Paper of the Year for 2019.
  • John DiGiovanni served as the Session Chair at the 3rd World Cancer Congress, Prague, Czech Republic on September 23-25, 2019. He was also invited to speak at the following meetings:
    • Meeting of the International Ovarian Cancer Research Consortium and International Symposium on Tumor Microenvironment, Oklahoma City, June 30 – July 1, 2019.
    • Keynote Speaker, International Symposium of Advances in Cancer Stem Cell Therapeutics, Zhengzhou University, China, Aug. 24 – 25, 2019.
    • Keynote Speaker, 3rd World Conference on Cancer 2019, Prague, Czech Republic, Sept. 23-35, 2019.
    • Plenary Session Speaker, 10th Conference on Nutrition and Physical Activity (NAPA 2019), Bangsaen, Thailand, Dec. 18-20, 2019.
  • Jackie Dudley’s lab recently published a paper demonstrating that a unique retrovirus-encoded protein, Rem, appears to antagonize multiple members of the APOBEC cytidine deaminase family, including activation-induced cytidine deaminase.
  • Jenny Jiang was invited to participate the National Academy of Medicine Emerging Leaders Forum in Washington, DC this past summer. 
  • Dawit Kidane-Mulat was invited to give the following talks:
    • “Base Excision Repair and Cancer” FDA, Maryland, February 26, 2019.
    • “Mechanisms of Aberrant Base Excision Repair Induced Genomic Instability and Inflammation” LCI Cancer Seminar Series, UT Austin, October 29, 2019.
  • Stefano Tiziani was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 3rd World Congress on Cancer in Prague, Czech Republic last September.  His keynote title was “Investigating metabolic cancer vulnerabilities by high-content metabolomic screening”.