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PRIME Scholars

Booth_smWilliam T. Booth, II, earned his Bachelor’s degree in Medical Technology and Master’s Degree in Chemistry (with a concentration in Biochemistry) from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He received his PhD in Chemistry, with a concentration in Structural Biology, from the University of South Carolina. His dissertation was entitled “Structural and Functional Studies of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide and Streptolysin S Biosynthesis Proteins from Streptococcus pyogenes” where he determined the first structures of two nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide biosynthesis proteins involved in the quinolinate-salvage pathway.  His advisor was Dr. Maksymilian Chruszcz. Streptococcus pyogenes is a common pathogen associated with acute pharyngitis (strep throat) and, in rare cases, necrotizing fasciitis (the Flesh-Eating Disease). Currently working under the guidance of Drs. Tom Hollis and Todd Lowther, William is continuing his work in Structural Biology to determine the structure of proteins involved in the progression Aicardi-Goutieres syndrome and calcium oxalate kidney stone formation. Using these protein structures he will design drug molecules to fight against these disorders. William’s teaching interests are in biochemistry, protein crystallography, and introductory biology and chemistry. His career goals are to earn a University faculty position to continue conducting biomedical research using Structural Biology.  William would also like to establish collaborative programs with local schools to create after-school science clubs using undergraduate student volunteers. William has also worked as a medical technologist and a US Army paratrooper. He believes that the lessons he learned in the clinical lab and as a soldier will serve him as a teacher and mentor by affording him the ability to use real-world experiences to teach the next generation of young scientists. 

NickkholghBita Nickkholgh is an MD, PhD who worked as an emergency care physician after graduating from SBMU medical school in Tehran, Iran. After couple of years providing direct clinical services, she decided to continue her career in biomedical research. Therefore she joined a PhD program in genetics and stem cell technology in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The results of five years research during her PhD study under mentoring of Prof. Sjoerd Repping, a worldwide pioneer on Y chromosome genome project, was published in a book entitled “Genetic causes and treatment of spermatogenic failure” (ISBN: 978-1-4951-5840-7). She has been trained as post doctoral research/teaching scholar in Wake Forest School of Medicine in the field of cancer biology focusing on prostate cancer. Her main interest of research is investigating the role of cancer stem cell and protein kinase D signaling in advanced prostate cancer. Along with her research she is passionate about teaching and science public outreach. Currently, She is the co-director of Wake Forest Post doc association teaching affinity group(PATAG). She has been involved in teaching undergraduate and graduate students throughout her career and now in Wake Forest School of Medicine and Winston-Salem State University. She is part of “The Inspiring Meaningful Programs and Communication Through Science (IMPACTS)” program, a new public science outreach program in North Carolina, with the aim of training scientists in public communication.

Diaz-VasquezJose Franck Diaz Vasquez completed his BS in Mechanical engineering at the Santo Domingo Institute of Technology (INTEC, Dominican Republic) and went on to complete an engineering specialty (or Diplome d’Ingenieur - BS + MS ) in Biomedical Engineering at Polytech’Marseille in France. After an overwhelmingly positive academic and research experience at Texas A&M University,  he decided to pursue a PhD in Health Informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Franck has worked on biomechanics research in France and the US, was part of National Center for Cognitive Informatics & Decision Making in Healthcare, researching the improvement of electronic health record systems interfaces, he was a predoctoral innovation fellow for the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas and has been part of WakeHealth’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s informatics team.  He joined the PRIME program at Wake Forest University in May of 2017.  His thesis research focused on developing a framework to validate repurposed clinical datasets to increase reliability of secondary analysis results and support the building of learning healthcare systems. His current research aims to develop methods and tools to efficiently assess repurposed clinical datasets, reusing data to discover new clinical knowledge at the population level,  analyzing electronic health record data to uncover data limitations and developing formal models to support the development of behavioral mHealth. He has had a long-standing interest in higher education, teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level in multiple countries. His career goal is to unify engineering and biomedical research tools into a cohesive set of skills and teaching them to future generations of healthcare researchers and  trans-disciplinary engineers, while applying them in healthcare research areas such as the improvement supportive care for cancer patients and the development of assistive medical device development.  

RamirezManuel Ramirez received his Bachelor of Science in Cellular Molecular Biology from Humboldt State University in 2010.  He received his PhD in Cancer Biology from University of California, Irvine in 2017. His interest in biology played a key role in his choice to attend Humboldt State University (HSU). HSU has been recognized by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), NSF, Dryfus, Keck and Welch foundations for its excellence in biological sciences education.  Seeing that there was still much we do not know about biology instilled in him a desire to work in a research lab.   As a stipulation of the HHMI funding, he took part in bi-monthly meetings with fellow minority researchers where they presented and discussed their research.  The HHMI program also provided funds for him to attend several state-wide conferences and to present a poster at the American Society for Microbiology annual conference. Manuel taught students who were struggling with the course material. Many of these students were from low-income backgrounds similar to his.  Manuel discovered assisting this type of student very fulfilling, especially when he realized that the interaction helped them to excel beyond their expectations.  To continue his development as both an instructor and researcher, Manuel joined the PRIME program at Wake Forest University Health Sciences in October of 2017. Manuel currently works in Dr. Katherine Cook’s and Dr. David Soto-Pantoja’s laboratories. His research focuses on how the unfolded protein response impacts cancer progression and immune response to cancer cells. 

BellSpencer Bell completed his B.S. in Neuroscience at Brigham Young University in 2013. He then completed his PhD in Neuroscience in 2017 at the Medical University of South Carolina where his dissertation research involved using functional MRI to study the effects of nicotine withdrawal on brain activity during inhibitory control in cigarette smokers. While a PhD student, Spencer taught biology classes at The Citadel and participated in various science education outreach programs at local elementary and secondary schools in Charleston, SC. Spencer began his work as a PRIME scholar in 2017 and hopes to apply the valuable training gained through his experiences at Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University in a career teaching undergraduate neuroscience.

LeeTristan Lee completed his B.S. in Biology and Classical Humanities in 2010 at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. He then began his graduate education in the Neuroscience Training Program at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. There, Tristan researched neural development in the lab of Dr. Mary Halloran. His Ph.D. thesis analyzed the effects of microtubule polarity and microtubule regulators on axon development in sensory neurons. In 2017 Tristan was accepted into Wake Forest School of Medicine as a PRIME IRACDA research scholar. He is researching in the lab of Dr. Kim Raab-Graham in the Physiology and Pharmacology department. His current research focus is on the effects of the mTOR pathway in addiction. Tristan's teaching interests are in neuroscience, developmental biology, and cell biology. Tristan has taught various biology courses throughout his undergraduate and graduate education and plans to pursue a career in both teaching and research. 


Elizabeth Pitts completed her B.S. in psychology at Davidson College. She earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Emory University, where her dissertation research was on impaired goal-directed decision making following adolescent cocaine exposure and the potential of neurotrophin-based therapeutics. Additionally, she taught introductory biology and neuroscience and has been involved in K-12 outreach programs to teach students about science and neuroscience. As a PRIME-IRACDA scholar, she works in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine studying adolescent self-administration and nicotinic receptor modulation of striatal dopamine release." 



PRIME Alumni

MolinaDoris P. Molina completed her B.S. in Biology in 2003 at Elon University. She later initiated her doctoral training at Wake Forest University Health Sciences and was awarded her Ph.D. from the Neurobiology and Anatomy program. Doris has taught middle and high school as well as undergraduate students to further her teaching skills. Doris was a PRIME-IRACDA scholar with Dr. Dwayne Godwin at Wake Forest School of Medicine with a research focus on understanding the electrophysiological mechanisms underlying alcohol withdrawal-induced seizures. She is now a faculty member in the Department of Physical Therapy at Winston Salem State University.


LopezElsa Silva López obtained her B.S.  degree in Industrial Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao Campus where she performed research on the kinetics and enantioselectivity of transesterification reactions using Substilisin Carlsberg in organic solvents. She obtained a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from Washington State University where she studied the binding of a fluorescent serotonin ligand with serotonin type 3 receptor in supported lipid bilayers. After obtaining her Ph.D., she worked for a year as a full-time chemistry instructor at Washington State University before joining the PRIME program to work with Dr. Cristina Furdui at Wake Forest School of Medicine to study the effects of oxidation on the structure and functionality of Akt2 relevant to disease. Elsa is currently a faculty  member in the Department of Chemistry at Washington State University. 

EldeebKhalil Eldeeb obtained his MD and Master's degree from AlAzhar University Medical School, Egypt and his PhD from Nottingham University, UK.
His PhD thesis focused on the role of endocannabinoid signaling system on microglia function.
While he was a Prime scholar, he worked in the laboratory of Dr. Allyn Howlett on cannabinoid receptor signaling.
Currently, he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Campbell University in NC. 
He continues to work on the role of the cannabinoid receptor in neuronal signaling.

TaylorVictor Taylor, III majored in biology and chemistry at Prairie View A&M University. 
After college, he earned a PhD in Biomedical Science from University of North Texas Health Science Center. 
In the PRIME program, he worked with Dr. Cristin Ferguson in the Orthopedic Department of WFUHS.
Victor’s research project focused on determining the effects of meniscal regeneration using Bone Morphogenic Protein-7 (BMP-7),
and osteoarthritic effects on the meniscus.  Victor has accepted an Assistant professor position at Meharry Medical School in Nashville, TN.  

nildrisNildris Cruz-Diaz completed her B.S. in Biology in 2001 at Universidad Metropolitana in Puerto Rico. 
In 2002 she started her graduate studies on the Physiology Department at the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus, 
where she completed her M.S and Ph.D.  For the past 7 years, she has been involved with the American Physiological Society in their outreach programs
educating elementary, middle, and high school students about science and the possible careers in the field. 
In 2014 she was accepted at Wake Forest University-School of Medicine as a PRIME-IRACDA scholar and worked in the Hypertension Department.
Currently Nildris is a Research Associate at the Center for Cardiovascular Research WFUHS, Winston- Salem, NC.

DuncanA’ja V. Duncan received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from North Carolina Central University. 
She was awarded her M.S. in Chemistry at North Carolina Central University.
Upon completion of her studies she was awarded her Ph.D. from the 
Energy and Environmental Systems program at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University.
During her time as a Prime scholar, A’ja worked for Dr. Deb Diz in the Hypertension and Vascular Center 
A’ja has accepted a position as a Physical Scientist (Forensic Chemistry) with the Department of Defense, Department of the Army in Fort G. Meade, MD.

Adamah BiassiEkue Adamah-Biassi received his PhD in pharmacology and toxicology from the University at Buffalo, SUNY.  He joined the WFUHS PRIME program in 2014 in the department of Physiology/Pharmacology.  He collaborated with Dr. Jeff Weiner and Dr. Evgeny Budygin studying dopamine signaling and alcohol drinking behavior. Currently, he is a Senior Toxicologist at Arkema, King of Prussia, PA. and provides support for toxicology issues in areas of human health, environmental safety and regulatory compliance.

CorridonPeter Corridon received his MS in Applied Mathematics and ME in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.  He received his PhD in Medical Biophysics and Biomolecular Imaging from Indiana University School of Medicine.  He was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the WFUHS PRIME program with Dr. James Yoo in the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM), where he worked on bioartificial kidneys.  Currently, he is a Clinical Instructor  in the Department of Craniofacial Biology at the University of Colorado in Denver.

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Last Updated: 01-12-2018
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