Department and Alumni News

Paramita Basu awarded Virginia Chandler Dykes Scholarship

Biology PhD candidate Paramita Basu with Chancellor Feyton, Virginia Chandler Dykes, and Juliet Spencer

Left to right: TWU biology Ph.D. candidate Paramita Basu with Chancellor Feyton, Virginia Chandler Dykes, and professor and chair, Juliet Spencer, Ph.D.


Ph.D. candidate Paramita Basu received the Virginia Chandler Dykes Award for the College of Arts and Sciences. Basu was selected based on her outstanding academic record and scholarship. Paramita is working under the mentorship of Drs. Camelia Maier and Dayna L. Averitt on a project that focuses on the development of non-opioid sources of plant bioactive compounds for pain relief.

The Virginia Chandler Dykes Endowed Scholarship Fund was established to attract the best and brightest graduate students to TWU. The scholarship awards are given annually, and the recipients are selected from four different colleges: College of Health Sciences, College of Nursing, College of Arts and Sciences and College of Professional Education.  The recipients share their research at the annual awards luncheon. 

Mandy Biggers featured in 'Crossing over: A look at how local schools integrate STEM into classrooms and clubs'

“It’s not easy to do for teachers,” said Mandy Biggers, a Texas Woman’s University biology professor who specializes in elementary and secondary science. “It’s not something we’re trained on, but it’s something we’re working toward. It makes it more meaningful for students when you make those connections.”

Catalina Pislariu awarded Noble Research Institute subcontract


Assistant professor of biology Catalina Pislariu, Ph.D., has been awarded a $330,000 subcontract from the Noble Research Institute on a grant from the National Science Foundation for her project to establish symbiotic interactions with nitrogen fixing soil bacteria and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Educational and outreach components will benefit society by training the next generation of scientists and informing the general public on the benefits of low‐input agriculture.

TWU to host seventh annual Celebration of Science

Juliet Spencer speaks at the 2018 Celebration of Science panel discussion

TWU Biology professor and chair Juliet Spencer, Ph.D. (center), speaks at the 2018 Celebration of Science panel discussion.


Texas Woman’s University will host its seventh annual Ann Stuart and Ray R. Poliakoff Celebration of Science on Friday, October 19 on TWU’s Denton campus. Featured speakers for the event, which celebrates “Women in Science,” are Ann E. Jerse, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland; Alison Smith, Ph.D., chief engineer of materials analysis at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, Indiana; and Juliet V. Spencer, Ph.D., professor and chair of the TWU Department of Biology.

Biology faculty member Shazia Ahmed co-authors Faculty Focus article

Shazia Ahmed, Ph.D., Associate Clinical Professor and Laboratory Instructor in Biology, and Lisa Rosen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, published “Graduate Students: Present Instructors and Future Faculty” in Faculty Focus.

"Being a GTA is an incredibly difficult position, often with little support. There is the need to balance research, coursework for the one’s own degree, and courses one is teaching. The growing number of undergraduate courses taught by GTAs makes it imperative that we attend to the need for pedagogical training of GTAs, many of whom will soon be faculty."

TWU Biology Ph.D. students receive prestigious travel award for attending international conference

TWU Biology Ph.D. students Sukhbir Kaur and Paramita Basu received travel awards from the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) to attend 17th World Congress on Pain. The conference will be held from September 12-16, 2018 in Boston, USA. The award consists of a complimentary registration and a financial grant of $750 US, which will allow Kaur and Basu to attend the World Congress on Pain to present their research and participate in professional development events.

TWU Biology PhD students Sukhbir Kaur and Paramita Basu with research posters
TWU Biology Ph.D. students Sukhbir Kaur (left) and Paramita Basu (right) with their research posters.

Averitt awarded NIH grant for study of trigeminal pain


Dayna Averitt (biology) was awarded a $385,000 National Institutes of Health grant for her project that will evaluate the potential for hormone modulation of serotonin’s ability to turn on pain mechanisms in trigeminal sensory neurons. If so, novel drugs targeting peripheral serotonin receptors may be highly effective at treating trigeminal pain, such as migraine headaches, in women. 

Gumienny, Bergel awarded NIH grant


Biology faculty members Tina Gumienny and Michael Bergel have been awarded a $130,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for their project that investigates whether aging affects a DNA defense mechanism against UV radiation. Results may identify potential therapeutic options for cell protection from UV radiation. The grant amount was listed incorrectly in an earlier issue.

TWU Biology at the American Society for Virology meeting

Drs. Spencer and Hanson with student Sushila in front of a research poster

Juliet Spencer, Ph.D.; TWU biology student Sushila; and Laura Hanson, Ph.D., at the ASV meeting.

Dr. Hanson and two students in front of a research poster

TWU biology student Sushila; Laura Hanson, Ph.D.; and TWU biology student Prapti at the ASV meeting.

Drs. Spencer, Hanson and student Ms. Prapti in front of a research poster

Juliet Spencer, Ph.D.; Laura Hanson, Ph.D.; and TWU biology student Prapti at the ASV meeting.

TWU biology alumna receives national excellence in teaching award

Denise Johnson, a TWU alumna and biology faculty member at Texarkana College, has received one of two 2018 National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Teaching in Excellence Awards. Johnson earned her bachelor of science degree in biology from Texas Woman's University and her master of science degree in biochemistry from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. She has been at TC for 17 years and is the coordinator of anatomy and physiology courses for TC's science, technology, engineering and math division.

"Both recipients exemplify outstanding professionalism and work for the good of the entire college and community," said Dr. Donna McDaniel, vice president of instruction. "Through their guidance and leadership, students thrive and achieve their dreams of earning a college credential despite the barriers they are facing. We are fortunate to have both as members of our TC team."


TWU teachers-in-training to attend NASA summer institute

Texas Woman’s University has been selected to send a team of four pre-service teachers along with a faculty sponsor to the 2018 NASA Minority University Research and Education Project’s (MUREP) Educator Institute at Johnson Space Center in Houston. The five-day on-site experience takes place June 4-8 and will feature student-centered classroom activities that use NASA assets and resources to help educators develop practices that will engage students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

TWU biology faculty receive EPA grant to fund second phase of butterfly garden

Biology faculty members Camelia MaierDiana Elrod and Claire Sahlin (biology and multicultural women’s and gender studies) have been awarded $75,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency for their project to start phase II of the TWU Butterfly Garden and research the practices that enhance the habitat for wild pollinators and domesticated bees. The gardens will create habitats for pollinators, become educational observatories and research laboratories, and contribute to water conservation and pollution reduction. 

PhD candidate receives prestigious ASBMB travel award


Paramita Basu, MS, poses in front of her research poster

TWU Department of Biology Ph.D. candidate Paramita Basu, M.S., was awarded funding for graduate travel by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). The award consisted of a maximum reimbursement of $1,000 US for allowable travel expenses and allowed Basu to attend the ASBMB 2018 Annual Meeting to present her research and participate in professional development events. Basu presented her dissertation project titled "Euphorbia bicolor (Euphobiaceae) Latex Extract Induces Antinociception and Analgesia in a Rat Inflammatory Pain Model", which was a collaborative project mentored by Drs. Camelia Maier and Dayna L. Averitt. The meeting was held in conjunction with Experimental Biology on April 21-25 at the San Diego Convention Center.

In addition to her doctoral research and studies, Basu serves as a mentor for TWU's International Mentoring Program as well as a TWU Sigma Xi Chapter membership committee representative.


Project may aid in treating obesity


Assistant professor Christopher Brower  and graduate research assistant Yasar Kasu have been awarded $1,500 from the Texas Society for Microscopy for Kasu’s graduate proposal, “Developing High-throughput screen for Modulators of the Arginylation Dependent N-end Rule Pathway.” Brower and Kasu propose the development of a high throughput screen utilizing dual fluorescent reporters to identify small molecule modulators of ATE1 and the N‐end rule pathway. This project involves modern molecular biology techniques including extensive use of fluorescent confocal microscopy. Ultimately, this project may help in designing treatment strategies against obesity.

Assistant professor Catalina Pislariu, PhD, part of research team receiving $5 million NSF grant

Assistant professor Catalina Pislariu, PhD, is one of seven scientists collaborating on a project that recently received a four-year, $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Pislariu, along with scientists at the Noble Research Institute, Boyce Thompson Institute, Clemson University, University of Delaware (UD) and University of North Texas (UNT) will identify and study genes that help legumes access nutrients from soil. 

Biology doctoral student lands summer internship with Bayer Corporation

Shuvalaxmi Dasgupta, a graduate student in molecular biology, will be completing her summer internship at Bayer Corporation. She will serve as a "Product Supply Biotech, Operational Excellence Summer Intern" in the San Francisco Bay area. Her responsibilities will include assisting the Capacity Expansion Biologics program, building platforms, collaborating with teams and supporting the core processes of the Biologics program of the UC Berkeley manufacturing site.

I am really looking forward to my experience at Bayer. I am confident that the knowledge and skills I have gained from my molecular biology program at TWU will help me throughout my internship and future career.'' Shuvalaxmi Dasgupta

TWU biology alumna appears in Wall Street Journal article

Tamiel Turley, a 2016 graduate of TWU's bachelor of science in biology degree program, was recently featured in a photo accompanying the Wall Street Journal article, "Mayo Clinic’s Unusual Challenge: Overhaul a Business That’s Working". Turley can be seen in the right foreground of the fifth image, where she discusses changes impacting her graduate program at the Mayo Clinic with Dr. Sharonne N. Hayes. Visit the Wall Street Journal website to view images and read the full article.

TWU faculty and students present pollinator garden research at Environmental Protection Agency meeting in Washington, D.C.

4 students, one faculty member, and one EPA representative

Clockwise from top left: Dr. James Johnson, Director of the National Center for Environmental Research; Dr. Bruce Rodan, Associate Director for Science, Office of Research and Development; Camelia Maier, PhD, associate professor of biology, TWU; Chelsea Matewe, undergraduate biology student, TWU; Sarah Pisquiy, undergraduate nursing student, TWU; Caitlyn Floyd, undergraduate biochemistry student, TWU; Charita Thallapareddy, undergraduate biology student, TWU.

As recipients of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) 2016 People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) grant, Texas Woman's University faculty and students presented their research on pollinator gardens as part of the TechConnect World Conference's Innovation Showcase in Washington, D.C. The TWU team included biology undergraduate students Chelsea Matewe and Charita Thallapareddy, biochemistry undergraduate Caitlyn Floyd, nursing undergraduate Sarah Pisquiy, and biology faculty members Camelia Maier, PhD, and Diana Elrod, PhD.

In 2016, TWU was awarded a Phase I grant in the amount of $15,000 for their project, "Sustainable Pollinator Gardens for Habitat and Education". The goal of the project was to transform campus lawns into sustainable pollinator gardens, providing "learn by doing" research and educational opportunities. The project, also known as the Dr. Bettye Meyers Butterfly Garden, was approved in Fall 2016. This year's presentation, titled "Developing Sustainable Pollinator Gardens for Habitat, Water Conservation and Education," aims to educate students and community members about sustainability by creating sustainable pollinator gardens on campus that can serve as observatories, laboratories and beautiful habitats.

As part of the Innovation Showcase, the TWU team educated more than 100 visitors on sustainable pollinator gardens, and received visits from EPA administrators, including Dr. Bruce Rodan, the Associate Director for Science in the EPA's Office of Research and Development, who was involved in the former President Obama’s butterfly garden at the White House.

PhD candidate Paramita Basu receives Graduate Council Award for Exceptional, Original Scholarship

Paramita Basu

Paramita Basu
, a PhD candidate in the TWU Department of Biology, has received the prestigious Graduate Council Award for Exceptional, Original Scholarship. Basu is working under the mentorship of Camelia Maier, PhD, to investigate the effects of phytochemicals isolated from Euphorbia bicolor (Snow-on-the-prairie), a plant native to Texas, on the proliferation and mode of action in different breast carcinomas and neurobiology of pain.

Throughout this project, she has established interdisciplinary collaborations with Michael Bergel, PhD, (cancer research) and Dayna L. Averitt, PhD, (pain research).

2017 Chancellor’s Student Research Scholar award winners announced

Biology doctoral students from left to right: Carrie Wilks, Isha Mehta, Remya Ammassam Veettil, Sumod Sebastian, Sirima Tongkhuya and Paramita Basu. Not pictured: Nkemjika Uke.
Biology doctoral students from left to right: Carrie Wilks, Isha Mehta, Remya Ammassam Veettil, Sumod Sebastian, Sirima Tongkhuya and Paramita Basu. Not pictured: Nkemjika Uke.

Congratulations to the following 2017 Chancellor's Student Research Scholar honorees:

Doctoral Biology Students

  • Carrie Wilks
  • Isha Mehta
  • Remya Ammassam Veettil
  • Sumod Sebastian
  • Sirima Tongkhuya
  • Paramita Basu

Undergraduate Biology Students

  • Nkemjika Uke

Each student will be honored at the TWU Chancellor's symposium luncheon, and also recognized during convocation and commencement.

Doctoral student Arpita Talaptra wins first place for symposium presentation

Ms. Arpita Talapatra, a TWU doctoral student in molecular biology, presented at the 8th Texas Tech Annual Biological Sciences Symposium 2017. She presented her research, titled “Recognition and Involvement of Conserved BH3 Domain Interacting Members of BCL2 Superfamily of Proteins Involved in Testicular Germ Cell Apoptosis.” Arpita won first place for oral presentation in the Cell & Molecular Biology category. Students from 17 colleges and universities presented and competed for awards at this year's symposium.

TWU Biology graduate student receives national American Pain Society award

Sukhbir Kaur Lulla, a doctoral student in the molecular biology program at Texas Woman’s University, has been awarded the American Pain Society’s Young Investigator Travel Award. Sukhbir Kaur will use the $750 travel grant to attend and present her research at the APS Annual Scientific Meeting, which will be held May 17-20 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Page last updated 2:49 PM, November 14, 2018