Division and Alumni News

A scientist who means business

While much of humanity spent the COVID lockdown binging in front of a television, Juliet Spencer was improving herself. In addition to virtually conducting her copious duties as director of TWU's School of the Sciences and as a biology professor, Spencer was earning an MBA from TWU.

Molecular biology PhD candidates honored

Texas Woman's University PhD candidates Hala Samara and Mafia Mahabub Rumpa recently earned two presentation awards apiece at the International Forum on Research Excellence (IFoRE) 2022 of the Scientific Research Honor Society.

The vast and the curious

There is a dimension unknown to all but an uncommon few. It is vast, yet fits within the nucleus of a single cell and challenges the human mind's concept of the finite. It is found in every living creature on Earth and within its matrix is the blueprint of each organism, but until very recently it existed beyond human comprehension. It is the world of the infinitesimal.

It is also the classroom of Texas Woman's University biology professor Catalina Pislariu, PhD.

Celebration of Science returns to TWU Oct. 20-21

After being suspended since 2019 due to the pandemic, the Celebration of Science returns to Texas Woman’s University Oct. 20-21. The main event is on Friday, Oct. 21, in the Ann Stuart Science Complex and includes presentations by six speakers, headlined by Sherine O. Obare, PhD. Friday’s event is free and open to the public.

TWU's Cantu earns NIH grant

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a grant to Daisy Cantu, a graduate student in the Texas Woman's University biology division.

The grant of $34,635 is for Cantu's project, "Sex Differences in Stress-Exacerbated Orofacial Pain in a Rat Model of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder."

TWU biology faculty, students give presentations

Several Texas Woman's University biology faculty and students spent part of their summers giving presentations at conferences around the country.

TWU Herbarium is growing collection

A natural library on the Texas Woman’s Denton campus is providing valuable resources for various scientific projects as well as for educational activities and community outreach and service.

Camelia Maier, director and curator of the The Dr. Bettye Myers Butterfly Garden, said the herbarium has acquired new specimens, especially from the Carroll Abbott Memorial Wildflower Sanctuary area of the showcase garden by the Texas Pond.

A medical detective story

TWU biology doctoral student Erica Garcia is investigating the strange relationship between breast cancer and human cytomegalovirus, attempting to solve a mystery that could lead to better treatment of breast cancer and better outcomes for patients.

"The thought that I could improve lives is a big motivation," Garcia said.

TWU biology's Dr. Pislariu earns $1 million grant

Research conducted by Catalina Pislariu, PhD, of the TWU Biology Department into rehabilitating farmland by planting crops that not only grow in depleted soil but also contribute to the regeneration of that exhausted earth has earned a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Biology celebrates end of year with awards, luncheon

Dr. Catalina Pislariu receives Mary Mason Lyon Award
Named for the founder of Mount Holyoke, the first woman’s college in the U.S., the Mary Mason Lyon awards are presented annually to recognize TWU junior faculty members who are developing excellent records of teaching, research and service, show dedication to their careers, and promise for success in the future. The award requires at least three years but no more than seven years of service to TWU.

Biology Redbud Award recipients
The Redbud Awards acknowledge TWU student leaders, chartered and university-sponsored student organizations, and student organization advisors for exemplary performance and dedication to serving others.

Biology’s Dr. Shazia Ahmed and Dr. Camelia Maier received the Campus Leader with a Heart award. Dr. Christopher Brower received the Faculty Advisor of the Year award.

Biology students Mafia Mahabub Rumpa received the Emerging Leader of the Year award and Taylor Hickman received the Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant of the Year award.

Biology staff awards
Mehgann Mallory, STEM Student Services coordinator, was awarded the Consider it Done award for her work and support of the Division of Biology and the School of the Sciences.

Kirsten Donohoo, coordinator of Academic Advising for the College of Arts & Sciences and academic advisor for Biology & Medical Technology, received the TWU Advisor of the Year award.

End of year celebration returns
The Division of Biology hosted the end of year luncheon to celebrate graduating students and a successful academic year. The luncheon is a long-standing tradition that was canceled the last two years due to the pandemic.

With almost 120 students, staff and faculty in attendance, the event was a huge success. The opportunity to come together and socialize recreated a sense of community within the division, something many have missed during the pandemic.

Cancer research sparked grad’s interest in biotechnology

Her interest in science started in summer camp and grew into a dream of becoming a researcher. Harsh words from a supervisor temporarily derailed that dream, but Lindsey Ramos Freitas overcame her struggles, regained her confidence, and is set to receive her professional science master’s degree during spring commencement ceremonies at Texas Woman’s University.

TWU team investigates patented drug as breast cancer treatment


Last year, Dr. Michael Bergel was issued a patent for novel compounds designed to prevent cell division. This year, one of those drugs, JJMB9, is showing promise in pre-clinical studies. With funding from the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership, Dr. Bergel and his team have developed a new model system for investigating the metastatic spread of breast cancer. The study is ongoing, but preliminary data suggests that JJMB9 is effective at reducing the size of metastases. 

“In addition to learning new laboratory techniques, the all-female student research team developed impressive communications and collaboration skills” stated Dr. Juliet Spencer, co-Principal Investigator of the study with Dr. Bergel. “This project is extremely complex with many moving parts, and the students really rose to the occasion. They worked together as a team, developing real-world critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills in the process.” 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. More than 280,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer each year. Further research is needed, particularly through projects like these, which aim to develop new therapeutics in order to prevent deaths from breast cancer.

TWU-PRIME students engage in rewarding research programs


Sonia Adhikari, Laura Ruemmele, Alice McNeill, Adina Zidermanis

Funded by the NSF, TWU-PRIME seeks to increase engagement from student populations typically underrepresented in STEM fields.

Sonia Adhikari (top left) will be working this fall under the guidance of TWU's Dr. Dayna Averitt. The Averitt Lab is focused on studying sex differences in pain and analgesia.

Laura Ruemmele (top right) spent the summer in the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Fozo at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Laura investigated how the incorporation of exogenous fatty acids into phospholipids impacts membrane homeostasis in Enterococcus faecalis.

Alice McNeill (bottom left) is working with TWU's Dr. John Beatty on a method to recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) into fuel or other chemicals of practical use, in an effort to reduce the increasing levels of CO2 in the biosphere.

Adina Zidermanis (bottom right) is working under the mentorship of TWU's Dr. Camelia Maier. Adina is investigating plant-pollinator relationships in the TWU Bettye Myers butterfly gardens.

Keandre Rush participates in SMART program at UNTHSC


Keandre Rush headshot

Summer Multicultural Advancement Research Training (SMART) provides undergraduate students interested in pursuing biomedical science research with a 10-week summer research experience in a mentor-guided laboratory. The program aims to address the training and employment gap for underrepresented minority groups, disadvantaged populations, and those with disabilities.

This summer, Keandre Rush participated in the SMART program at UNTHSC under the mentorship of Dr. Tom Cunningham. Keandre studied the body's ability to balance water levels and sodium concentration in rats by testing the effects of cytotoxic proteins on the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls these levels. The SMART experience helped Keandre gain knowledge and skills in biomedical research and move closer to his career goals. 



NSF awards $1.5 million to TWU team to boost STEM activities

This summer, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $1.5 million grant to a team of Texas Woman's faculty members to fund a project aimed at boosting enrollment in graduate biotechnology programs and promoting career success in the biotechnology sector. The team, made up of Drs. Juliet Spencer, Diana Elrod, Stephanie Pierce and Jessica Gullion, is launching TWU-SCALE, or Scholarships and Co-curricular Activities Leading to Excellence in the Biotechnology workforce. 

Daisy Cantu receives NIH Pain Consortium award for research excellence

TWU biology PhD candidate Daisy Cantu received the 2021 Mitchell Max Award for Research Excellence at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health's (NIH) 16th Annual Pain Consortium Symposium in May. Cantu's research focuses on the effect of hormones and stress on neural processes when women experience inflammatory pain. 

Biology students and alumni accepted to medical, PA, and veterinary schools in 2021

The pre-health advising team at TWU would like to extend our congratulations to our students and alumni who were accepted to professional schools in Entry Year 2021.  You should be very proud of your accomplishments! We are delighted to see you take this next step on your professional journey, and we look forward to celebrating your further successes in the coming years.

TWU biology instructor explains complex concepts through fun videos

Maryví González Solá found new and innovative ways to help her biology students understand the complexities of the human anatomy — producing short, fun lecture videos and study tips designed to help the students succeed.

“I always enjoy teaching anatomy, but sometimes my students wouldn’t understand immediately the concepts,” said González, an adjunct professor in the TWU Department of Biology. “So, I decided to start preparing the videos. My goal is to capture my students’ attention and generate retention of the material.”

29 biology students present in 2021 Student Creative Arts and Research Symposium, 8 named Chancellor’s Student Research Scholars

The Biology Department is proud of the hard work and dedication of all of our student researchers who presented in the 2021 Student Creative Arts and Research Symposium on April 13-14, 2021. A special congratulations to our 2021 Chancellor’s Student Research Scholars!

Undergraduate Students

Michael Paul Hunter (laboratory of Dr. Dayna Averitt)
Tahree Ladell (laboratory of Dr. Michael Bergel)
Anusha Mithani (laboratory of Dr. Elisa Na)

Post-Bac Students

Angela Lopez-Ramirez (laboratory of Dr. Dayna Averitt)

Master’s Students

Priscila Frayre (laboratory of Dr. Elisa Na)

PhD Students

Akshaya Arva (laboratory of Dr. Christopher Brower)
Anne Davenport (laboratory of Dr. DiAnna Hynds)
Mohammad Farhan Lakdawala (laboratory of Dr. Tina Gumienny)

TWU to celebrate new Scientific Research Commons April 13-14

Join TWU Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Nutrition & Food Science for a two-day event celebrating the NEW Scientific Research Commons (SRC) on TWU's Denton campus. SRC is located on the southeast corner of campus at Texas St. and N Bell Ave. Events to include:

Tuesday, April 13: 12:30-1:30 p.m. poster session; 2 p.m. dedication ceremony for the new installation, "Infinite"; and  4-5 p.m. poster session.
Wednesday, April 14: 1-2 p.m. and 4-5 p.m. poster sessions

Out of concern for your safety, this event is open to the TWU community only.

Dr. Ann Davis wins national teaching award

The Society for College Science Teachers (SCST) has selected Dr. Ann Davis as the 2021 Winner of the Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teaching Award. Dr. Davis teaches Principles of Biology, Scientific Communication, and Immunology. She was recognized for her innovative teaching and use of active learning exercises, including clickers and team-based learning, as well as her work advising students as Chair of the Pre-health Committee at TWU. Dr. Davis will receive a plaque and an award of $1500, and she will deliver the Marjorie Garner Lecture at the next annual SCST meeting.

Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity names TWU alumna Senior Project Manager

National Minority Quality Forum’s Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity announced that Kristen Stevens Hobbs, MPH, has joined as Senior Project Manager for Quality Improvement and Equity. In her role, Hobbs will champion the advancement of health equity and will implement epidemiologic principles for the design, implementation and management of evidence-based public health interventions.

Kristen earned her BS in Biology from Texas Woman’s University and her Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from Saint Louis University.

117 Biology Majors and 17 Medical Technology Majors Named to Fall 2020 Dean’s and Chancellor’s Lists

González begins mentorship and research endowment

Elma González grew up working as a migrant farmer with her family across South Texas. As an undergraduate student at Texas Woman’s, she worked on campus part-time while double majoring in biology and chemistry, also earning her teaching credentials. The need to work part time while studying as a full-time student did not allow additional time for research or extracurricular activities.

Grant aims to increase STEM engagement in Indigenous communities

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $99,786 planning grant that will allow a TWU research team to develop strategies to recruit and retain more Indigenous students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

TWU biology lab granted patent for anti-cancer compounds

A Texas Woman’s University biology team, led by associate professor Michael Bergel, Ph.D., has been issued a patent for three compounds that prevent the growth of human breast, lung and colon cancer cells.

Three biology student-athletes honored with 2020 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar awards

Eight Texas Woman's University student-athletes have been honored by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as recipients of the 2020 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar award. Three of the eight recipients are biology majors: London Archer (senior, basketball), Isabel Goyco (junior, gymnastics) and Isabel Vega (junior, volleyball).

Pioneers@Work are testing for COVID-19

TWU alumni at the American Institute of Toxicology (AIT) Laboratories, a division of HealthTrackRx, are at the forefront of the battle against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). AIT employees, including 23 graduates of TWU STEM programs, have been working around the clock to conduct, aid and enhance COVID-19 detection within 24-48 hours of sample receipt.

TWU launches new biotechnology master’s degree

To support one of the state’s top six industry sectors with greatest economic growth potential — biotechnology and life sciences — Texas Woman’s University will launch a new program this fall that combines biology and business with an industry internship.

Butterfly garden wins Business Yard of the Month award

The TWU Bettye Myers Butterfly Garden has received the May Business Yard of the Month award from Keep Denton Beautiful. Designated as a Monarch Waystation, the butterfly garden boasts a lovely variety of flowers, including coneflowers (bachelor buttons), poppies, evening primrose, larkspur, phlox, gerbera daisy, and cornflowers. Find Phase II of this garden by the Little Chapel in-the-Woods and enjoy the Carroll Abbott Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is a section of the garden dedicated to the memory of Carroll Abbott.

Nat Mills authors guide to growing potatoes in North Texas for master gardener's association

"Give the humble potato (Solanum tuberosum) a place in your vegetable garden," writes Nat Mills, Ph.D., a professor in the TWU Department of Biology and guest contributor for the Denton County Master Gardner Association.

TWU Biology provides Denton County with coronavirus testing supplies

The Texas Woman’s University Department of Biology is supporting local COVID-19 testing by supplying Denton County Public Health with tubes of virus transport media (VTM) and nasal swabs for specimen collection.

Biology students honored at Creative Arts and Research Symposium

Each spring, Texas Woman's University presents the Student Creative Arts and Research Symposium to showcase outstanding student work. The TWU Chancellor and the Graduate Council honor only a small number of outstanding students each year.

For 2019-2020, five students in the Biology Department were honored as Chancellor's Student Research Scholars, and one biology student received a Graduate Council Award for Exceptional, Original Research. Congratulations to each of these outstanding students!

2020 Chancellor's Student Research Scholars

Anne Davenport, Ph.D. student in the lab of Dr. DiAnna Hynds
Bhoomi Madhu, Ph.D. student in the lab of Dr. Tina Gumienny
Elizabeth Meza, undergraduate student in the lab of Dr. Michael Bergel
Maya Ortiz, undergraduate student in the lab of Dr. Michael Bergel 
Rosylin Roy, undergraduate student in the lab of Dr. Tina Gumienny

2020 Graduate Council Award for Exceptional, Original Scholarship

Sukhbir Kaur, Ph.D. student in the lab of Dr. Dayna Averitt

Texas Woman’s STEM project awarded $2 million grant

A team of Texas Woman’s University faculty have been awarded $2,448,091 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund a project aimed at improving retention and graduation rates for students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

TWU Department of Biology announces new programs in neuroscience, research, pre-med


The Department of Biology at Texas Woman's University is pleased to introduce the following new programs. We are expanding our degree offerings with two new tracks in the bachelor of science in biology degree, two new undergraduate minors, and one new undergraduate certificate. All of the new degree plans will be available starting in the fall of 2020.

We have created three new degree options to support pre-health students: a pre-medical track and a pre-physician assistant track in the bachelor of science in biology, and a pre-med minor. All three of these plans include all prerequisite coursework necessary for applying to professional school. Additionally, the pre-medical track and minor are designed to provide students with a strong foundation for preparing to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

For students interested in neuroscience, the Department of Biology has partnered with the Department of Psychology & Philosophy to offer a new minor in neuroscience. This minor allows undergraduates to approach the study of the human brain from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The new undergraduate certificate in biological research provides a unique opportunity for undergraduates to gain hands-on experience in laboratory research by working side-by-side with a faculty mentor. Students pursuing the certificate also receive training in scientific communication and have the opportunity to present their research results in a public forum.

Biology Department announces Fall 2020 special course offerings


The TWU Department of Biology is pleased to announce the addition of a number of unique, special-interest courses for the fall 2020 semester.

For students interested in cutting-edge topics in modern biology, we are offering:

  • BACT4413: Virology, Mondays and Wednesdays 9:30-10:50 a.m., WH300. Learn about the 'enemy from within.'
  • BIOL4903.01: Genome Editing and Medical Ethics, Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:30-3:50 p.m., MCL402. Find out about the newest advancements in biotechnology and how they might change your future.

Undergraduate and graduate students planning to pursue research careers can learn how to talk science in BIOL4293/5293: Scientific Communication, Mondays and Wednesday 11 a.m.-12:20 p.m., ASB104. Hone your science writing and speaking skills; discover why your audience matters and what to do about it; and learn to separate reality from pseudo-science.

Finally, in order to support our undergraduates in preparing for various careers, we are pleased to announce that we will once again be offering:

  • BIOL4901.01: Give Teaching a Chance, Tuesdays 11-11:50 a.m., ASSC153. Have you ever considered a teaching career? Texas has a shortage of science teachers. Are you ready to answer the call? Come and learn more about what teachers do, and how to succeed in the exciting field of education.
  • BIOL4903.02: MCAT and Medical Career Preparation, Tuesdays 6-8:50 p.m. WH105. Learn about the medical application process: MCAT prep, personal statement help, discussions with local physicians, shadowing, mock interviews and more.

Science and art amid a crisis

TWU chair of visual arts, Vagner Whitehead, Ph.D., and chair of biology, Juliet Spencer, Ph.D., weigh in on the challenges and triumphs their students and faculty have experienced while transitioning their labs and workshops online. “I expect to see breakthroughs for people who are restrained by the notion of what art should be,” said Whitehead. While the set up is less than ideal, Spencer has been impressed by how quickly students and teachers alike have been able to make the switch to an all virtual model.

TWU biology graduate student Daisy Cantu is pioneering pain research for women

As a young girl growing up in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Daisy Cantu was fascinated by the natural world and dreamed of becoming a doctor. She hoped to find a role model in the medical field who could provide some guidance, but as a child, she was struggling just to find a long-term living situation and a permanent family.

Page last updated 9:01 AM, January 26, 2023