Student Profile in Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor 2 (VEGFR2)
Mentor: Khuloud Jaqaman, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Physics and Chemistry
Undergraduate Institution: Institution:University of Sacred Heart, Puerto Rico
Hometown: Sabana Grande, PR
Awards/Fellowships: SACNAS Registration Scholarship Recipient, 2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention, 2020 FORD Fellowship Honorable Mention, 2020 ABRCMS Travel Award Recipient, 2017 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, UT Southwestern Medical Center
How did you become interested in science and/or research?
I became interested in science during my pre-calculus class when my professor showed us how simple mathematical concepts could be used to describe biological phenomena. Since then, I got interested in learning more math and how to apply it to biology and that's when I discover research. Before that, I didn't know science/research is something you could do as a career and before meeting that professor I would've never imagined that I was capable of being a scientist.
Please describe your research.
My research focuses on developing software that will help us better understand Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor 2 (VEGFR2) spatial and temporal organization on the cell membrane and how this organization modulates signaling by creating new tools for analyzing microscopy images. VGFR2 is the main receptor driving angiogenesis, the process of new vessel formation from existing ones, which makes VEGFR2 very important in development and cancer. Although my work focuses on VEGFR2 all the computational tools I develop are of general use for any biological system with similar characteristics.
Why did you choose UT Southwestern?
The main thing I was looking for when coming to graduate school was a place where I could grow intellectually and UTSW's collaborative environment offers a great space to grow intellectually and professionally. Here I can reach out to any student or faculty knowing that they will help me or they will find someone who can help with any issues or questions I have. That and a pro-student environment where there are resources to help students through the challenges of life and graduate schools were my main to motivators for me to come to UTSW.
What do you think makes the Molecular Biophysics Program one of the best?
The Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program is very collaborative and interdisciplinary. Students on the program work in a range of research areas from structural biology and microscopy to machine and deep learning. The course work is made on a way that it will give you the conceptual and practical foundations for you to do quantitative research while still having flexibility of taking any other courses outside the biophysics curriculum that you think will be useful for your research.
– Jesus Vega-Jugo, Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program