About Us

Lab Members

Medhat Elhalawany, Ph.D., Instructor

Medhat Elhalawany, Ph.D.

Medhat Elhalawany earned his Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology from Nagoya University in Japan in 2005. During his postdoctoral training, Dr. Elhalawany worked with different research groups that focused on molecular aspects of problems in biomedical sciences, including Cluster in Biomedicine in Italy (2012), the University of British Columbia (2009), and Calgary University in Canada (2008) in Canada.

Dr. Elhalawany was recently appointed to a research position in the Aguilera Lab where his research is focused on the understanding of the complex biology of pancreatic cancer tumor microenvironment.


Thillai Veerapazham, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist

Thillai Veerapazham, Ph.D.

Thillai Sekar Veerapazham received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Madras in Chennai, India, in 2007. After that, he was a senior research fellow at CIBA, a central research institute under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in India.

In 2008, Dr. Veerapazham was offered a six-month visiting scientist fellowship from the National Research Council in Taiwan. Following that he joined the vitamin transporter research group at the University of California, Irvine, as a postdoc fellow where he investigated thiamin transporter in pancreatic beta and acinar cells. From 2010-2017, he was a postdoc fellow and research scientist at Cellular Pathway Imaging Lab at Stanford University where he researched developing optical imaging sensors to study histone lysine methylation and p53 sumoylation, as well as the therapeutic evaluation of gene-directed enzyme pro-drug therapy (GDEPT) using molecular imaging methods. 

In 2011, he was an ICMIC fellow at Stanford University and received travel awards to attend World Molecular Imaging Society meetings. Dr. Veerapazham joined the Aguilera Lab in October 2017 to research therapeutic antibody development for cancer immunotherapy.


Qiongwen Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Qiongwen Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.

Qiongwen Zhang earned her bachelor's degree in clinical medicine in 2010 and her M.D./Ph.D. in clinical medicine and oncology in 2013, both from Sichuan University. Under the guidance of Dr. Yu-quan Wei, her research focused on the roles of the myeloid-derived suppressor cells in the inflammatory environment of liver disease.

Following that, she did a residency in oncology in the Department of Head and Neck Oncology at West China Hospital. In November 2017, Dr. Zhang joined Dr. Steve Jiang's lab as a senior visiting scholar in the Department of Radiation Oncology at UTSW, where she applied the artificial intelligence tool to analyze clinical data and predict the treatment outcomes in head and neck tumors. Since February 2019, she has been a postdoctoral researcher in the Aguilera Lab. Her current research project is to investigate the role of tumor micro-environment in the radiotherapy and develop novel biological therapies targeting the tumor micro-environment.‚Äč


Eslam Elghonaimy, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Eslam Elghonaimy, Ph.D.

Eslam Elghonaimy received his Ph.D. in cell biology and genetics from the Cairo University, Egypt in 2016. Following that, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Klinik für Frauenheilkunde und Geburtshilfe, Universitätsklinikum, Münster, Germany. In late 2018, he joined the Aguilera Lab as a postdoc where his interests are centered on the interaction between stromal, tumor, and immune cells that constitute the tumor microenvironment and how this relationship affects the tumor initiation and progression. 

Dr. Elghonaimy is also interested in sequencing, artificial intelligence technology, integrated computational science, and machine-learning with biological experiments. In addition to his post-doc work, he is a UT Southwestern BICF fellow, which falls under the Department of Bioinformatics and High-Performance Computing Center (BioHPC)


Katy Swancutt, DVM, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Katy Swancutt, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Katy Swancutt completed her B.S. at California State University Long Beach where she was also a research assistant in a radiation chemistry laboratory. As an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Scholar, her work studying reaction kinetics of free radical molecules required frequent visits to user facilities at the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory and Brookhaven National Labs to utilize linear and Van de Graff particle accelerators. 

Subsequently, Dr. Swancutt completed her DVM and Ph.D. at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University where her dissertation work examined the impact of stereotactic radiation therapy on tumor microvasculature and hypoxic microenvironment and involved a clinical trial for client-owned dogs bearing soft tissue sarcomas. She pursued the small animal medicine track with additional electives in oncology, radiation oncology, laboratory animal medicine, surgery, shelter medicine, and exotic/zoo animal medicine.

As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Aguilera’s lab, Dr. Swancutt cultivates mouse models of pancreatic, breast, and other cancers to study interactions between tumor cells and white blood cells throughout cancer progression and in response to treatment with radiation, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.