Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences bestows awards

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2007

Merle Olson, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (center), congratulates 2007 convocation award winners (left to right) Anson Pierce, Ph.D.; Florian Mueller, Ph.D.; Blair Barnett, D.D.S., M.S.; and Weirong Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.clear graphic
Merle Olson, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (center), congratulates 2007 convocation award winners (left to right) Anson Pierce, Ph.D.; Florian Mueller, Ph.D.; Blair Barnett, D.D.S., M.S.; and Weirong Zhang, M.D., Ph.D. 

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The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences kicked off the new academic year with its annual convocation Aug. 24.

The keynote speaker, Larry Barnes, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biochemistry and associate dean of the Graduate School, discussed a new initiative that will result in an integrated multidisciplinary graduate program focusing on thematic tracks. Development of that initiative will continue this year, he said.

Perseverance may result in new discoveries
Graduate School study is extremely challenging, and perseverance is the most important quality incoming students will need, Dr. Barnes told the audience, which included several new enrollees. The hard work is more than offset, however, by exhilarating moments when the scientist finds something that no one else in the world has found, he added.

Top award goes to Florian Mueller, Ph.D.
Following his address, the convocation turned to the presentation of annual awards. Florian Mueller, who completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology this spring, received the highest honor, the Armand J. Guarino Award for Excellence in Doctoral Studies.

Mueller was accepted to Caltech and Harvard but opted to come to the Health Science Center because of the strong aging research program in the Graduate School and the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. “Florian has co-authored eight publications, has three more in revision, and two or three in preparation,” said his mentor, Professor Arlan G. Richardson, Ph.D.

Dr. Mueller is doing his postdoctoral fellowship at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. “Knowing who won the Guarino Award in past years makes me very humble to have won it,” he said.

Graduate work in the biomedical sciences can be difficult because a person is judged by the outcome of experiments over which he has very little control, Dr. Mueller said. But, he added, “There are the exhilarating moments of which Dr. Barnes spoke. I have had a number of those.”

Blair Barnett, D.D.S., receives excellence in master’s studies award
The Armand J. Guarino Award for Excellence in Master’s Studies went to Blair Barnett, D.D.S., a graduate of the Health Science Center Dental School who conducted his M.S. studies in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology. Dubravko Pavlin, D.M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of orthodontics, gave the introduction for Dr. Barnett, who has a growing orthodontics practice in the Austin area.

“I felt I was two students in one – an orthodontics resident in scrubs and a master’s degree student in cellular and structural biology,” Dr. Barnett said. “Thank you for the opportunity to do basic research in orthodontics.”

Postdoctoral research awards presented to Drs. Pierce and Zhang
The Barbara Bowman Postdoctoral Research Awards went to Anson Pierce, Ph.D., in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, and Weirong Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., in the Department of Pharmacology. The awards honor the late Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., former chair of the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology.

Dr. Pierce, whose mentor is Dr. Richardson, participated in a National Institute on Aging summer training course on aging research and is part of a training grant working with principal investigator Paul Hasty, D.V.M., from the Department of Molecular Medicine. The grant is helping train graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the study of DNA repair and its importance in tumor suppression.

Dr. Zhang came to the Health Science Center in 2005 to learn central nervous system electrophysiology. His mentor is Steven W. Mifflin, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology. Dr. Zhang has developed a brain slice preparation to look at synaptic pharmacology.



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