Veronica Garcia, a student at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston, has been awarded a Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship from the American Society for Microbiology. Each fellow is awarded up to a $21,000 annual stipend for three years.
Garcia is using the fellowship to research the underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease and other disorders. Alzheimer's disease affects as many as 5 million Americans age 65 and older.
Her research is focused on molecular machines that protect cellular proteins, which if folded incorrectly can lead to disease. "We're looking at a quality control mechanism that is supposed to prevent these problems from occurring," said Garcia, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in microbiology.
Garcia's mentor is Kevin Morano, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School and a member of the American Society for Microbiology.
The goal of the fellowship is to increase the number of underrepresented groups completing doctoral degrees in the microbiological sciences. It is aimed at graduate students who are enrolled in a Ph.D. program and who have completed their graduate course work in the microbiological sciences. This year, 33 applications were received and nine were awarded.
Garcia's research project is titled "Defining the mechanisms of substrate binding of the molecular chaperone Hsp110/Sse1." She graduated from La Hoya High School in the Rio Grande Valley and Texas A&M University in College Station.
The graduate school is operated by UTHealth and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and has trained more than 2,000 biomedical scientists. Morano is on the faculty of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.