PEOPLE

Dr. Bess Frost

Dr. Bess Frost

Dr. Bess Frost is an Associate Professor at the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity & Aging Studies, the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer's & Neurodegenerative Disorders, and the department of Cell Systems & Anatomy at the University of Texas Health in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Frost earned her Ph.D. from the University of California San Francisco in the laboratory of Dr. Marc Diamond. As a graduate student, Bess pioneered work that ignited a now prominent area of research, which is that tau, a key pathological player in Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies, adopts prion-like characteristics that help explain its pathological spread through the brain and the diverse disease phenotypes of the human tauopathies. Dr. Frost performed her postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School in the laboratory of Dr. Mel Feany, where she identified lamin dysfunction and subsequent widespread relaxation of heterochromatic DNA as a novel mechanism whereby tau causes neuronal death in Alzheimer's disease and related tauopathies. She was the 2020 recipient of the O'Donnell Award in Medicine from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas.

bfrost@uthscsa.edu

Dr. Wenyan Sun

Dr. Wenyan Sun is a BrightFocus Foundation-funded postdoctoral fellow in the Frost lab. Dr. Sun earned her Ph.D. in 2014 from the Institute of Mitochondrial Biology and Medicine at Xi'an Jiaotong University in China. She has previously focused on the role of mitochondrial homeostasis in the nervous system, particularly in regard to hypertension. Wenyan's seminal discovery that pathological forms of tau cause a toxic activation of transposable elements was published in Nature Neuroscience in 2018. She is continuing her work on the role of transposable elements in brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders.   

sunw@uthscsa.edu

Dr. Farzaneh Atrian Afyani

Dr. Atrian Afyani is an NIH Biology of Aging T32-funded postdoctoral fellow in the Frost lab. Dr. Atrian Afyani earned her undergraduate degree from Isfahan University, Iran, her Masters degree from Leicester University, United Kingdom, and her Ph.D. from Purdue University, where she investigated nuclear architecture in the context of cancer biology in the laboratory of Dr. Sophie Lelièvre. She is currently focused on the effects of pathogenic forms of tau on the physical and functional properties of the nucleus.   

afyani@uthscsa.edu

Adrian Beckmann, Ph.D. Candidate

Adrian Beckmann is a Ph.D. student in the Cell Biology, Genetics and Molecular Medicine discipline of the Integrated BioMedical Sciences program at University of Texas Health San Antonio. Adrian was a predoctoral trainee of the Biology of Aging T32 training grant and is now supported by an F31 awarded from NINDS. Adrian's interest in stem cell biology has led him to investigate how neurons maintain a terminally differentiated state throughout adult life. Adrian was the recipient of the Joe H. Ward, Jr. and Bettie B. Ward Award for Excellence in the Study of the Biology of Aging in 2018.

beckmann@livemail.uthscsa.edu

Simon Levy, Ph.D. Candidate

Simon Levy is a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience discipline of the Integrated BioMedical Sciences program at UT Health San Antonio. Simon earned his undergraduate and Masters degrees from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland, and performed research in the laboratory of Dr. Ole Isacson’s at Harvard Medical School prior to joining the Frost laboratory. Simon is currently the President of the UTHSA Graduate Student Association. Simon is developing a Drosophila system for detecting aggregation and intercellular spread of pathological tau.

levys@livemail.uthscsa.edu

Gabbe Zuniga, Ph.D. Candidate

Gabbe Zuniga is an M.D./Ph.D. student at UT Health San Antonio. Gabbe graduated from UT Austin where she worked in Dr. John Pierce-Shimomura's laboratory investigating the sigma-2-receptor targeted ligands as suppressors of neurodegeneration in a C. elegans model of Alzheimer's Disease. Gabbe is currently interested in the role of mRNA surveillance mechanisms in physiological brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders, and is working to develop fluid-based biomarkers of transposable element activation. Gabbe has been supported by a UTHSA Neuroscience T32 training grant and the TST-TL1 Translational Science Training Program.

ZunigaG3@livemail.uthscsa.edu

Elizabeth Ochoa Thomas, Ph.D. Candidate

Elizabeth Ochoa Thomas is a Ph.D. student in the Cell Biology, Genetics and Molecular Medicine Discipline of the Integrated BioMedical Sciences program at UT Health San Antonio. Elizabeth earned her undergraduate degree from Seattle University, where she worked on organometallic triple decker complexes in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Watson. Elizabeth is currently interested in the role of transposable element activation as a driver of neuroinflammation in physiological brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders. Elizabeth has received support from an NIGMS R25.

ochoae@livemail.uthscsa.edu

Paulino Ramirez, Ph.D. Student

Paulino Ramirez is a Ph.D. student in the Cell Biology, Genetics and Molecular Medicine Discipline of the Integrated BioMedical Sciences program at UT Health San Antonio. Paulino earned his undergraduate and Masters degrees from Texas A&M University where he worked on Drosophila viruses. Paul currently combines computational and wet-lab approaches to investigate RNA quality control and transposable element activation in tauopathy. Paul is currently funded by an R25 from NIGMS.

ramirezp1@livemail.uthscsa.edu

Maria Gamez

Maria Gamez is a Research Associate in the Frost lab. Maria earned her Bachelor of Science degree in electronic engineering from the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico, and has over 22 years of experience working in the field of neurodegenerative disorders. 

gamezm@uthscsa.edu

Elias Gonzalez

Elias Gonzalez is a Research Assistant in the Frost lab. Elias earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from St. Mary's University of San Antonio, and his master's degree in biomedical science from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. 

gonzaleze17@uthscsa.edu

PREVIOUS LAB MEMBERS

Rebekah Mahoney, Ph.D.

Rebekah Mahoney was a postdoctoral fellow in the Frost lab and a trainee of the SABER-IRACDA program. Dr. Mahoney served as the President of the President of the UT Health Postdoc Association. Rebekah is now a Visiting Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, TX. 

rmahoney@stmarytx.edu

Garrett Cornelison, Ph.D.

Dr. Garrett Cornelison was a postdoctoral fellow in the Frost lab who was supported by the NIA-funded T32 Biology of Aging training grant. Garrett's discovery that pathological forms of tau cause aberrant RNA export was published in Aging Cell in 2018. Garrett is now a Research Scientist in Discovery/R&D at Molecular Templates in Austin, TX.

glcornelison@gmail.com