PEOPLE

Dr. Bess Frost

Dr. Bess Frost, Ph.D.

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, a 2021 Standout Achievement Award from CurePSP, and was a gold recipient of the Oskar Fischer Prize in 2022. Dr. Frost is the Holder/Manager of the Bartell Zachry Memorial Endowment for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases.

bfrost@uthscsa.edu

Dr. Wenyan Sun, Ph.D.

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

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Dr. Farzaneh Atrian Afyani, Ph.D. 

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

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Dr. Camille Ravel-Godreuil, Ph.D.

Dr. Camille Ravel-Godreuil is a postdoctoral fellow in the Frost lab. Dr. Ravel-Godreuil earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences and her Master’s degree in neuroscience from Paris Descartes University, France. She then earned her Ph.D. in 2020 from PSL University, where she investigated the role of epigenetic alterations in the neurodegeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the context of Parkinson disease in the laboratory of Pr. Alain Prochiantz at the College de France. She is currently interested in the involvement of transposable elements and virus-like particles in neurodegeneration and tauopathies.

ravelgodreui@uthscsa.edu

Dr. Gabbe Zuniga, M.D./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. Gabbe earned her Ph.D. in 2022 and is now completing her final years of medical school.

ZunigaG3@livemail.uthscsa.edu

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Elizabeth Ochoa, 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

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Paulino Ramirez, M.S., Ph.D. Candidate

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 transposable element activation in tauopathy. Paul has previously received funding through an R25 from NIGMS.

ramirezp1@livemail.uthscsa.edu

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Claira Glaser, Ph.D. Student

Claira Glaser is a Ph.D. student in the Biology of Aging discipline of the Integrated BioMedical Sciences program at UT Health San Antonio. Claira earned her undergraduate degree from Northern Arizona University where she worked to synthesize self-assembling peptides to create a new vaccine platform for HPV. Claira is currently testing a newly-developed nuclear tension sensor in Drosophila that she will use to investigate  biophysical properties of the nucleus in vivo. Claira is supported by our UTHSA Biology of Aging T32.

glaserc@livemail.uthscsa.edu

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Morgan Thomas, Ph.D. Student

Morgan Thomas is a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience discipline of the Integrated BioMedical Sciences program at UT Health San Antonio. Morgan earned her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from Oberlin College in 2019, where she worked in a Neurodegeneration and Neurotoxicology lab, focusing on the gene-toxicant interaction between Huntington's disease and cadmium. Her research interests are Huntington's disease, neurodegeneration, protein aggregation, and protein trafficking. Morgan is currently working with a novel split-luciferase-based Drosophila model of huntingtin aggregation that she will use to identify novel mediators of huntingtin accumulation in the adult brain. She is currently supported by our UTHSA Biology of Aging T32.

thomasm12@livemail.uthscsa.edu

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Lulu Schulz, M.S., Ph.D. Student

Lulu Schulz is a Ph.D. student in the Biology of Aging discipline of the Integrated BioMedical Sciences program at UT Health San Antonio. Lulu graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Rhodes College in May 2019 and performed undergraduate research in the analytical chemistry lab of Dr. Jon Russ. Before joining the Frost lab, she was involved in a Phase I clinical trial with Pharmaceutical Product Development, where she worked in their pharmacokinetic lab in Austin, Texas. Lulu went on to perform her masters thesis in the Frost lab, where she was the 2022 recipient of the Armand J. Guarino Award for Academic Excellence in Master’s Studies. Lulu is now continuing her research focus on the role of Arc capsids  in tauopathy as a Ph.D. student in the Frost lab.

schulzc@livemail.uthscsa.edu

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Elias Gonzalez, M.S.

Elias Gonzalez is a Research Assistant-Senior 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

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Jasmine De Mange, M.S.

Jasmine De Mange is a Research Assistant in the Frost lab. Jasmine earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from California State University Channel Islands, and her master’s degree in Cell Systems and Anatomy from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UTHSCSA.

demange@livemail.uthscsa.edu

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Lisa Davila, B.A.

Lisa Davila is a Research Coordinator in the Frost lab. Lisa earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from St. Mary's University of San Antonio. She previously worked at Mays Cancer Center in the Pharmacokinetics lab before joining the Frost lab. She will be starting her MBA with a concentration in Data Analytics in Fall of 2022. 

davilal@uthscsa.edu

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Zach Uttke, M.D./Ph.D. Student

Zach Uttke is currently a first year M.D./Ph.D. student in our MSTP program. After earning his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from UW-Milwaukee, Zach studied normal cognitive aging in Long-Evans rats at NIA in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Rapp. Zach worked as a Student Research Associate in the Frost lab prior to starting with our MSTP program. Zach is currently investigating novel mechanisms of retrotransposon activation in the aging Drosophila brain.

uttke@livemail.uthscsa.edu

PREVIOUS LAB MEMBERS

Maria Gamez, B.S.

Maria Gamez was a Research Associate in the Frost lab from 2015-2020. Maria earned her Bachelor of Science degree in electronic engineering from the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico, and has over 25 years of experience working in the field of neurodegenerative disorders. In 2021, she returned to the lab of Dr. Bob Clarke as a Research Associate. Maruca was instrumental in getting the Frost laboratory set up and running for our first five years!

gamezm@uthscsa.edu

Dr. 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's discovery that pathological forms of tau cause a toxic depletion of nuclear calcium was published in Cell Reports in 2020. Rebekah is now a Visiting Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, TX.

rmahoney@stmarytx.edu

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Dr. 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

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Dr. Adrian Beckmann, Ph.D.

Dr. Adrian Beckmann was a postdoctoral fellow in the Frost lab and a graduate of 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 was subsequently awarded an F31 from NINDS. Adrian's interest in stem cell biology 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. Adrian is now an Institute Research Investigator at MD Anderson in Houston, TX.  

pabeckmann@mdanderson.org

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Dr. Simon Levy, Ph.D.

Simon Levy was 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 was the President of the UTHSA Graduate Student Association. Simon worked on developing a Drosophila system for detecting aggregation and intercellular spread of pathological tau. Dr. Levy moved to San Diego, California with his wife, Dr. Michelle Doyle, and their adorable daughter where he will be pursuing positions in data science

levys@livemail.uthscsa.edu