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Current Trainees

Ramee Aranda

Ramee Aranda is a PhD student in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Department studying signal transduction and cellular signaling. She grew up on her family's wheat farm in the northwest corner of the Oklahoma panhandle and received her B.S. in Animal Science-Biotechnology from Oklahoma State University in 2018. Once graduating with her PhD, she plans on continuing to pursue biomedical research. Advocating for inclusion and diversity in STEM fields is one of her greatest passions and she is incredibly grateful for programs like G-RISE that help support minority students like her.

Katherina Arteaga

Katherina Arteaga is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program. She earned her B.S. in psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso and her M.A. in psychological research from Texas State University. Her research interests focus on the intersection of trauma, PTSD, and health behaviors among American Indian/Alaska Native (Indigenous) populations, including alcohol and substance use. Through this work, she aims to address barriers to mental health treatment and inform culturally adapted interventions by using methodologies that encompass biomedical and evidence-based psychological approaches.

Cameron Cardona

Cameron is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. He is originally from Mathis, Texas and received his B.S. in Human Nutrition from Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2021. His research interests include nutrigentics, iron biology, and cell death across a variety of disease states. Cameron’s dissertation project is aimed at further understanding the roles of iron regulatory proteins in ferroptosis and neuron differentiation.

Shakur Dennis

Shakur is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program. He earned his B.A. in psychology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His research interests include developing the dimensional trait model of adaptive and maladaptive personality to inform the psychological treatment of personality disorders. Specifically, he is interested in the interactions between personality traits, emotional experience, maladaptive behaviors, and interpersonal relationships. His research aims to work toward reducing the dichotomization of the mind and body by embracing a biopsychosocial approach to both research and treatment.

Hailey Freeman

Hailey Freeman is a doctoral student in Integrative Biology. She graduated with her B.S. in Natural Resource Ecology and Management from Oklahoma State University. During her undergraduate studies, she fell in love with research through exploring the impacts of early life stressors in Zebra Finches. Her current research is investigating how internal factors like the gut microbiome and boldness behaviors, and external factors like latitude may influence pathogen exposure in wild House Sparrows.  

Lily Hernandez

Lily Hernandez is a PhD student in Animal Science. She earned her B.S. in Animal Science at Texas A&M University and her M.S. in Animal Science, with a focus in Swine Nutrition, at South Dakota State University. Her research interests are identifying potential effects on neonate performance when the dam undergoes different nutritional regimens or stress events prenatally. Lily’s current research is exploring the effects of prenatal stress on gilt and piglet measures of stress, microbiome, immune function, and behavior.

Christian Holcomb

Christian Holcomb graduated with his B.S. in Microbiology from Oklahoma State University. He utilized his degree while at the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in the bacteriology department before joining the PhD graduate program at OSU, also in Microbiology. Christian’s research involves studying Chlamydia trachomatis and the interactions between inclusion membrane proteins produced by this obligate intracellular pathogen.

Jesse Hurd

Jesse Hurd is a doctoral student in Integrative Biology. After graduating with a B.S. in Livestock and Wildlife Management from Chadron State College, she spent 3 years working in the equine breeding industry in southern Oklahoma where she discovered her love for reproduction science, endocrinology, behavior, and working in a laboratory environment. Her PhD research focuses on the intersection of neurobiology, neuroendocrinology, and reproduction in social mammals. She studies the relationships between pair-bonding, reproductive physiology, and behavior - with emphasis on the development and prevention of postpartum depression in females and the effects of pair bonding on gonad and sperm characteristics in males.

Isabel Tobin

Isabel Tobin is a doctoral student in the Animal Science department. She graduated with her B.S. in Animal Science and Biology from the University of Findlay in Ohio. Currently, she is researching antibiotic alternatives for use in the livestock industry. Specifically, she is interested in finding compounds which stimulate the production of host defense peptides, essential proteins of the innate immune system, to help alleviate antibiotic resistance issues.

Crystal Villalva

Crystal Villalva is a doctoral student at the College of Veterinary Medicine in Comparative Biomedical Science. After graduating with a B.S. in Microbiology from Brigham Young University she worked as a tech for a year before starting her PhD. Her research focus is the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on pulmonary innate immune cells in both acute and chronic models. 


Past Trainees

Brittney Conn

Brittney Conn earned her B.S. in Microbiology/Cell & Molecular Genetics from Oklahoma State University in 2021. She is a now a master's student in the Microbiology program. Her research focuses on the role of gene expression in cryptococcal interactions in naïve pulmonary macrophage and dendritic cell subsets. Specifically, Brittney is interested in identifying how some innate immune cells allow permissive intracellular growth of Cryptococcus neoformans vs. active killing of the fungal pathogen.

Harley Layman

Harley is a clinical psychology Ph.D student. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from the College of Wooster. Her research interests include investigating the relationship between mental and physical factors related to obesity. Specifically, she is interested in examining how different eating and exercise behaviors, as well as psychological factors, influence body image factors and brain health. 

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