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Introducing "The Biomed Beat" — your pulse on the latest happenings from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) office. Stay tuned to this dynamic platform for insightful updates, breakthrough research highlights, and exciting developments within the realm of biomedical sciences. From groundbreaking discoveries to upcoming events, "The Biomed Beat" keeps you informed and inspired as we navigate the forefront of scientific exploration and innovation. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of biomedical research, right at your fingertips. 

Texas Tech Researchers Help Confirm First Case of Avian Influenza Transmitted from Cow to Human

Texas Tech University's Biological Threat Research Laboratory (BTRL) played a critical role in confirming the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza transmission from a mammal (dairy cow) to a human. 

The case was made public in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Steve Presley, the director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) and the BTRL, and Cynthia Reinoso Webb, the biological threat coordinator at TIEHH, were co-authors on the journal publication.

Cynthia Reinoso Webb

Cynthia Reinoso Webb

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Alumni Interview: Unique Jacobo

unique by col vanWelcome to an exclusive interview with Unique Jacobo, a recent graduate of our biotechnology program. Unique graduated in 2022 from Dr. Reid's lab, and she's currently working as an Environmental Health Sanitarian II with the City of Lubbock. In this candid conversation, Unique offers a firsthand glimpse into her post-graduation journey and the remarkable strides she's making in her field. From navigating the transition from academia to the professional realm to pursuing her passion projects, Unique shares invaluable insights and experiences that shed light on the multifaceted landscape of post-graduate life. Join us as we delve into Unique's inspiring story of resilience, determination, and the pursuit of excellence beyond the classroom.

In what specific ways do you believe your experience in graduate school has contributed to your effectiveness in your current role at the City of Lubbock? Can you highlight any particular skills, knowledge, or experiences from your graduate studies that you find especially valuable in your day-to-day work?

Some of the most valuable experiences from graduate school include my microbiology lab work with Dr. Reid, which provided me with the research skills necessary to comprehend food science research concerning bacteria growth and foodborne illnesses. Additionally, courses such as Advanced Cell Biology and GSBS 5174 Core IV: Biomedical Seminar installed the scientific literacy needed to analyze various fields, particularly those in which I have limited knowledge. This skill has proven crucial in my research within the realm of food science. Understanding these fields has provided me with the background knowledge necessary to effectively communicate the reasons behind certain regulations aimed at preventing foodborne illnesses. As health inspectors, our responsibility is to educate, and I am most effective in this role when I am well-informed about the scientific basis of food safety regulations. This knowledge is constantly helpful in my daily interactions within the food service industry.

Can you describe a specific project or task you worked on at the City of Lubbock where your biotechnology background played a crucial role? How did your academic training contribute to the success of that project?

The City of Lubbock and the state of Texas enforce the FDA Food Code Regulations, which outline the requirements for retail food establishments. However, in rare instances, certain establishments can request a Variance. This process deviates from the standard Food Code and regulations and is specific to the particular establishment seeking it.

A local establishment requested a Variance for their ceviche dish. This dish typically comprises raw shrimp, lime or other citrus juice, and spices. According to standard regulations, raw seafood must be cooked to 145°F to remove pathogenic microbes. However, traditional ceviche is prepared without heat, relying instead on acidic components like lime juice. The belief is that the acid conditions effectively prevents the growth of bacteria. However, the use of acid is not considered a “cook step” and therefore bacteria and viruses are not effectively killed or inactivated. Since the use of acid is not addressed in the Food Code, it is a variance from standard procedures, requiring the establishment to submit a Variance request for approval of the department.

To ensure the safety of consuming the ceviche dish, I had to collect specific publications on ceviche food science, review policies from other states and countries, and then determine relevant information to create a reference guide. This guide aimed to assist restaurant managers and owners who might not be well-versed in scientific terminology and methodologies. Through this research, I identified crucial components necessary to ensure the safe preparation and serving of the ceviche dish.

In the transition from academia to a municipal position, what were the key challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them? How did your academic background prepare you for these challenges, and what new skills did you acquire on the job?

One of the key challenges I faced was communicating regulations, science, and food safety in aunique at work concise and clear manner. There is little to no room for ambiguity in regulations and enforcing food safety compliance. Developing a communication style that allows me to educate while ensuring compliance with regulations is a skill I am continually developing. 

I have overcome this challenge by treating every interaction as a practice session with the people I engage with. I learn from my communication failures by encouraging those individuals to share their thoughts and identify gaps in my thought process. I make notes of my biggest communication mistakes, whether they involve speaking in a way that limits feedback from employees or not asking enough questions to fully understand the context of a violation. Our jobs require us to be reasonable, and to fulfill that requirement, I must gather all the information necessary to determine if an observation is in violation of the Food Code and a risk to the public.

My background in research, participation in poster presentations, and course GBTC 6101 Biotechnology Seminar has been beneficial in preparing for this challenge. In those settings, we are taught to simplify complex biological processes into easily understandable and concise explanations, similar to what sanitarians have to do with the Food Code. Additionally, we learn to speak clearly and effectively to ensure the audience can follow and stay engaged, which is crucial when enforcing compliance and resolving violations.

As a result of communicating regulations and ensuring compliance with food safety practices, I have developed new skills, such as writing very detailed yet concise inspection reports that explain observed violations at a food establishment and how compliance was achieved.

Can you discuss a situation where you had to collaborate with diverse teams or departments within the City of Lubbock to address a complex issue or project? How did you leverage your biotechnology expertise to foster effective collaboration?

Environmental Health received a complaint regarding a leaking grease trap, an underground container that stores the grease produced by a restaurant's kitchen. City regulations mandate that restaurants pump their grease traps every 90 days to prevent overflow and ensure proper maintenance. In this instance, the restaurant's grease trap had overflowed, allowing grease to spill into the street. This situation poses an environmental threat, jeopardizing the integrity of our playa lakes and potentially exposing animals and people to harmful microbes.

Addressing issues with a grease trap involves the participation of several parties, including City of Lubbock (COL) Environmental Health, COL Industrial Waste Monitoring and Pretreatment, restaurant owners and employees, hired plumbers, and waste transporters. When such problems arise, the establishment typically needs to cease operations temporarily until the issue is identified and resolved. Shutting down an establishment is harmful for the business and its employees, impacting their income and ability to meet financial obligations. Therefore, such measures are not taken lightly and demand collaborative efforts to quickly reopen the restaurant. Although each party involved have different requirements and expertise, there is a shared objective.

This is very similar from the lessons that I learned in 5020 Biotech Lab Methods and 5337 Techniques in Biotechnology Research: no project or success is the result of individual effort alone. Rather, success stems from collaboration among individuals with diverse roles, knowledge, and skills. For a project to thrive, mutual respect and humility among collaborators are necessary. I apply this understanding when collaborating with other departments and individuals possessing different backgrounds and skills than my own. Recognizing the limitations of my own knowledge, I am better able to contribute to solutions and foster a sense of teamwork.

In your current role, how do you stay updated on advancements in biotechnology and related fields? Can you provide an example of how you have applied new knowledge or technologies to improve processes or outcomes within the City of Lubbock?

I stay updated on current advancements and research by regularly checking the CDC's Environmental Health Service site and the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net). Additionally, I receive emails from the Texas Environmental Health Association (TEHA) and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) to stay current of developments in the field.

As we wrap up our interview with Unique, her journey post-graduation provides valuable insights for those navigating similar paths. With a focus on resilience and continuous learning, Unique exemplifies the spirit of adaptability essential for success beyond academia. Her story serves as a reminder that growth and self-discovery are integral parts of the post-graduate experience, shaping the road ahead with each new step taken.

Meet Your 2024-2025 GSA Officers!

We are thrilled to announce the newly elected officers of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) at TTUHSC! As a student-organized and maintained government body, the GSA plays a crucial role in enhancing the graduate student experience at TTUHSC. With a commitment to serving the needs of our diverse student body, our elected officers are dedicated to making our students' time at TTUHSC as enriching and enjoyable as possible.

  • President: Robert Barnes
  • Vice President: Rozenn Moundounga
  • Treasurer: Neha Sawant
  • Secretary: Daniel Self
  • Diversity Officer: Simranjeet Kaur
  • Public Relations: Joseph Eleruja

Responsibilities of GSA Officers

Our elected officers take on a range of responsibilities aimed at supporting and advocating for graduate students across campus. These duties include:

  • Dissemination of Information: Keeping members informed about important updates, events, and opportunities relevant to their academic and professional pursuits.
  • Organization of Student Events: Planning and coordinating events such as the Student Research Week Banquet and social gatherings to foster connections and camaraderie among students from various departments.
  • Representation on Committees: Serving as the voice of GSBS graduate students on school-wide committees, ensuring that their perspectives and interests are represented in decision-making processes.
  • Coordination of GSA Activities: Overseeing initiatives like the GSA Journal Club, providing platforms for intellectual exchange and scholarly engagement within our community.
  • Upholding the GSA Constitution: Adhering to the principles and guidelines outlined in the GSA Constitution to maintain transparency, accountability, and fairness in their governance.

Membership Benefits

At TTUHSC, all full-time graduate students are automatically members of the GSA, with no membership dues required. As a member, you gain access to a range of benefits designed to support your academic and professional growth, including:

  • Travel Awards: Opportunities for funding to support travel to conferences, workshops, and other academic events, enabling you to showcase your research and expand your professional network.
  • Social Events: Engaging social gatherings that provide opportunities for students to connect, unwind, and forge friendships beyond the confines of the classroom or lab.

How to Connect with Us

GSA is here to support you in any way they can, and there are several ways to reach out to them:

  • Email: Reach out to GSA via email for prompt assistance and responses to your queries. They check their inbox multiple times a day and are committed to addressing your concerns promptly.
  • In-Person: Catch an officer in the hallway for a chat over coffee! They're always open to conversations and welcome the chance to connect with fellow students face-to-face.
  • Website: Visit the GSA section of the GSBS current students page to access additional information, resources, and updates about activities and initiatives.

As your elected representatives, GSA is here to serve you and make your experience at TTUHSC as fulfilling and enjoyable as possible. Whether you have questions about your classes, professors, or anything else related to life at TTUHSC, don't hesitate to reach out. Your feedback and input are invaluable to as they strive to enhance the graduate student experience together.

Congratulations to our newly elected officers, and here's to a successful and rewarding academic year ahead!

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Distinguished Alumni


Dr. Kaci Bohn, with a background in education and a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from TTUHSC, has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in academia and service. Her research during graduate school focused on enhancing drug delivery to brain metastases of breast cancer, resulting in publications in esteemed journals. At Harding University College of Pharmacy, she chaired the curriculum committee, promoted medication safety, and authored a children’s book on prescription safety.

Bohn's contributions extend beyond academia; appointed by the governor of Arkansas to the State Board of Nursing, she worked to enhance nursing regulation nationally. Now an associate professor at TTUHSC, she leads initiatives bridging pharmacy and veterinary medicine, mentors colleagues, and shares innovative teaching strategies. With a dedication to both her students and community, Bohn embodies excellence in education and service.

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