Microbiology & Immunology Graduate StudentsStudent Roster 2022-2023 Skip Menu Home News About Us About the Department Remarks from the Chair Mission Administrative Structure Administrative Committees Support Staff Shared Equipment IHII Ordering System Contact Us Faculty Departmental Faculty Faculty by Discipline Trainees/Graduate Program Graduate Program Home Graduate Program Handbook Graduate Program Faculty Students Postdoctoral Fellows Research Scientists Academic Information Coursework Calendar Qualifying Exam Information Academic Committees Visitors & Prospective Students Application Information Required and Offered Courses Graduate School Home page Fellowships & Awards In-house Training Grants Mardelle Susman Microbiology & Immunology Graduate Program Endowment Awards McLaughlin Endowment NIAID T35 NIAID T35 Overview Investigator Faculty Publications Awards Abstracts Application & Information FAQ Seminars & Events Seminars and Special Events Home Infectious Diseases & Immunity Colloquium Immunology & Biodefense Journal Club Student Research Update Seminars Facilities Our Facilities Flow Cytometry & Cell Sorting Core FCCS Core Home About Us Policies General Lab Policies Registering for iLab Rates & Fees Acknowledging the Facility BSL2 Requirements Services & Instrumentation Analyzers Sorters Training Consultations Scheduling Appointments FlowJo Licenses Education & Resources Training Guides & Protocols Grant Information Flow Resources FAQs Flow Core SharePoint iLab Schedules Tissue Culture Core Facility (TCCF) Tissue Culture Core Facility Home Services Oligo Orders Forms Optical Microscopy Core BSL3/BSL4 Aerobiology Core Animal Resource Center Academic Resources & Moody Medical Library Centers About Our Centers Galveston National Lab Institute for Human Infections and Immunity (IHII) Student List Yani Ahearn Mentor: Lynn Soong, MD, PhD Close Yani Ahearn I am a second-year doctoral student in the Microbiology and Immunology Department at UTMB and my research focuses on viral pathogenesis and host immune evasion mechanisms. I earned my M.S. in Biology in 2020 and worked in clinical microbiology laboratories before joining UTMB in 2022. I did not always know I wanted to pursue a doctoral degree, but I’ve always been curious about science and how things worked in a biological context. My prior research and work experiences sparked my desire to pursue more in-depth knowledge in the area of infectious diseases. My current research project focuses on characterizing the SARS-CoV-2 NSP16 and its role in viral RNA translation and host immune evasion. As a part of the virus replication complex, NSP16, a ribonucleoside 2’-O-methyltransferase, initiates the viral replication cycle and prevents host immune recognition via pattern recognition receptors. Characterization of important residues in SARS-CoV-2 NSP16 will provide insight into SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis in the host cell and future antiviral development. Sarah Ainsworth Mentor: Alfredo Torres, PhD, MS Close Sarah Ainsworth Margaret Becker Mentor:Laura Dickson, PhD Close Margaret Becker I am currently a fourth-year student in the Microbiology and Immunology Department here at UTMB. Before starting my PhD, I earned a BS in Clinical Lab Science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML). After graduating, I worked for several years, first with a nutritional research lab at UML and then at Massachusetts General Hospital on an antimicrobial resistance surveillance project before I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD. UTMB was my first choice for graduate school due to the huge variety of quality research here. At UTMB, I joined Dr. Laura Dickson’s lab where my research has focused on how environmental changes associated with climate change impact the vector competence of the Ae. aegypti mosquito. I’m currently looking at changes in breeding site access as well as mosquito microclimates. My project has exposed me to a variety of new techniques but has also allowed me to use my bacteriology experience. In addition to my project, I’ve been able to work with the West Africa Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases on molecular surveillance techniques and training our collaborators overseas. I was able to travel to both Sierra Leone and Senegal to aid with training and sample processing. These experiences were amazing opportunities for me as a student and allowed me to gain knowledge in travel logistics, research outside of the US, communication, and more! Since joining UTMB, I’ve grown as a scientist and as a person. In the future, I plan to use the training and opportunities I’ve had at UTMB to continue my career in mosquito research. Sarah Browning Mentor: Janice Endsley, PhD Close Sarah Browning Emily Hendrix Mentor: Ashok Chopra, PhD, CSc Close Emily Hendrix For the last three years I have worked with Dr. Ashok Chopra, a renowned scientist in the field of microbiology and biodefense related pathogens, studying vaccinology of Yersinia pestis and SARS-CoV-2 in a BSL-3 and ABSL-3 setting. I am currently studying the role that Yersinia pestis LcrV mutations play in vaccine efficacy for both pneumonic and bubonic plague. I am also developing an intranasal heterologous vaccine strategy for universal protective efficacy against multiple biovars of Yersinia pestis. Under the supervision of Dr. Chopra, I’ve obtained experience working with a select agent and animal models of infectious disease. My long-term research interests involve the development of a comprehensive understanding of host and pathogen interactions and their roles in human diseases. My academic training and research experience have provided me with an excellent background in numerous biological disciplines including biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and biochemistry. Kellen Henning Mentor: MinKyung Yi, PhD Close Kellen Henning In 2020, I graduated from California State University, Fullerton, where I worked in a plant molecular biology lab as an undergraduate researcher. Having transitioned to the Microbiology and Immunology graduate program at University of Texas Medical Branch, I now work under Dr. MinKyung Yi’s mentorship studying the effects of opioid drugs on hepatitis C virus (HCV). My research currently asks how opioids may affect HCV replication, partly by investigating the effect of opioids on the cellular tight junctions required for HCV entry. The ongoing and worsening opioid crisis in our nation represents a serious public health concern. Simultaneously, HCV cases have seen a resurgence in recent years and have led to the use of the term “syndemic” to describe these overlapping health problems. I hope that my work may help advance awareness of and progress against the syndemic of HCV and opioid abuse. Eduardo Jurado-Cobena Mentor:Tetsuro Ikegami, PhD Close Eduardo Jurado-Cobena Eduardo T. Jurado-Cobena holds a D.V.M. from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics, Agrarian University of Ecuador (2005), he specialized in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering (2005) and completed his master’s degree in biotechnology (Biotechnology program, University of Guayaquil, 2014). He has served as Professor of Basic Biochemistry and Veterinary Toxicology (2017) at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Agrarian University of Ecuador. He also was a researcher at the National Institute for Public Health Research, Guayaquil, Ecuador (2014-2017). Before becoming a graduate student at UTMB, he served as volunteer Researcher in the Department of Pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, Texas, USA. (2019-2020). Currently Eduardo holds a position as Graduate Assistant in the Microbiology & Immunology department at UTMB and is a PhD/MPH candidate. Eduardo has participated as invited speaker into several scientific events, as well as has published scientific articles in Spanish and English. The research interests of Eduardo are based on molecular diagnosis of bacteria and viruses, including Arboviruses, as well as vaccines and public health. His current work is focused on RNA viruses’ reverse genetics and molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity. Kirsten Littlefield Mentor:Slobodan Paessler, PhD Close Kirsten Littlefield I am a rising third year PhD student in the Microbiology and Immunology program in the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS). Prior to entering the PhD program at UTMB, I completed a BS in Biology from the University of Mary Washington and an ScM in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Throughout my career, my research interests have centered around highly pathogenic emerging zoonotic viruses. At Hopkins, my master’s thesis involved in vitro characterization of the pathogenic potential of emergent influenza D virus. This research was complemented by various projects involving SARS-CoV-2, including investigating the impact of the D146G mutation on SARS-CoV-2 fitness and evaluating the ability of convalescent plasma to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 variants. My current research in Dr. Slobodan Paessler’s Lab involves various arenaviruses and filoviruses. Specifically, my thesis concerns Lassa virus (LASV), the zoonotic arenavirus responsible for causing Lassa Fever. One-third of individuals that survive LASV infection develop sudden, permanent sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). Despite the high prevalence of this devastating sequela, the mechanism driving the development of hearing loss is largely unknown. Prior work in the Paessler Lab points to CD4+ T cells as playing a critical role in SNHL development following LASV infection. My work seeks to elucidate the antigenic specificity of these cells and further determine how the host immune response leads to SNHL.My position as a PhD student at UTMB is the culmination of a decade’s worth of determination and hard work. In high school, I off-handedly took an elective course entitled “Emerging Diseases and Forensics” to complete my senior course credits. As part of the class, we were instructed to research a pathogen that we would follow for the duration of the course. At the time, the largest Ebola outbreak in history was plaguing West Africa and instantly I was fascinated. I had always had an affinity for science, but researching the intersection of humans, animals, and pathogens leading to the emergence of zoonotic viruses, such as Ebola, honed my interests into the field of virology. Ever since, it has been my dream to conduct research on viral hemorrhagic fevers. I have pursued this dream tirelessly until arriving at UTMB where now, 10 years later, I donned my first “space-suit” and earned the opportunity to research Ebola with my own hands. Coming to UTMB to pursue my passion for virology has not only allowed me to recognize a years-long desire to work with hemorrhagic fever viruses, but it has also provided me with the training and mentorship necessary to continue to thrive in this field. I am continuously thankful for mentors, professors, and friends I have here and look forward to continuing my PhD research at UTMB. Divya Mirchandani Mentor: Scott Weaver, PhD Close Divya Mirchandani In 2020, I graduated from California State University, Fullerton, where I worked in a plant molecular biology lab as an undergraduate researcher. Having transitioned to the Microbiology and Immunology graduate program at University of Texas Medical Branch, I now work under Dr. MinKyung Yi’s mentorship studying the effects of opioid drugs on hepatitis C virus (HCV). My research currently asks how opioids may affect HCV replication, partly by investigating the effect of opioids on the cellular tight junctions required for HCV entry. The ongoing and worsening opioid crisis in our nation represents a serious public health concern. Simultaneously, HCV cases have seen a resurgence in recent years and have led to the use of the term “syndemic” to describe these overlapping health problems. I hope that my work may help advance awareness of and progress against the syndemic of HCV and opioid abuse. Blake Neil Mentor: Ashok Chopra, PhD, CSc Close Blake Neil I earned a BS in Microbiology from Brigham Young University in 2019 where most of my research was focused on antimicrobial resistance mechanisms of Staphylococcus aureus. After completing my undergraduate degree, I worked in the private sector as a microbiologist performing routine microbial testing on products including protein powders, supplements, soaps, shampoos, makeup, and even dog food. After about a year, I obtained a position at the department of health in Utah, working to surveil bacterial diseases for the state. This was done mostly through whole genome sequencing as a branch off of CDC’s food-borne illness surveillance program “PulseNet”. We were working to surveil hospital/nursing home-acquired bacterial disease, STDs (mainly gonorrhea) as well as bacterial foodborne illnesses throughout the state. While I enjoyed my work here, I found myself missing being mentally stimulated/challenged like I was during my time as an undergraduate researcher. This lead me to pursue a PhD in the department of Microbiology and Immunology here at UTMB. My current research with Dr. Chopra focuses on the gram-negative, multidrug resistant bacterial pathogen Aeromonas dhakensis. I work to more fully understand and characterize virulence mechanisms in this pathogen in the hopes of shedding more light on potential drug targets that can be used when antibiotics are rendered useless. Reina Paez Mentor: Janice Endsley, PhD Close Reina Paez I joined UTMB in 2021 as a PREP scholar before matriculating to the Microbiology & Immunology PhD program in 2022. Prior to beginning my journey at UTMB, I received a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Oregon State University, where I conducted undergraduate research on trained immunity to non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTMs). This sparked my interest in furthering my understanding of host-microbe interactions, especially related to the innate immune response.I have been able to pursue this research under the co-mentorship of Dr. Janice Endsley and Dr. Brendan Prideaux, whose diverse expertise allow me to investigate of the role of the myeloid C-type lectin receptor MGL in the regulation of macrophage metabolism during Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Using both immunological and mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) techniques, we place special emphasis on the spatial distribution of metabolites and lipids in relation to the tuberculous lesion, as well as relevance to disease progression and immunity. With the mechanistic data we generate, we hope to inform the development of adjunct host-directed therapeutics for the treatment of tuberculosis. Sunil Palani Mentor: Keer Sun, PhD Close Sunil Palani Namaste, everyone! I’m Sunil from Bangalore, India. I’m a 4th-year graduate student in the M&I program at UTMB. Science was something that intrigued me growing up (it still does). I graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Biotechnology in 2014 from the M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, India. During my undergrad, my interest in Immunology and Microbiology deepened. Following my graduation, I moved to the US. I pursued my master’s degree in medical biotechnology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I studied the role of the GRβ/AKT axis in B-1 cells in response to dexamethasone (used as a tolerogenic adjuvant) during an immunization strategy termed “suppressed immunization” that was developed in our lab as a therapeutic strategy to treat autoimmune diseases. This experience made me realize immunology is where I am meant to be. I enjoyed being on the bench and doing research. Shortly after graduation, I moved to Boston and briefly worked for a biotech company before moving to Takeda Vaccines Inc. My team and I worked on the Dengue vaccine candidate, TAK003, at Takeda. I performed an RVP-based serotype-specific neutralization assay for sera samples from the Phase II clinical trial to determine the TAK003’s serum potency, antibody titer, and efficacy. The whole experience was rewarding. Coming from a family of teachers, I have an innate interest in sharing and imparting knowledge I love and enjoy. Combined with my deep love for research, I started my Ph.D. in 2019 under the guidance of Dr. Keer Sun. For my Ph.D. thesis, I am investigating the role of Alveolar macrophages in pulmonary infections and the synergistic effect of Type I and Type II IFNs on antibacterial immunity during influenza-induced pneumococcal pneumonia. My journey so far has been a rollercoaster; that being said, it’s my journey, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. UTMB is a fantastic school to study immunology and infectious diseases. UTMB GSBS trains graduate students and provides them with opportunities to excel. The faculty here at UTMB are always ready to help, and you can always seek their counsel as we wade through the graduate school journey. I am passionate about immunology, microbiology, global health, and nutrition. UTMB provided me with a platform to train and experience the same.Outside the lab, I am a big movie buff. I grew up listening to Indian Carnatic music. It helps me to focus and relax. I enjoy cooking. I find it therapeutic. I also love dancing and spending time with family and friends. Layne Pruitt Mentor:Robert Abbott, PhD Close Layne Pruitt I am a third year PhD student in the Microbiology and Immunology department. I received my BS from the University of Houston-Downtown. During my undergraduate studies, I had the privilege of working in Dr. Maria Bowden’s laboratory who really sparked a love for research. After graduation, I held multiple academic research positions which only served to deepen my desire to attend graduate school. I am immensely grateful for UTMB to provide me the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the great scientists who have inspired me. I am currently studying in Dr. Robert Abbott’s lab focuses on understanding the host response to vaccination. My research delves into how the underlying microenvironment of germinal centers, the engine of the humoral response, impacts antibody and memory responses. The goal of my research is to elucidate conserved pathways that respond to hypoxia in germinal centers to identify pharmacological targets that can amplify the protective response to vaccines. This could be immensely impactful in helping establish stronger protection against difficult pathogens, such as influenza and HIV. Meagan Rippee-Brooks Mentor: Parimal Samir, PhD Close Meagan Rippee-Brooks I am a curious and eager rising second year PhD student in the Microbiology and Immunology program here at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). Prior to beginning my PhD journey, I earned a BS in Microbiology & Biotechnology (2018) and an MS in Biology with an emphasis in Immunology at Missouri State University (2019). After earning my masters, I explored a variety of scientific job sectors such as a research associate/lab manager, an adjunct teacher and tutor in biology/bioclinical sciences, a contact tracer during the height of COVID-19 in 2020, and a yearlong postbacc in government at the US FDA before returning to school to pursue my PhD. My current research in Dr. Samir and Dr. Freiberg’s labs focuses on studying pathogenicity of viral diseases driven by cell death via multi-protein complexes, known as inflammasomes. Specifically, my current project is investigating varied pathogenicity seen during Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV). Rift Valley fever (RVF), a viral disease that is endemic to sub-Sahara Africa and Saudi Arabia, is most commonly seen in agricultural animals, such as cattle, camels, sheep, and goats. However, humans are at risk for RVF by not only coming into contact with body fluids, tissues, and blood of infected animals, but also by mosquito bites. In 8-10% of cases, RVF can become severe, developing into encephalitis, hemorrhagic fever and ocular disease. My current project allows me to combine my background of innate immunology to my love of vector-borne viruses —it’s a dream project, for sure! I am humbled daily by the opportunity to pursue my PhD, especially at an institute of such caliber like UTMB. My academic journey is long-winded, with many bumps in the road. But these have made me resilient and tenacious. As a young girl, I struggled in science, so much so that I had to attend a specialized after-school program at a local Science Center to catch up to my peers. That is where my love of science became reality! At 9 years old, I got to dissect a bovine eyeball, play scientific detective by investigating the uniqueness of fingerprints, see and experience the beauty of science and the differences scientists make. Soon after, as a 6th grader, I learned about Dr. Marie Curie, and dreamed of being a scientist. Since then, by pursing my curiosity of infectious diseases and immunology, I feel my constant curiosity, desire to learn, and need to challenge myself fits perfectly into a career of scientific research. Without the support and training from my current and previous labs, mentors, and professors, I do not believe I would be where I am today. Leslie Rodriguez Mentor: Tian (Tina) Wang, PhD Close Leslie Rodriguez Being part of the Microbiology & Immunology program has taught me lessons I didn’t think would be possible at this stage in life, giving me a chance to grow academically and career wise. I have overcome many obstacles to be here and to stay here with the help and training of my mentor, Dr. Tian Wang, and peers. The M&I program has challenged me academically, scientifically, and even mentally as it allowed me to strengthen my critical thinking skills, the way I think about science in general, and open my mind to all kinds of scientific possibilities. The amount of knowledge I have acquired during my time at UTMB is beyond compare. My dissertation project focuses on a chimeric vaccine candidate for Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), an alphavirus. Such chimeric vaccine candidate has been previously shown to be provide protection against Wild Type (WT) CHIKV infection, but the mechanism of protection is unknown. My project specializes at looking into γδ T cells, an innate T cell, and their potential role in mediating the protective immune responses following vaccination with our chimeric vaccine of interest. Another goal is to identify the mechanism in which these cells mediate or regulate the protective immune responses following vaccination. Additional to my current dissertation project, I collaborated in COVID-19 studies in the lab as well. One study focused on looking at immune responses following oral supplementation of AHCC prior to COVID-19 infection. I was involved by helping to characterize CD8, CD4, and γδ T cell function following this oral supplementation in spleens of a mild and severe mouse models. I was also involved in a COVID-19 live attenuated vaccine study by assisting in characterization of humoral and cellular responses, particularly CD8 and CD4 function in spleen of vaccinated mouse models. With the help of these skills, my goal is to continue pursuing research as a career choice. Jacob Stockton Mentor: Alfredo Torres, PhD, MS Close Jacob Stockton Alexander Alvarado Mentor: Thomas W. Geisbert, PhD Close Alexander Alvarado I am a first year PhD student in the Microbiology and Immunology program at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). Prior to starting my PhD program I received a BS in Biochemistry in 2019 from the University of Texas at Dallas. I work in the lab of Dr. Thomas Geisbert, which looks at characterizing the pathogenesis of viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers, such as Ebola virus or Lassa virus, and designing interventions to counter these mechanisms of pathogenesis. For someone who has long had an interest in emerging infectious diseases, the chance to work on this project at an institution like UTMB, with the resources of the Galveston National Lab, was a dream come true. My interest in emerging infectious diseases stems from watching my extended family grapple with diseases like malaria and dengue in Venezuela. Powerless to help, I resolved to work towards characterizing and controlling agents of infectious disease so as to prevent more families from suffering as mine did from the burden of such diseases. It is this resolution that has driven my work since then, and thus drew me to UTMB and to the Geisbert lab. In the future, I hope to apply the skills that I may gain from this work towards pursuing a career in academia. Megan Burch Mentor: Lynn Soong, MD, PhD Close Megan Burch I am a first-year PhD student in the Microbiology and Immunology program at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). I earned a BS in Biomedical Sciences (2019) and an MS in Biology (2022) at Sam Houston State University (SHSU). For my MS degree, I did independent research developing a molecular detection assay for an understudied tick-borne virus known as Lone Star virus (LSV). While in my MS program, I also worked as a graduate assistant for general microbiology laboratory and continued as an adjunct faculty for a semester after graduation. I worked briefly as a UTI molecular detection laboratory technician before entering the UTMB PhD program. I hope to continue research in vector-borne viruses. However, UTMB has many options in pathogenic research, and my curiosity may reroute me in a new (and exciting) direction. Xiangxue Deng Mentor: Dr. Vineet Menachery Close Xiangxue Deng My journey at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) has been transformative. In 2023, I enrolled in the microbiology and immunology PhD program, driven by my extensive experience in infectious disease research, including norovirus, syphilis spirochetes, HSV, and emerging coronaviruses. At UTMB, my research has primarily focused on investigating the molecular intricacies of viral replication and translating this knowledge into antiviral drugs and vaccines, with a specific emphasis on novel coronaviruses and flaviviruses like dengue. My career aspirations are centered on continuous scientific growth and making a positive impact on a personal and global scale. Tina Nguyen Mentor:Lynn Soong, MD, PhD Close Tina Nguyen I am a first year PhD student here at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) in the Microbiology and Immunology department. Before beginning my PhD, I earned a B.S. in Chemistry at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) in 2022. During my undergraduate years, I explored a variety of research labs involving synthesizing non-heme dinitrosyl iron complexes to deliver nitric oxide to various parts of the body and modifying and delivering anti-CRISPR proteins to regulate the CRISPR-Cas system. After my undergraduate, I became a NIH R25 Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) Scholar here at UTMB in 2022-2023. I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Scott Weaver to determine the replication rate of Mayaro virus strands in human and mosquito cell lines to determine the fitness of Mayaro virus in human and mosquito. Mayaro virus is an emerging alphavirus that is found mostly in tropical forest of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Known outbreaks of Mayaro virus are recorded in areas around these tropical forests. However, Mayaro virus was found to be capable of transmitting in urban mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, in laboratory settings. Therefore, there is a risk of Mayaro virus eventually adapt to transmit to humans and expansion of the geographic range of the virus, especially with the increase in global travels. My research experiences had built my love for science and research, especially in microbiology and immunology. I am humbled to have the opportunity to pursue my PhD here at UTMB. As a first-generation college student, the road to pursuing a PhD was not without difficulties. Thank you to all my previous labs, mentors, professors, friends and family for training and support that allowed me to get where I am today. Dario Villacreses Mentor: Lynn Soong, MD, PhD Close Dario Villacreses I am an enthusiastic first-year PhD student in the Microbiology and Immunology department at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). I was born and raised in Ecuador, but before moving to Texas to start my PhD program, I attended Brigham Young University in Utah, where I earned a BS in Microbiology (2023). During my undergraduate experience, I gained research experience with HIV and some plant-pathogenic bacteria. As a new PhD student, I am working to decide on the research I want to pursue. Before coming here, I thought I had a set plan, but arriving at UTMB and seeing all the incredible opportunities for viral immunology research persuaded me to be more open and explore more options. I am interested in studying viral immunology and the host-pathogen interactions of some RNA viruses.Since I was a little kid, family, and friends have noticed my commitment to solving problems, answering questions, and understanding the details when learning new concepts. The reason for this is that I like challenges. I relish using all the resources available to find the solution or answer. With time, I have recognized that it is always important to let others support me and share valuable advice; however, I feel responsible for figuring things out by myself, making it more meaningful and motivating. I am motivated to use these attributes to succeed in my PhD journey.