The George D. Montoya Research Scholarship Fund Awards

The 2016 George D. Montoya Research Scholarship Awards

Ayse Muniz

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Ayse Muniz
Awardee

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C. Jeffrey Brinker
Mentor

Ayse Muniz is an exceptionally accomplished undergraduate student who received her BS degree in Biochemistry at UNM in May 2016. Ms. Muniz is a most deserving fifth recipient of the George D. Montoya Research Scholarship, is pursuing a career in genetic engineering and is committed to education for other students from rural New Mexico communities.

Ms. Muniz has a passion for delivering new treatments to cancer cells. As an undergraduate student, Ayse developed tools in Dr. Jeffrey Brinker’s Nanosciences and Nanomedicine Laboratory that target nucleic acid delivery to cancer cells. The long term clinical application is in gene therapy treatments and genetic engineering.

Ms. Muniz is a self-supporting student who pursued and accrued a myriad of educational and research experiences as an undergraduate. Ayse filed a patent on novel work, did summer research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), collaborated with researchers at the Mayo Clinic and appeared on public television to summarize the challenges facing Hispanic students pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

Ayse backed up her community goals with action. As a first generation college student from a rural community in southern New Mexico, Ayse joined the Society of the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and then became president of UNM’s student chapter, SACNAS Lobos. Ayse organized outreach events, professional development workshops and events for social integration for SACNAS Lobos.

Ms. Muniz will pursue doctoral training in translational research, is dedicated to mentoring young scientists from under-represented groups, and is most enthusiastic regarding research in genetic engineering to revolutionize science and healthcare.

Christina Termini

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Christina Termini
Awardee

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Jennifer Gillette
Mentor

Christina Termini is an accomplished graduate student pursuing a PhD in the UNM HSC Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and is a most deserving fourth recipient of the George D. Montoya Research Scholarship (GDMRS). Ms. Termini wants to integrate a career in cell biology and cancer research with a mission of teaching and mentoring university students.

Christina is a multi-talented student. Christina received her BS degree in biological sciences and her BA in music at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. While working on her PhD at UNM, Christina completed a Master of Music degree in music performance at UNM in 2015. Christina’s PhD thesis defense is anticipated in the spring of 2017. Christina is a dedicated, extremely hard working and efficient student!

Ms. Termini has been a graduate student in Dr. Jennifer Gillette’s laboratory in the UNM Department of Pathology since 2011. Ms. Termini’s research explores the role of CD82 membrane scaffold protein in regulating adhesion and signaling in hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPC) and leukemia cells. The adhesion of HSPC adherence is required for successful bone marrow transplantation to treat blood diseases, such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML is the most common form of acute leukemia in adults and unfortunately, the overall five-year survival rate is approximately 25%. Ms. Termini and Dr. Gillette have found that CD82 may be targeted to attenuate aggressive, uncontrolled AML signaling. Christina also has mentored multiple undergraduate students who are motivated to pursue careers in the biomedical sciences. Ms. Termini is using the GDMRS award to attend the prestigious and demanding Physiology Course at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA during the summer of 2016.

During her acceptance of the GDMRS Award in May 2016, Ms. Termini humbly expressed her gratitude thus: “I would like to thank the Montoya family for this opportunity. From what I have heard, George was a talented scientist, educator, and dedicated mentor and I aim to become just that throughout my scientific career. I would like to thank my parents for their constant support throughout my academic journey. Neither of my parents attended college so having the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree is an enormous accomplishment for our family. I am thankful to have been a part of the Gillette laboratory, which is an environment that fosters teamwork, creativity and a passion for cell biology. I owe my research successes to my mentor, Jennifer Gillette. Her patience, trust, and support have helped shape me into the scientist that I am today."

mentor introductions, 2016
Top: Dr. Douglas P. Clark looks on as Dr. Jennifer Gillette introduces Christina Termini
Bottom: Dr. Douglas P. Clark looks on as Dr. C. Jeffrey Brinker introduces Ayse Muniz

awardee speeches, 2016
Left: Ayse Muniz delivering her acceptance speech
Right: Christina Termini delivering her acceptance speech



The 2015 George D. Montoya Research Scholarship Award

Yuna Guo

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Yuna Guo
Awardee

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Angela Wandinger-Ness
Mentor

Yuna Guo, an accomplished graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in the UNM HSC Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, is a most deserving third recipient of the George D. Montoya Research Scholarship. Ms. Guo is committed to a career in cancer research.

Yuna received her B.S. degree in biotechnology at the China Pharmaceutical University and came to UNM to pursue a Ph.D. in the most cutting edge biomedical sciences program possible.

Ms. Guo has a passion for exploring and discovering the mechanisms of diseases and developing effective therapies to benefit patient outcomes in the long term. As a research assistant, she worked on the identification of anti-tumor targets of Pathenolide and realized that many cancer patients suffer from their treatments with surgery, radiotherapy, and conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy. Yuna developed a strong commitment to cancer biology.

Guo is currently a fifth year graduate student in Dr. Angela Wandinger-Ness' laboratory. Her research interests center on the investigation of intracellular targets and the development of effective therapeutic compounds for ovarian cancer. She combined novel flow cytometric and morphological assays to demonstrate the efficacy of a re-purposed FDA approved drug in reducing tumor cell migration and adhesion, which are key to tumor invasion and metastasis. A Phase 2 trial has been approved for this drug and she is an author on 4 publications under different stages of submission, preparation and revision. She has mentored multiple undergraduate students who are motivated to pursue careers in the biomedical sciences.

Guo’s thesis defense is scheduled for Fall 2015 and she is eager to pursue either an academic or industrial career for discovering drugs for cancer treatment. She plans to attend the 2015 American Society of Cell Biology-Keck Graduate Institute’s course on managing science in the biotechnology industry and she will use the GDMRS award to support her attendance in this summer course.

Guo will pursue additional post-doctoral training in translational cancer research, is dedicated to mentoring young scientists from under-represented groups, and is most enthusiastic regarding research in cancer biology.

yuna guo
Yuna Guo

angela wandinger-ness, yuna guo, douglas clark
Dr. Angela Wandinger-Ness, Yuna Guo, and Dr. Douglas P. Clark, Frederick H. Harvey Chair of Pathology



The 2014 George D. Montoya Research Scholarship Award

Anastasia Griego

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Anastasia Griego
Awardee

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Michelle Ozbun
Mentor

On May 8, 2014, the second George D. Montoya Research Scholarship was awarded to Anastasia Griego, a graduate student pursing a Ph.D. in the UNM HSC Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. Anastasia has a long term commitment to a career in biomedical research.

Griego received her B.S. degree from the UNM Biology Department. As an undergraduate, she worked in a neuroscience laboratory focusing on the effects of contusion on spinal cord injury.

Upon graduation, Griego worked as a research technologist for a few years with Dr. Michelle Ozbun in the UNM School of Medicine Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. She published on early viral transcription coincident with increased DNA damage and mutation rates in human papillomavirus-infected cells.

After working as a research technologist for a few years, Griego decided to pursue a Ph.D. She is currently a forth year graduate student working with Dr. Michelle Ozbun and her project focuses on the dysregulation of host growth factor signaling pathways by oncogenic human papillomaviruses (HPVs). Griego projects to complete her Ph.D. in 2015.

Griego will pursue additional post-doctoral training in translational cancer research, is dedicated to mentoring young scientists from under-represented groups, is most optimistic and has unrestrained enthusiasm for biomedical research.

anastasia griego
Anastasia Griego



The 2013 George D. Montoya Research Scholarship Award

Paul Durfee

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Paul Durfee
Awardee

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Bryce Chackerian
Mentor

On May 2, 2013, the first George D. Montoya Research Scholarship Award was presented to Mr. Paul Durfee, a University of New Mexico graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. Mr. Durfee has a Bachelor’s degree from the UNM Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and has Masters of Science degree from UNM’s Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering program. Dr. Bryce Chakerian is Mr. Durfee’s doctoral mentor, within the UNM Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Department. Mr. Durfee’s genuine passion for biomedical research, plans to pursue a biomedical research career and memories of George Montoya were evident in the application and interview process.

The first GDMRSF Award was presented at Embassy Suites Hotel as component of the UNM Department of Pathology’s Annual Research Day. Mr. Daniel Montoya, son of George D. Montoya, spoke to the heart of George’s passion for biomedical research and shared words of responsibility for Mr. Durfee to remember. The award was presented by Mrs. Eileen Montoya, wife of George D. Montoya, Ms. Marlena Bermel, niece of George D. Montoya, and Dr. Thomas M. Williams, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology. The extended Montoya family, members of the UNM Pathology Department and George Montoya’s many friends attended the award ceremony.

This award was the culmination of many generous donations to the endowed GDMRS fund over two years and the UNM Department of Pathology intends to make the award annually in the future.

George D. Montoya 2013 award photo
George D. Montoya Research Scholarship Award poster

George D. Montoya 2013 award photo
Paul Durfee

George D. Montoya 2013 award photo
Paul Durfee standing with the Montoya family (from left to right: Donnie Montoya (son), Rachel Montoya (daughter), Eileen Montoya (wife), Paul Durfee (Award recipient), Thomas Williams, Danny Montoya (son)