First MBRS RISE Doctoral Graduate Speaks to Students
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – The first alumnus of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College’s Minority Biomedical Research Support, Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Program, or MBRS RISE, to earn a doctoral degree returned to campus to speak to students on Friday, Sept. 14.
Dr. Jonathan Berrout, 27, of Brownsville is a post-doctoral fellow conducting research on the mechanisms that regular potassium secretion in kidneys at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He earned his doctoral degree in cell biology in May from UT Health Houston.
“It’s wonderful to see his success,” said Sandra Gerace, Special Projects Coordinator for the MBRS RISE Program. “We are very proud of Jonathan. He is our first student to graduate with a doctoral degree. He will go on to do great things. He is the new face of UTB. This is what we are all about: successful students.”
He was the guest speaker at the Translational Research Seminar hosted by the university’s Department of Biomedicine and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health Brownsville Regional Campus. Berrout gave the talk “TRP Channels: Important Mechano-Transducers” at UT Health’s Brownsville Regional Campus Building located on the UTB and TSC campus.
Berrout also led a question and answer session with students on how to be successful in graduate school at the Life and Health Sciences Building.
“The greatest advice I could give anyone, no matter what they are striving to accomplish, is to stick with it,” he said. “Inevitably there will be high and low points along the way. I think that it helps to have the mentality that you’re going to keep going until you get to where you want to be.”
He is a graduate of Brownsville’s Porter High School and received a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2007 from the university.
“I’m most grateful for the people and opportunities that I encountered during my time at UTB and TSC,” said Berrout. “ I remember the faculty and staff being very friendly and helpful whenever I needed their assistance and I was fortunate to have many different opportunities to succeed both in and out of science.”
Berrout worked up to 20 hours a week in the laboratory of Dr. Masako Isokawa, an Associate Professor in the university’s Department of Biomedicine, from September 2005 to August 2007.
“He was genuinely interested in neuroscience which naturally let him devote his time and effort in my lab work,” said Isokawa. “He never missed his work appointment, never gave me any excuse of absence and was always in my lab not only conducting his own projects but also helping other students of younger RISE cohorts in their projects.”
He researched how calcium ions were used as signaling molecules in neurons in the hippocampus to communicate with each other. He also learned how to image calcium ions inside separate neurons using a microscope and fluorescent indicators and quantify concentrations and localizations of calcium ions using computer programs.
“I feel like the program did a tremendous job of preparing me for graduate school and biomedical research,” said Berrout. “I separate them because I feel that working in the lab with good scientists prepared me for the technical and mental aspects of doing research. With the multiple activities and events that the program provided, they refined my skills away from the lab bench and helped me to begin networking within the scientific community.”
Like other students in the MBRS RISE Program, Berrout was able to travel to make research presentations. He and Isokawa presented research findings at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meetings in 2006 in Atlanta and 2007 in San Diego.
“He was careful in all aspects of his research and often checked his results up to twice and three times,” said Isokawa. “His dedication and commitment to research made him stronger in his research capability every year which also gave him confidence and power in return.”