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From Venezuela to UTHSC, PhD Students Find the Best Talent for Research and Leadership

When Luis Romero started his PhD at the Graduate School of Health Sciences, he was thrilled to find something that reminded him of his hometown. As an undergraduate at the Central University of Venezuela, Romero enjoyed participating in the Student Union and was delighted to discover that he could do so while completing his doctorate in Memphis.

Luis Romero

“When I started the program at UTHSC, I wanted to not only help new students, but also make student life better, especially for those of us who come from other countries. We were facing challenges and I wanted to help improve those challenges,” Romero said.

Romero, now a third-year doctoral student in Biomedical Sciences with a focus on physiology, began volunteering at events at UTHSC’s Student Union. He then became secretary of the Graduate Student Executive Council (GSEC) before he served as president of the GSEC until January 2023.

“I like to think of myself as a representative, not as a leader,” Romero said. I want to be a liaison because sometimes students are easier to talk to other students than administrators. I also like to help determine the most effective methods.”

Although he is in his third year as a PhD student, Romero is in his sixth year at UTHSC. He moved from Venezuela to Memphis and worked as a laboratory technician at the Graduate School of Health Sciences. After graduating from college, he wanted to do research, but was unfamiliar with the progression of his doctoral program.

After all, one of Romero’s dissertation panelists was a faculty mentor at UTHSC, which helped connect him with the Graduate School of Health Sciences.

“After my interview with Dr. Valeria Vazquez, I knew I wanted to do my research here. I came here to test the waters as an engineer and further my expertise, and I knew that being here in Memphis and being in the lab would allow me to succeed in my PhD.”

Romero’s research focuses on ion channels and how they lead to physiological responses, with the goal of finding ways to desensitize them, specifically to reduce pain from burns. . His work has been featured in dozens of publications and abstracts, and he has received numerous awards, including the UTHSC Student Service Award and the Graduate Student Award in Physiology.

After graduating with a PhD, Romero plans to undertake postdoctoral training to learn new techniques and explore new topics. From there, he believes he will likely enter academia. He says he is grateful to the Graduate School of Health Sciences for the great experience in both his student leadership and his research.

“I came to UTHSC not only because it has a great physiology department, but also because it is well funded and has a great working environment. “

Luis Romero, PhD student

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