Solving the Great Mysteries of Science

As a younger child in Zimbabwe, Nyaradzo Dzvova loved a great mystery and puzzles. Figuring out the unknowns and working through the process of why things work the way they do early on, would later lead her to a love of chemistry.

“When I was younger I read mystery novels all the time, and now I watch a lot of who-dunnit shows,” Dzvova said. “In high school I got to love chemistry and honestly thought I would become a chemical engineer. “But when I started my undergraduate studies, I was drawn to biochemistry.”

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences hosted the 27th Annual Student Research Week. Every year the students organize Student Research Week to showcase the next generation of biomedical researchers like Dzvova, and their work.

The theme for this year’s Student Research Week was, “Host-Microbe Interactions: Exploring Worlds Within.” The Student Research Week committee included Loc Le, Ravi Rajmohan, Dattesh Verlekar and Cynthia Reinoso-Webb. Along with distinguished seminar presentations, students from different disciplines participated in a poster competition. Dzvova and other students presented research projects to faculty and peers.

Dzvova, who completed her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and cell biology at Jacobs University Bremen in Germany, said during her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to complete many microbiology courses.

“Bacteria just fascinated me, and I wanted to unravel the mysteries of how pathogens interacted among themselves or with the hosts,” Dzvova said.

Her bachelor thesis research was on a plant pathogen called Pseudomonas syringae.

“I was fascinated by the bacteria’s virulence factors and ability to form biofilms, thus protecting themselves from antibiotics and topical creams” Dzvova said. “I enjoyed the work I did so much that I chose to continue working on Pseudomonas for graduate school, but this time on the one that infects humans, Pseudomonas aeruginosa.”

When it came time to apply for her graduate work, Dzvova came across the research lab of Abdul N. Hamood, Ph.D. The lab’s work included Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Dzvova said the lab seemed like a perfect fit for her. She applied to the TTUHSC Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Now she works in the Hamood Lab, which is a part of the TTUHSC Burn Center of Research Excellence (BCoRE).

“We are conducting research to find novel therapies to treat burn patients,” Dzvova said. “The goal is to find ways to combat Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections to improve survival rates in burn patients.”

The Center includes two surgeons, John Griswold, M.D., and Sharmila Dissanaike, M.D.; two basic scientists, Hamood and Kendra Rumbaugh, Ph.D., and several graduate students.

“It is a unique collaboration as it combines both the clinical aspects from the Department of Surgery and the basic science aspect from the Department of Immunology and Medical Microbiology, Dzvova said. “It has always been my dream to work on research that is clinically relevant and focused on the medical side of things. This gives me that opportunity.”

BCoRE has a variety of research programs and ongoing studies, Dzvova’s project includes taking blood from burn patients and healthy volunteers and growing the bacteria in it to see how the bacteria behaves when it gets into the blood. The bacteria have many virulence factors that cause tissue and organ damage.

“In my work we would like to figure out exactly what makes the bacteria so virulent in the blood from burn patients and thus design more effective treatment strategies,” Dzvova said.

Dzvova said studying here at TTUHSC has exposed her to current research topics and a community of world-renowned scientists, thus opening her mind to even more exciting areas of research in public health.

“Once I finish my studies at TTUHSC, I plan on returning to my home country, Zimbabwe, where I look forward to opening a research institution that will attempt to solve some of the most challenging problems imposed by infectious diseases,” Dzvova said. “I hope to teach and conduct research at the same time.”

Brandt Schneider, Ph.D., dean of the TTUHSC Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, said students like Dzvova made Student Research Week a great success.

“Dzvova also was one of the four students who was chosen to present at the event,” Schneider said. “This year, we had a tremendous turn out from all TTUHSC schools.  Student Research Week provides our colleagues at TTUHSC and the community a glimpse into the quality of TTUHSC student researchers. We congratulate the committee and everyone who worked to make it such a success.”

2015 Student Research Week Awardees

Third and Fourth Year Graduate Students

First, Allie Clinton

Second, Jake Everett

Third, Swapneeta Date

First and Second Year Graduate Students

First, Ben Elberson

Second, Courtney Jarvis

Third, Derek Fleming

Graduate Medical Sciences

First, Victoria Wang

Second, Lillian Ene


Tie for First, Adeet Amin and Sabrina Siddiqui

Third and Fourth Year School of Medicine Students

First, Terrell Bibb

Second, Kleesy Thomas

First and Second Year School of Medicine Students

First, Kenneth Verlage

Second, Kavitha Selvan

Third, Kandis Wright

School of Medicine Residents

First, Anubhi Kalkarni

Second, Ragesh Panikkath

Third, Weeraporn Srisung

School of Nursing Students

First, Jamie Roney

Second, Kit Bredimus

Third, Greg Emmons

School of Allied Health Sciences Students

First, Marcy Lau

Second, Kevin Browne

Third, Trop Hooper


Image Gallery


Related Stories

How Does Your Garden Grow?

As spring approaches, some people’s thoughts turn to gardening. Whether it’s a flower garden they desire or a vegetable garden want to have, they begin planning what they’ll plant and what they need to do to ensure a successful garden.

Adopt a Growth Mindset for a Better Life

A “growth mindset” accepts that our intelligence and talents can develop over time, and a person with that mindset understands that intelligence and talents can improve through effort and learning.

Drug Use, Family History Can Lead to Heart Disease in Younger Adults

Abstaining from drug abuse and an early diagnosis of familial hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) can help prevent heart disease.

Recent Stories


Twelve Full-Time TTUHSC Researchers Named to Latest World’s Top 2% of Scientists Rankings

Last fall, Stanford University/Elsevier’s sixth edition of the World’s Top 2% of Scientists List was released and included 12 full-time and three part-time researchers from TTUHSC.


Current Guidelines Advise Monitoring, Vigilance for Avian Flu

Monitoring the severity of infections of cattle and humans with flu H5N1 can be complex, with several factors at play.


TTUHSC SHP Ranks Among the Top in Texas and the Nation

A number of platforms, including U.S. News and World Report, released rankings highlighting the best Health Sciences University programs. The School of Health Professions programs ranked among the top.