Bunnik lab

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Bunnik lab 2024     (Click here to see photographs from previous years.)
Evelien M. Bunnik, Ph.D.
Associate professor

I am fascinated by host-pathogen interactions, in particular the interplay between host immune responses and immune evasion strategies of the infectious agent. In addition, I am passionate about making this world a better place to live for the poorest and most vulnerable people. For these reasons, my research has focused on the major infectious diseases in the world, in particular those that affect the least developed countries.

In my spare time, I like to clear my mind by being active outdoors. I love to run and ride my mountain bike. When at home, I enjoy cuddling my cats, solving puzzles, playing Stray on the PS5, playing Moss on the PS VR2 and listening to audiobooks or podcasts.

Sebastiaan Bol, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor Research

Born and raised in the Netherlands, but I've lived in the US since 2011. Prior to moving to the Texas Hill Country in 2016, I lived in beautiful California for 5 years. In my free time, I enjoy running, cycling, wildlife habitat restoration and conservation, and doing cat research (Cowboy Cat Ranch). I also enjoy watching movies. The Great Beauty, directed and written by Paolo Sorrentino, is one of my favorites. I care a lot about animal welfare and I believe mice and rats are sentient, empathic beings who should be treated as such.

Rolando Garza
M.D./Ph.D. student

I am interested in the host-immune response and host-pathogen interactions as it pertains to human disease states. I was born and raised in a small town called Uvalde. I earned my BS from UTSA and did my post-baccalaureate training in the department of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania. On my free time, I enjoy cooking, watching anime, jogging, and playing bass guitar in a cover band.

“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job." -Fletcher

garzar18@uthscsa.edu   |   Biosketch
Caroline Torres
Master student

As a first-generation graduate student from a poor Colombian immigrant family, I have always taken education very seriously. I’ve always wanted to specialize in tropical medicine and hematology/oncology and be able to travel to less fortunate countries and provide healthcare to those who don’t have access to it. Pursuing a Master’s degree in Immunology & Infection will prepare me for this ultimate goal.
In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with friends, reading novels, learning new languages, watching documentaries and anime, trying exotic cuisines, and traveling.

Jake Moore
Ph.D. student

I believe there can be clearer communication in science, and I use my experience as a physics tutor to explain my research clearly. Additionally, I have chosen a dissertation project that combines bioinformatics and wet lab to bridge the gap between the two. Scientifically, I love DNA and learning the mechanisms that drive gene expression in different organisms.
At home, I enjoy creative writing and listening/singing to music and entertaining my cats, Shang Yin, Benny Blanco, and Pomme Frites.

Anakaren Garcia
Undergraduate student

I am an undergraduate student at St. Mary’s University pursuing a BS in Biology; I am also in the South Texas Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which led me to join Dr. Bunnik's lab. I am so excited about the research in the lab, but the close family feel of the lab motivated me to join Dr. Bunnik and her team. In my free time, I enjoy long walks taking in how green San Antonio is (I am originally from desert El Paso). Everyone has been extremely welcoming, and I am excited to learn and work in the Bunnik lab.

Bella Gonzalez
High school student

I am a highschool student at St. Philip's Early College High School; I am also in the Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy (VBRA). VBRA led me to join Dr. Bunnik’s lab, and I am more than happy to start my research in her lab. The lively fun feel of the team and lab is what drew me to Dr. Bunnik’s lab. Whenever I’m not studying, I enjoy riding and training horses as well as making art. I am inspired to become a veterinarian one day and hope to take the most of what I can from Dr. Bunnik’s lab.
Avani Nagaragere
High school student

I am a high school student attending Health Careers High School. I am part of the Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy. I am excited to join Dr. Bunnik’s lab as the research interests me and I love the closeness of everyone in the lab. For my career, I would like to establish a reliable healthcare system in underprivileged, under resourced and underserved communities around the world. Some of my hobbies are playing piano, club volleyball, and doing volunteer work.
Bunnik lab alumni
Tobias Daney (alumnus)
High school student (summer 2023)

"This was my first experience in a real lab and I had a great time. I did a lot of work that taught me valuable skills and I had fun at the same time. The feeling of community in the lab added greatly to my time there. Even though I only spent a short time there I was able to get hands-on experience in many different areas which helped me realize I want to pursue this work in the future."
Dr. Raphael Reyes (alumnus)
Ph.D. student (2018-2023)

"In the Bunnik lab I studied B cell responses against SARS-CoV-2 and P. falciparum at the antibody and cellular level. During my time there, I cultivated my interest in harnessing the humoral immune response to develop better vaccine strategies and therapeutics for protection against infectious diseases. In the Bunnik lab I had the opportunity of collaborating and learning from leading scientists around the world. I am very grateful for the mentorship and the immense support I received from Dr. Bunnik which has helped me in reaching my career aspirations. I am now working as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Ragon Institute."
Rodriel Bautista (alumnus)
Master student (2022-2023)

"Joining the Bunnik lab has been an incredible learning experience and has shaped me into a better researcher. Throughout my time in the lab I was was able to gain valuable skills in experimental troubleshooting, critical thinking, and had opportunities to learn new laboratory techniques. Being surrounded by all of the passionate members of the lab fostered a motivational research environment in a lively and safe learning space. Following my time in the MS program, I have since moved back to California in search of my next career opportunity in the industry."
Dr. Ashley Braddom Reers (alumna)
Ph.D. student  (2018-2022)

"During my time in the Bunnik lab, I studied epigenetic and transcriptional regulation of gene expression in Plasmodium falciparum. The experience I gained during my graduate education under the mentorship of Dr. Bunnik was invaluable to my development as a scientist. In her lab, I had the opportunity to learn bioinformatic and wet-lab approaches to tackle complex biological questions while working alongside passionate scientists from diverse backgrounds. Currently, I work as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Hannah Frank at Tulane University where I study the development of B cell responses to vaccination and infection in bats."

Nirel Ayertey  (alumna)
High school student  (summer 2022)

"The Bunnik lab was the first one I had ever worked at, and I was not disappointed one bit! Everyone was very kind and welcoming. There was a warmth and friendliness in the lab that made it feel very inviting. I not only learned a lot in the short time I was there, but I also had fun. It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget."

Update December 2022: Nirel got accepted to Brown University, one of the eight Ivy League colleges in the country! Congratulations Nirel!

Elizabeth Martinez-Scholze  (alumna)
Master student  (2021-2022)

"Being a student in the Bunnik lab was an invaluable experience for me because I gained research experience that I continue to use today. There are several memorable experiences I had while in the Bunnik lab, my favorite is probably the time we went kayaking at Medina Lake. I had a little too much fun that day and fell off my kayak into the water. I still laugh when I think about that experience and hope that future students in the lab have as great a time that I did (water not included)."

Katie Clarke (alumna)
Master student & research assistant  (2020-2022)

"I work at Regeneron, as part of the therapeutic antibody discovery and technology development team. Prior to this position, I received an MS in Immunology and Infection after completing my thesis research in the Bunnik lab. Subsequently, I had the great opportunity to remain in this lab as a research assistant before starting my current role. During my time in the Bunnik lab, I worked alongside excellent scientists and scientists-in-training and conducted fascinating research on the characteristics of antibody-mediated immunity against the malaria parasite. The Bunnik lab thoroughly prepared me for the role I have now, both by facilitating professional development and by increasing my confidence in myself as a scientist."

Dr. Jake Gonzales (alumnus)
Ph.D. student  (2017-2021)

"I work for BioLegend as a Technical Application Scientist. The experience I gained during my time in the Bunnik lab, ranging from basic lab techniques to improving my skills in scientific communication, have all been invaluable in moving my career forward into the position I am in today. Dr. Bunnik’s mentorship extended to activities beyond the lab as she always encouraged us to take the time to relieve the stress that comes with grad school. One of my favorite examples of this was the time Dr. Bunnik took us all out for a day of kayaking on Medina Lake and board games in the middle of a work week just to help us all unwind and enjoy each other’s company outside of the lab."

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San Antonio, Texas, 2024