On common ground

Joining the current crew of predoctoral researchers in the Stowers Institute Graduate School program are eleven new individuals who bring diverse backgrounds to the group: from growing up in one of the frigid, northern-most areas of China near the Russian and Mongolian borders, to working a variety of side jobs including drapery installer and door-to-door salesman to finance a college education.

Diverse, too, are their research experiences: from analyzing oncogenic mutations in lung cancer to comparing cyanobacteria strains found in rivers. Yet common to all is a choice to expand their scientific knowledge and research experiences through the Stowers graduate program.

Raquel Barajas Azpeleta was introduced to the Stowers graduate program by a fellow Madridian. While her first trip to the United States, for her interview at the Institute, was nerve-racking, it was confirmation that she had found a place where she could realize her scientific goals.

Cheng-Yi Chen is fascinated by regeneration. He even helped pioneer an emerging model, the segmented worm Aeolosoma. Not surprisingly, it was the regeneration work of the Sánchez Alvarado Lab that first captured his interest in the Institute.

Matthew Christenson may not have ever considered a career in science had it not been for a torn ACL and the physical therapy that ensued where he discovered the world of biomedical science. After briefly considering pre-med studies, a genetics course turned his interests to research.

Gerald Dayebga Doh is certain he will weather the cultural transition of moving to the United States well once he finds a market that sells the right kind of cornmeal for his favorite Cameroonian dish, fufu.

Darrick Hansen is a globetrotter. He’s lived in various parts of the United States, Aruba, Singapore, Scotland, and England. But he’s happy to call Kansas City home for the next five years.

Shuonan He credits a devastating fire at Peking University that destroyed his research project with making him a better scientist. With his research temporarily curtailed, he had time to attend more seminars and learn more about other fields of science.

Yanfeng He became interested in science while competing in his high school’s Science Olympiad. With that same competitive spirit, He went on to compete on a collegiate level in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM).


Back row: Linhao Ruan, Yanfeng He, Matthew Christenson, Cheng-Yi Chen Middle row: Raquel Barajas Azpeleta, Gerald Dayebga Doh, Karla Yadira Terrazas, Xingyu Liu Front row: Darrick Hansen, Shuonan He, Ahmet Can Karabulut  | (Read their full bios)

Ahmet Can Karabulut was encouraged by colleagues at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to apply to the Stowers graduate program. His parents are thrilled that the move from Seattle will provide a sunnier climate and be 2000 miles closer to home in Tarsus.

Xingyu Liu was a standout science student in high school. But during her undergraduate years, it was a failed experiment that provided the most valuable lesson when a hypothesis she proposed didn’t hold up.

Linhao Ruan shouldn’t have trouble with time management in the Stowers graduate program. For his undergraduate degree he pursued dual majors, while serving as President of the Student Union at his university and graduating valedictorian in a class of 7300.

Karla Yadira Terrazas plans to pay it forward when she completes her graduate degree and postdoc. Her pursuit of science was supported by a young scientist initiative at the University of Texas-San Antonio, so she wants to give back in the best way she can. She plans to teach.