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UHD Hosts Joel Abramowitz and Scholarship Recipients

On Tuesday, July 26, University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) students and faculty gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of the Joan Abramowitz Research Scholars, recognize the support of the Abramowitz family and remember the legacy of an outstanding faculty member. Among those in attendance were Dr. Joel Abramowitz, his wife, Rita Berger, and Sebastian Abramowitz, their grandson.

Professor Joan Abramowitz served on the UHD faculty for 20 years, including 9 years as chair of the Microbiology Program. Upon her death in 2004, Dr. Joel Abramowitz established the Joan Abramowitz Research Scholarship in her memory. Faculty and staff in the Department of Natural Sciences and friends of Professor Abramowitz continue to honor her through contributions to the Abramowitz Endowment.

One of Professor Abramowitz' greatest legacies was the network of connections she created for UHD microbiology students with research faculty at UTHealth and Baylor College of Medicine. Through the establishment of the Abramowitz Endowment these partnerships continue to grow. Recipients of the Abramowitz Research Scholarship gain critical experience by working full-time in a research lab for a eight to ten weeks during the summer. To date, eight students have received the Abramowitz Research Award and have continued on to successful careers or continued their educational pursuits.

Recipients of the award work 40 hours per week in a research laboratory at UTHealth, Baylor or another local research institution. Following completion of their summer research, Abramowitz Scholars present their work at the UHD Graduate School and Internship Fair or UHD Student Research Conference. Akif Uzman, dean of the College of Sciences and Technology, delivered opening remarks and welcomed the Abramowitz Research scholars, research mentors, the Abramowitz family and Interim President, Michael Olivas.

UHD Interim President Michael A. Olivas also expressed his sincere appreciation and underscored the importance of student research and the role donors play in making such opportunities possible.

"The commitment and enthusiasm that I see in donors and individuals who have long relationships with UHD is inspiring," Olivas said. "I am thankful for the opportunities presented to our students by this award, and I am especially touched by the Abramowitz' family commitment to maintain their connection to UHD - an institution that was clearly loved and respected by Professor Abramowitz."

Abramowitz scholars in attendance spoke of the valuable research experience they gained and the role played in preparing them for doctoral programs and successful careers. Current Scholar, Linus Klinger, spoke enthusiastically of the opportunity provided to focus on retinal research in a UTHealth lab this summer, and the impact of that experience on his career plans. Other scholars in attendance included:

  • Claudia Jimenez Sturman, Ph.D., Research Scientist at Gene by Gene
  • Jillian Losh, current Ph.D. student at UTHealth
  • Meghan Burkett Santiago, planning to continue work toward a Ph.D.
  • Caroline Barbosa, Teach for America Core Member in HISD's Marshall Middle School
  • Sandy Gramajo, applying to dental school

Also in attendance were Poonam Gulati, Interim Director, Community Engagement and Service Learning and Professor of Biology; and Lisa Morano, Professor of Biology and Microbiology; and Terri Koehler, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and longtime friend and associate of Professor Abramowitz.