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People

Ramon Lavado, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Dr. Ramon Lavado is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Baylor University. He is an environmental toxicologist specializing in the biotransformation of contaminants in aquatic wildlife. His research focuses on mechanistic insights into the chemical modifications made by an aquatic organism on a chemical compound and the development of animal alternatives for environmental toxicity studies.

Dr. Lavado has published environmental toxicology research for the last twenty-two years, with projects covering a wide variety of organisms and laboratory systems. Areas of ongoing research include A) The development of new in vitro bioassays to detect contaminants of emerging concern in the environment. B) Evaluation of mechanistic responses of cytochrome P450 - one of the most important enzyme systems involved in biological activation or detoxification of chemical compounds. C) Metabolomic studies to identify new biomarkers in human and wildlife systems. D) The study of interactions between multiple stressors (as climate change/pollutants exposure) and their effect on the biotransformation of pollutants.

Dr. Lavado serves as an Associate Editor of Toxics (MDPI), Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (Springer), and Ecotoxicology (Springer). He received his Ph.D. in Animal Physiology and earned his B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Barcelona (Spain).

Office: BSB A430

Phone: +1 (254) 710-2468

Fax: +1 (254) 710-3409

email: ramon_lavado@baylor.edu

Postdoctoral Researchers

Macarena Rojo, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher

Office: BSB A449R

email: Macarena_Rojo@baylor.edu

Dr. Macarena Rojo joined the Lavado Lab as a Postdoc in July 2023; she is working on identifying significant alterations of biotransformation pathways associated with the chemical resistance to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), resulting from the rapid adaptation of Gulf killifish (Fundulus grandis). Dr. Rojo completed her studies at the National University of La Plata (UNLP) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was awarded a scholarship from the National Research Council Scientific and Technical of Argentina (CONICET) to do her Ph.D. (2016-2021). Her doctoral research was focused on the study of the bioaccumulation and effects of human pharmaceuticals on Neotropical fish. Through her doctoral study, she did a research stay at the Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA) in Spain. From 2018 to 2022, she was a Member of the Board of Directors, in the category of student representative, in the Society for Environmental Chemistry and Technology (SETAC), Argentine Chapter.

 

During her experience as a Ph.D. student, she was the winner of the student travel award to attend the SETAC LATIN AMERICA- 2017 in Brazil and the Young Environmental Scientists Meeting (YES)-SETAC in Belgium in 2019.

As a Ph.D., in 2022, she was awarded the American Association of the University Women (AAUW) international postdoctoral fellowship, and in 2023, she was awarded the annual "Cozzarelli Prize” of the National Academy of Sciences/Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), for the international collaboration on the study of pharmaceuticals in rivers. At UNLP, she was a teaching assistant in the subject of Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment (2020-2022) and an Assistant Professor at the University of San Antonio de Areco (UNSAdA) (2022). Dr. Rojo presented her work at more than 10 national and international conferences. 

Graduate Students

Alisha Janiga-Macnelly
Ph.D. Student

Alisha Michelle Janiga-MacNelly is from the Rio Grande Valley in Southern Texas. As an undergraduate at the University of Texas Austin, Alisha focused on the neurotoxicity of substances of abuse and how to train first responding medical professionals to identify and direct people suffering from substance dependence towards beneficial resources. After a gap-year, she switched her focus from substance abuse to the biodegradation of long-term pollutants. Following this, Alisha received her M.S. in Agriculture, Environmental and Sustainable Science at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley . During this time, Alisha characterized bacteria communities in a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) polluted reservoir in Donna, TX. This study included traditional culture methods, carbon metabolism preference testing, and PCB degrading gene detection. Interestingly, samples from Donna, TX had a high preference for polymer substances such as Tween 80, and both samples from Donna, TX and Edinburg, TX (a local source with no reported PCBs) contained genes for PCB degradation.

 

Currently, she is interested in characterizing and comparing microbial communities from the aeration tanks of local wastewater treatment plants in central Texas. Tentatively, plans for investigation include water chemistry trends, taxonomic profiling, extracellular polymer substances analysis, antibiotic resistance testing, and active sludge in vitro​​​ modeling.

Office: BSB A448R

email: Alisha_Janiga1@baylor.edu

Rafia Afroze Rifa
Ph.D. Student

Rafia Afroze Rifa joined Lavado Lab in August 2022. She completed her DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree in 2018 from Bangladesh Agricultural University. Then, she did her MSc in ecotoxicology from the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany. Her master thesis topic was “Effects of the interaction between algae and microplastics on life-history traits of Daphnia pulex clones”. Her research interests are Environmental health and toxicology, public health, and one health.

 

She is working on a multidisciplinary research program that evaluates bisphenol analogs' effects on human health. In vitro research investigating the toxic effects of bisphenol analogs on human cells is a critical component of understanding the potential risks associated with these compounds. By subjecting human cells to controlled laboratory conditions, this research allows us to examine how bisphenol analogs, which are commonly found in plastics and consumer products, interact with cellular systems. Through a series of experiments and analyses, she will assess various endpoints, such as cell viability, proliferation, genotoxicity, and hormonal disruption, to determine how these analogs pose health risks. This research provides insights into the toxicity of bisphenol analogs and contributes to the development of safer alternatives in consumer products, helping protect human health and the environment from potentially harmful chemical exposures.

Office: BSB A448R

email: Rafia_Rifa1@baylor.edu

Gracen Collier joined the Lavado lab in August 2023. She attended Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where she received a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Chinese. Her prior research at UTSW focused on cysteine mutants in the protein Fibulin-3 and resulting cellular changes related to retinal degeneration. She is interested in the in vitro effects of PFAS as well as continuing research into specific pathways and mechanisms involved within human cell lines.

 

She is working on evaluating the molecular effects of short-chain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on cellular transporters of human cells. The investigation of the effects of PFAS on cellular transporters represents a crucial facet of understanding the potential impacts of these persistent chemicals on human health. PFAS compounds are known to interact with various biological processes, including cellular transport mechanisms, which play a pivotal role in maintaining cellular homeostasis. By studying how PFAS affect cellular transporters, we aim to uncover the mechanisms through which these compounds may disrupt vital cellular functions and potentially contribute to adverse health outcomes. Her research endeavors to shed light on the intricate relationship between PFAS exposure and cellular transport processes, providing valuable insights that can inform risk assessments and mitigation strategies for these widespread environmental contaminants.

Gracen Collier
Ph.D. Student

Office: BSB A448R

email: Gracen_Collier1@baylor.edu

Undergraduate Students

Ava Roat joined the Lavado Lab in January of 2024 and is majoring in Biology with a Cell and Molecular Bio Concentration and Spanish on the Pre-Med track. She is from New Braunfels, Texas, a suburb of San Antonio. She is a Biology Student Ambassador and a Learning Assistant for Dr. Luna’s Genetics course at Baylor. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Baylor, Ava plans to attend medical school to become a cardiologist or anesthesiologist. She is also considering attending graduate school to pursue a PhD in Biology. 

 

In her research project, she delves into the effects of diverse indole bacterial metabolites on a range of specific cell lines, encompassing breast cancer cells, liver cells, colon cells, kidney cells, and brain cells. Her investigation extends beyond mere observation, as she endeavors to unravel the intricate mechanisms by which indoles influence the detoxification of xenobiotics within these cellular environments. Moreover, her work delves into the ramifications of excessive cell proliferation induced by indole exposure, a phenomenon with potential implications for cancer development and progression. Through this multifaceted approach, she seeks to deepen our understanding of indole biology and its intricate interplay with cellular processes, offering insights that may inform future strategies for cancer prevention and treatment.

Ava Roat
Undergraduate Student

Office: BSB A448R

email: Ava_Roat1@baylor.edu

Christian Yeathermon joined the Lavado Lab in January 2024 and is studying Molecular Cell Biology with a minor in Biochemistry on the pre-med track. He is from Houston, TX. At Baylor, he is a Supplemental Instructor (SI) Leader for BIO 1306 and Peer Leader for the First in Line Success Academy (FILSA). After receiving his bachelor's degree, he plans on attending medical school and pursuing a career in Pediatric Anesthesiology.

 

Christian's research investigates the cytotoxic effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on the gills of rainbow trout using the RTgill-W1 cell line in an in vitro setting. This study aims to elucidate the potential impact of PFAS exposure on the cellular health and viability of the gill tissue, shedding light on the mechanisms underlying PFAS toxicity in aquatic organisms. By utilizing an in vitro approach with a relevant fish cell line, Christian's work contributes valuable insights into the environmental and health implications of PFAS contamination in aquatic ecosystems.

Christian Yeathermon
Undergraduate Student

Office: BSB A448R

email: Christian_Yeathermo1@baylor.edu

Stephanie Wolfe joined the Lavado Lab in January 2024 and is studying Biology on the Pre-Med track, with minors in Biochemistry, Business Administration, and French. She is from Plano, TX, a suburb of Dallas. At Baylor, she is a Learning Assistant for Genetics and is a CPR and first aid provider for Baylor's First Aid Service Team. After receiving her bachelor's degree, Stephanie plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in Pediatrics or Family Medicine. As she enters the medical field, she hopes to advance health education and lessen the impact of medical disparities on patients' access to healthcare.

 

Her research is centered on evaluating the toxic effects of specific benzothiazole compounds. These compounds are notably present in rubber mulch commonly utilized in playgrounds. Employing a diverse array of human cell in vitro models, she will dissects the intricate mechanisms underlying the adverse effects induced by these compounds. By scrutinizing these mechanisms, she aims to shed light on the potential hazards posed by benzothiazole exposure and pave the way for enhanced safety measures in playground environments. Through her comprehensive approach, she endeavors to furnish valuable insights into the toxicological properties of benzothiazole compounds, thereby facilitating informed decision-making regarding their usage and regulation.

Stephanie Wolfe
Undergraduate Student

Office: BSB A448R

email: Stephanie_Wolfe1@baylor.edu

Lab Alumni

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Marco E. Franco
Ph.D. in Environmental Science

Sanju Senthilkumar
B.S. in Biochemistry

Alec Mockros
B.S. in Environmental Science

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Grace Sutherland
M.S. in Environmental Science

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Megan E. Solan
Ph.D. in Environmental Science

Mackenna Mcgraw
B.S. in Biological Sciences

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Ashley Ball
M.S. in Environmental Science

Camryn Koperski
B.S. in Biological Sciences

Ruth Deffenbaugh
B.S. in Environmental Science

Sarah M. Willing
B.S. in Biochemistry

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Maddison Vrazel
B.S. in Biological Sciences

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