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McNair Symposium Recap


Annual event highlights neuroscience research by Baylor students and faculty 

On March 28, Baylor College of Medicine hosted approximately 160 attendees at the 12th annual McNair Symposium, where McNair Scholars and McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholars shared some of their most exciting research discoveries made over the past year. The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and the McNair Medical Institute launched the visionary McNair Scholars program to recruit scientists of the highest caliber to Baylor to advance research in neuroscience.  

This year’s event included a poster session and oral presentations by McNair Scholars and McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholars, as well as a keynote talk titled “Toward a General Brain-Computer Interface,” by Thomas Reardon, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and vice president of research and head of neural interfaces at Meta. These captivating sessions inspired discussion on the latest developments in neuroscience and what changes are expected in healthcare in the near future. 

In the past year, the McNair Scholars program appointed three new scholars who received their awards at the McNair Symposium, officially welcoming them into this prestigious community. These faculty include Michael Bround, Ph.D., Yudong Gao, Ph.D., and Nicole Provenza, Ph.D. 

Dr. Bround is an assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology studying the biology of mitochondria, an organelle responsible for generating the energy necessary to power cells. His work looks at how cells communicate with mitochondria for processes related to energy production, quality control and cell death, which can be a major driver of significant human diseases like cardiac infarction, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and muscular dystrophy. He recently found that the genetic inhibition of mitochondria-dependent cell death nearly eliminates all disease in mouse models of muscular dystrophy, suggesting a new therapeutic approach to muscular dystrophy.  

Dr. Gao is an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and established his lab at Baylor in 2023. Currently, the Gao Lab takes a multidisciplinary approach at the intersection of neurobiology, computation, high-throughput electrophysiology and genome/protein engineering to dissect the mechanisms and functions of protein interactions in physiology and pathology. Dr. Gao aims to translate data related to protein interactions to better understand their role in the development of neuropsychiatric conditions and identify more efficient therapies. 

Dr. Provenza is a Baylor alumna, who revealed a neural biomarker of clinical response after deep brain stimulation for obsessive-compulsive disorder during her postdoc. Now she is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, studying the neurophysiology underlying cognition and emotion and the effects of neuromodulation on neural activity and behavior. The Provenza Lab focuses on understanding how the brain supports behavior in the real world throughout everyday life, with the goal of pioneering personalized treatment strategies that more effectively guide brain activity and behavior toward healthy states.  

To learn more about these programs, visit the McNair Scholars site or the McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholars site.