NSM Celebrates Three 4.0 Summa Cum Laude Graduates

Huynh, Le and Potluri Heading to Baylor College of Medicine

Christopher Huynh, Nhon Le and Varun PotluriChristopher Huynh, Nhon Le and Varun Potluri were honored as NSM’s 4.0 summa cum laude graduates at NSM’s Convocation on May 14. While at UH, they shared a common experience of helping fellow students improve their understanding of various science topics.

All three are headed to medical school at Baylor College of Medicine.

Christopher Huynh – Native Houstonian

Huynh, a biochemistry major, knew he wanted to be a doctor since entering high school at DeBakey High School for Health Professions. He came to UH with a four-year Tier One Scholarship.

After his freshman year, Huynh participated in undergraduate research with Dr. Evangelina Villagomez of The Methodist Hospital Research Institute. The project, located in a primarily Hispanic community, focused on changing young people’s perceptions about diabetes. “The experience solidified my interest in medicine,” he said.

Huynh also spent two years in the lab of UH assistant professor Jeremy May, working on synthetic organic chemistry projects. “Part of our work involved finding ways to reduce the number of steps needed to synthetize natural compounds,” he said. “This can save time, money and efficiency.” These types of compounds may have a role in disease management, such as efforts to treat cancer and malaria.

While at UH, he was active in The Horticulture Society serving as president for the past two years. Huynh also gave back to his fellow students by tutoring in the American Chemical Society Tutoring Center and working as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in biology as part of the Comprehensive Student Success Program.

“That work made me appreciate the job teachers do; you really have to vary your approach and think of creative ways to teach a concept to everyone,” he said.

Nhon Le – Hometown: Carrollton, Texas

Le, a recipient of a four-year Academic Excellence Scholarship, started thinking about a career in medicine his freshman year at UH.

“Getting involved in Alpha Epsilon Delta, a pre-medical organization, really made an impact on me. I learned all about the pre-med world – the pre-requisites, the MCAT, the medical school application process,” said Le, a biology major and medicine and society minor.

At the end of his freshman year, he was accepted into the Joint Admissions Medical Program, a competitive Texas program that guarantees highly-qualified students admission to one of the state’s nine medical schools.

Le served as the organization’s fundraising coordinator, vice president, and finally, as its president his senior year. “I got so much from AED, it motivated me to be an officer and help younger students who were confused about the medical school process,” he said.

Le also tutored in the American Chemical Society Tutoring Center. The experience helped him connect with students. “Taking a concept and breaking it down to explain it to others helps you relearn the information. Aside from making me better at chemistry, it reminded me how much I love to teach,” he said.

Though it is still several years away, Le hopes to become an academic physician – treating patients and teaching medical students.

Varun Potluri – From Norwalk, Conn., to Corpus Christi to Houston

Potluri, a double major in biology and business management, continued a family tradition by coming to UH. His older brother and sister also graduated from UH’s NSM.

He, too, wanted to be a doctor since 9th grade and attended DeBakey High School for Health Professions.

“I was accepted into Houston Premedical Academy, an eight-year bachelor’s/M.D. program that is a partnership involving DeBakey, UH and Baylor College of Medicine,” he said. “Being awarded a Tier One Scholarship made UH the obvious choice for me.”

Potluri participated in UH’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and worked in the lab of Jokubas Ziburkus, associate professor of biology and biochemistry. There he studied cortical spreading depression, a potential mechanism of migraine.

“It is a phenomenon that is pretty prevalent, but no one knows how it occurs. If the mechanism can be defined, it may lead to better ways to target migraines and treatment,” he said.

He also spent a semester doing neuroimmunology research at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Potluri participated in NSM’s Scholar Enrichment Program, serving for four years as a workshop facilitator for Chemistry 1 and 2 and Biochemistry. He was also a tutor in UH’s Learning Support Services.

“When you start teaching, you really start to understand the subject at a different level,” he said. “I learned so much as a facilitator.”

- Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics