Our Team

Maricela Ramirez, MS, Lab Manager

Maricela Ramirez received her master’s degree in Physiology from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio after completing her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas. Maricela has accumulated more than 15 years of experience in academic and pharmaceutical research and has been an adjunct faculty member of Anatomy and Physiology at Lone Star College in Houston, Texas. Maricela has extensive experience with in vivo mouse studies including physiological phenotyping, pharmacology and compound delivery, and survival surgeries.  She has worked at the Houston Methodist Research Institute since 2010 and joined the Department of Nanomedicine in 2015 where she currently serves as Research Laboratory Manager for Drs. Haifa Shen and Elvin Blanco.

Thomas Welte, PhD, Research Associate
Thomas is from Austria, where he received his PhD in Biochemistry before moving to the U.S. for a postdoctoral position at Yale. There, he found involvement of transcription factors STAT5 and STAT3 in T cell activation and inflammation (Crohn’s disease), respectively. For several years – at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado and at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas – he participated in studies of immune response to West Nile virus and Western equine encephalitis virus, pathogens which can cause deadly encephalitis. He identified gamma delta T cell subsets eliminating the virus, but also other subsets which actually worsen the pathologic response. Since moving to Baylor College of Medicine and then Houston Methodist, Thomas has been involved in cancer immunology research with a focus on the metastasis-promotion by MDSCs (myeloid derived suppressor cells). Currently, he is working to achieve improved anti-tumor therapy by utilizing T1-aptamer guided drug delivery systems developed in the Shen Lab to specifically target tumor cells and tumor-supporting MDSCs.

Junhua Mai, PhD, Research Associate
Junhua received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2010, and subsequently worked at the GSK Shanghai R&D Center. In 2011, Junhua joined the Shen Lab at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. Currently, his area of study is focused on three fields: 1) novel doxorubicin micro-formulation for breast cancer therapy; 2) bone marrow-homing ligands for treatments of bone metastases; and 3) cancer vaccines.

Zhenhua Hu, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Zhenhua received his PhD in Pharmaceutical Science from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2014. His research is focused on the development of oral nanomedicine and targeted delivery of chemo-drugs to bone marrow for the treatment of leukemia.

Qing Shi, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Qing received both his bachelor's degree in Biotechnology and his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China. His current research focus is the development of efficient cancer vaccines.

Hong-yuan Tsai, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Hong-yuan received his PhD from Yang-Ming University. Currently, he is studying how the macrophage delivers the anti-cancer nanomedicine, iNPG-pDox, to tumors.

Zhenghu Li, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Zhenghu Li, PhD, received his bachelor's degree in Biotechnology at Nanjing University in China. He received his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences. He has been focusing on the field of cancer biology for several years, and his current research is about the identification of neoantigens for cancer vaccine development.

Zhe Zhang, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Zhe graduated from China Agricultural University in 2015. In May 2017, he joined the Shen Lab as a postdoctoral fellow. He is currently concentrating on a study about ATM, which is a serine/threonine kinase involved in DNA repair.

Gang Li, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Gang received his bachelor's degree from Fudan University and his PhD from Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences (SIBS). His main area of focus is on the development of cancer vaccines.

Yan Ding, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Yan Ding, PhD,  received his doctorate in chemistry from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China in 2014. He then began his postdoctoral research at the University of Tokyo, where he gradually switched his research from supramolecular chemistry to nanomedicine. In 2016, Yan worked as a researcher at the Innovation Center of Nanomedicine in Kawasaki, Japan. In 2018, Yan joined the Shen Lab at Houston Methodist Research Institute as a postdoctoral fellow. He is currently working on brain-targeting drug delivery.

Daniel Lin, BA, Research Assistant
Dan received his Bachelor of Arts degree in biochemistry from Washington University in St. Louis. After graduation, he worked for a year and a half in the Department of Immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center before joining the Shen Lab. His area of focus is applying our platforms towards T cell based immunotherapy.

Jun Li, BMed, Visiting Graduate Research Fellow
Jun is a graduate research fellow visiting through the exchange program between Xiangya School of Medicine and Houston Methodist. He is currently working on mRNA vaccines against cancer.

Andrew P. Fisher, BS, Visiting Graduate Research Fellow
Andrew received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Nanotechnology from Swansea University where he focuses on microparticle flow dynamics and whole tissue imaging.

Louis E. Hinkle, BA, Visiting Graduate Research Fellow
Louis is an MD-PhD candidate at Texas A&M University working on the development of a cancer vaccine. He earned a BA with honors in molecular and cellular biology from Vanderbilt University where he studied the cytoskeleton dynamics underlying cell migration.

Jingxin Zhang, BMed, Visiting Graduate Research Fellow
Jingxin is an MD candidate from Xiangya School of Medicine at Central South University in Hunan, China. She is currently working on cancer immunotherapy, an area of which she employs porous-silicon-particle based nanovaccine for the treatment of breast carcinoma and melanoma.

Gloria Delfanti, MS, Visiting Graduate Research Fellow
Gloria Delfanti received her master’s degree in molecular and cellular biotechnologies from the Vita Salute San Raffaele University of Milan. She is currently enrolled in the International PhD School in Molecular Medicine at the same university under Dr. Paolo Dellabona in the Experimental Immunology Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases at San Raffaele Scientific Institute. Her research is focused on a small population of T lymphocytes, the invariant Natural Killer T lymphocytes, and their employment in cancer immunotherapy. She joined the Shen Lab as a visitor in May 2018 to assess the use of nanoporous silicon microparticles for activating iNKT cells at the tumor site and potentiating their anti-tumor activity.

Chaoyang Meng, BMed, Visiting Graduate Research Fellow
Chaoyang is working to complete his eight-year MD program in clinical medicine. He joins Houston Methodist from the Department of General Surgery at Xiangya Hospital of Central South University in China.