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Watson, Shetty honored with College of Medicine Research Excellence Award

College recognizes two faculty members as outstanding researchers at different stages in their career

Robert O. Watson, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology, and Ashok K. Shetty, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and associate director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, received the Faculty Research Excellence Award as junior and senior investigators, respectively, from the Texas A&M University College of Medicine on February 1, 2022.

Each year, the College of Medicine may recognize two faculty members as outstanding researchers at different stages in their career for the junior and senior Faculty Research Excellence Awards. These awards were established to recognize investigators’ accomplishments and their standing in the national and international scientific community. An awardee’s research must have provided novel insights into the important biological processes and/or a better understanding of diseases that can lead to the improvement of human health and well-being.

A faculty member since 2015, Watson studies the notorious human pathogen and global health threat, Mycobacterium tuberculosisM. tuberculosis has evolved a variety of specific adaptations to not only survive but also replicate within the harsh environment of a macrophage. In order to maintain this niche and sustain a decades-long latent infection in humans, M. tuberculosis needs to establish an exquisitely well-balanced host-pathogen interface. The Watson lab works to identify and mechanistically characterize both host and bacterial factors that are able to tip the balance between protective versus pathogenic innate immune responses during M. tuberculosis infection, with the ultimate goal of developing therapeutics that target these factors and promote desirable TB patient outcomes.

Watson earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine in 1997, a Master of Public Health in infectious diseases from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000, and a PhD in microbiology from Yale University School of Medicine in 2006. After his postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, he joined the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology as an assistant professor.

Shetty joined the faculty in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine in 2011 as a tenured professor and director of neurosciences at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine. His research focuses on testing the therapeutic efficacy of human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural stem cells and inhibitory interneurons and human mesenchymal- and neural stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles for improving brain function in conditions such as temporal lobe epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, aging and Alzheimer’s disease. He has also made contributions to military medicine research, particularly for understanding the pathophysiology of Gulf War Illness and developing novel treatment approaches to improve brain function in veterans with Gulf War Illness.

Prior to joining the faculty at Texas A&M, Shetty received a PhD degree in neuroscience from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. Following his postdoctoral research work at Duke University, Shetty joined the Division of Neurosurgery (Department of Surgery) at Duke University Medical Center as an assistant professor in 1995. He became an associate professor in 1999 and held the position of professor from 2004 to 2011.

Article written by Stacy De Leon

Media contact: Dee Dee Grays,, 979.436.0611

Christina Sumners

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