Viper Day 2015


The National Natural Toxins Research Center (NNTRC) hosted the 14th annual Viper Day, an outreach program for high school students, on Thursday, February 5, 2015.  Six area schools were in attendance, with over 200 students, teachers and sponsors attending the event.  The NNTRC has been hosting this event for over a decade to encourage students to attend Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK), and to pursue degrees in the sciences.

Viper Day started with the schools arriving at the TAMUK-Memorial Student Union Building to view scientific posters prepared by the NNTRC research team, which included students and scientists. There were a total of six posters presented, and the NNTRC scientists and students were on-hand to answer questions that visiting students had about the posters, NNTRC or the university.  Dr. Elda E. Sanchez, the Executive Co-Director of the NNTRC, then introduced the president of the university. Dr. Steven H. Tallant, the President of TAMUK welcomed and greeted students, Mr. Martin E. Chapa, Director of Educational Opportunity Center, provided information in regards to the opportunities offered by Student Access.

Our guest speaker, Dr. Gonzalo Lopez, is a distinguished alumnus of our very own NNTRC and University. Dr. Lopez received a BS in Biology, and later his MS in Chemistry at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. After graduating with his MS in Chemistry, Dr. Lopez continued to work as a Research Associate at the NNTRC while applying for PhD programs in biology. Dr. Lopez was accepted as a pre-doctoral student to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) program at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Houston, Texas. As a pre-doctoral student, he joined the Cancer Biology program in the lab of Dr. Dina Lev. His thesis work in Dr. Lev’s lab focused on novel therapeutics targeting epigenetic and autophagy pathways for the treatment of genetically complex soft tissue sarcoma. Dr. Lopez graduated in 2013 with a PhD in Cancer Biology and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in the laboratory of Dr. Raphael Pollock. His current research focus remains in the treatment of soft tissue sarcoma.

The visiting high school students were given a chance to win $100.00 while playing “Who wants to be a Viper Day Millionaire” game based on the scientific data detailed in the researcher’s posters, basic science, and university facts. Also, Dr. Campos, a former alumnus, donated five-$500.00 book scholarships totaling $2,500.00 for Viper Day Scholarships.  This money is donated to the President’s Circle for use in scholarships through the NNTRC for students attending Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Dr. Campos plans to make this scholarship donation an on-going annual event at Viper Day. Several door prizes were handed out prior to a lunch provided to all high school students and sponsors.

Following lunch, the students and their teachers were taken on tours of the research facilities where NNTRC students and staff gave an overview of each laboratory, the equipment, and the significance of the research done on the snake venoms for biomedical research.  They were also given a tour of the NNTRC Serpentarium where they were allowed to view the snakes.  A local television news team filmed a short interview with the curator while the tours were being conducted. Several of the teachers and sponsors chaperoning the visiting students expressed their thanks for being able to attend the event, and even said that some students now wished to pursue degrees in sciences. 

The NNTRC staff did an excellent job in organizing Viper Day, but this event would not have been a success without financial contributions by, the President’s Office, the VP & Provost of Academic Affairs, the College of Arts and Sciences, Associate VP for Student Access, and Dr. Roger Campos.


Graduate student researcher Eric Precise and his undergraduate student researcher Gabriella Perez ready to present


We had enough students to fill Ballroom A in the MSUB, while our guest speaker Dr. Gozalo Lopez gave his presentation

Robert tour

Graduate research student Robert Walls gives a tour of our facility and the different procedures done in each lab


NNTRC's Curator Mr. Mark Hockmuller was attentive to answer any questions students may have over the Serpentarium

Texas Coral Snake

Here is one of our beloved captives, the Texas Coral Snake


This page was last updated on: May 16, 2018