Students, Faculty Take Part in Annual Research Day, McGehee Lecture

Robert McGehee, Ph.D., dean of the UAMS Graduate School, welcomes students and faculty to the Robert E. McGehee, Jr., Ph.D. Distinguished Lectureship in Biomedical Research.

Biochemistry student Leena Maddukuri explains her research findings to biochemistry student Isabelle Racine-Miousse during Student Research Day.

Faculty and students look at projects during Student Research Day.

April 12, 2013 | It was a day teeming with educational interaction as students across all the UAMS colleges and the Graduate School and their faculty took part in the annual Student Research Day and Robert E. McGehee, Jr., Ph.D. Distinguished Lectureship in Biomedical Research on April 10.

Whether the topic was the health effects of pollution or DNA replication, students talked about their research and answered questions from peers, UAMS faculty and investigators from other colleges during Student Research Day. The event was held throughout the day with displays in the atriums of the I. Dodd Wilson Education building and the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health.

Biochemistry student Leena Maddukuri was poised to discuss her research on a protein that is potentially capable of protecting the body from cancers associated with smoking and other diseases. With her findings, Maddukuri hopes to see the prevention of illnesses such as Werner’s syndrome.

“I have always been fascinated with DNA replication and
why people have to suffer with diseases, especially small
children,” she said. “This is what led me to look at DNA molecular levels.”

Also interested in disease prevention, biochemistry student Isabelle Racine-Miousse described her studies in finding the link between air pollution and diseases such as respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. For the study, she and her team collected samples of the air from Markham Street in Little Rock. She found that within 24 hours of being exposed to the air, side effects appear on the body’s DNA that could potentially lead to illnesses in the future.

“I would like to see how these diseases associated with air
pollution arise so we can act on them earlier,” she said.

After the first Research Day session, students and faculty
heard from Graduate School Dean Robert E. McGehee Jr., Ph.D., who is also a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology in the UAMS College of Medicine, and executive director of the Arkansas Biosciences Institute. He introduced the lecture’s key note speaker Carole Cramer, Ph.D., professor at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, director of the AR EPSCoR Center for Plant Powered Production and co-founder and chief scientific officer of BioStrategies LC.

Cramer is internationally renowned for her work in plant transgenics and biopharmaceutical production. During the lecture she explained the benefits of bioengineered plants for manufacturing human therapeutic proteins. She and her research team are known for the discovery that the normal gene for a human enzyme responsible for Gaucher’s disease could be transformed into plants to produce an enzyme replacement therapy. Today, her therapy is FDA approved and is being marketed for use in humans.

The lectureship was made possible by a gift from the grandparents of a student mentored by McGehee. The couple, who asked to remain anonymous, appreciated McGehee’s support and influence as a mentor.

The gift will impact the education of students not only in the Graduate School, but also in the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Health Professions and Public Health. The gift will be used to support an annual distinguished lecture by a renowned scholar and leader in biomedical research and education.

For Student Research Day, 66 faculty judges presented awards to students. Award winners include:

Category 1 – Post docs, Medical house staff/Fellows:
1st place – Appathurai Balamurugan, M.D., M.P.H., Jamie Howard, M.D., sponsor, COM Dept. of Family & Preventative Medicine

2nd place – Leena Maddukuri, Ph.D,. Robert Eoff, Ph.D., sponsor, COM Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

3rd place – Ravi Kr. Gupta, Ph.D., Chia Y. Lee, Ph.D., sponsor, COM Dept. of Microbiology & Immunology

Category 2 – Professional degree-seeking students
1st place –Jennifer Mehl (medical student), Jeffery Kaiser, M.D., M.A., sponsor COM, ACH

2nd place – Alice Behrens (medical student), Behjatolah Karbassi, Ph.D., sponsor, COM Dept. of Pathology

3rd place – Ramey Marshell (medical student), William Fantegrossi, Ph.D., sponsor, COM Dept. of Pharmacology & Toxicology

Category 3 – Graduate degree-seeking students
1st place – Amber Prins (MS student) Reza Hakkak, Ph.D. sponsor, CHP Dept. of Dietetics & Nutrition

2nd place – Caylin G. Winchell (Ph.D. student) Dan Voth, Ph.D. sponsor, COM Dept. of Microbiology & Immunology

3rd place – Shubeena Chib (PhD student) Kevin Raney, PhD sponsor, COM, Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Best Overall
Angela Katherine Odle – Ph.D. student, Gwen Childs, PhD, sponsor, COM, Dept. of Neurobiology & Developmental Sciences


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