Biomedical sciences doctoral students take top awards at regional conference

Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964, or  Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine & Pharmacy, 304-691-1713

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two biomedical sciences doctoral students from Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine captured first place in both categories of a research competition held earlier this month in conjunction with the first Appalachian Regional Cell Conference.

They were among more than 40 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from Marshall, West Virginia University, University of Kentucky and Ohio University competing at the conference, which was held Oct. 12 at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at Charleston Area Medical Center.

Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine biomedical sciences Ph.D. students Johannes Fahrmann, standing, and Rounak Nande, seated, captured first place in their respective categories at a research competition held earlier this month in conjunction with the first Appalachian Regional Cell Conference. Fahrmann won the oral presentation category and Nande took first place in the poster category.

Marshall biomedical sciences Ph.D. candidate Johannes Fahrmann received first place in the oral presentation category of the competition for a presentation about his research to explore the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in late stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Rounak Nande, who is also a doctoral student in the university’s biomedical sciences program, was awarded first place in the poster category for a poster describing his project to help develop a delivery system for targeted gene therapy to improve the treatment of prostate cancer. 

Fahrmann said the conference was a valuable experience and he hopes to continue his involvement with the event in the future. 

“The conference was aimed at networking, collaborations and showcasing the research being conducted by students at the attending universities,” he added. “I was given the honor and privilege to represent Marshall University through an oral presentation describing my cancer research, and was very pleased to receive the overall award. Neither the award nor the conference itself could have come to fruition without the dedicated work of the organizing committee, which included our own graduate student Allison Wolf.”

He also expressed appreciation to his faculty mentor, Dr. Elaine Hardman, Marshall professor of biochemistry and microbiology. 

Hardman praised Fahrmann’s work, saying, “Johannes is an outstanding senior graduate student who will do well in research. The presentation he made was completely his own work—he developed the idea, wrote a grant, obtained the funding to do the work and has excellent results. His work has clear clinical relevance and, we hope, will apply to enhancing cancer therapy in the near future. He is a leader in the department and an outstanding role model for the younger graduate students. I am delighted with his success and to have him for a student.”

Nande said of the experience, “I, too, felt privileged to take part in the first-ever ARCC conference put together by the four universities. I would like to thank my mentor at Marshall, Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, and my collaborators from the Tri-State Regional Cancer Center in Ashland, Ky., Dr. Michael Gossman and Dr. Jeffrey Lopez, for having confidence in me to present our research.”

Claudio, who is an associate professor of biochemistry and microbiology and director of the McKown Translational Genomics Research Institute, said he was pleased with Nande’s success at the conference and emphasized the potential importance of the student’s research.

“A major challenge for effective gene therapy is the ability to specifically deliver nucleic acids and potentially toxic gene products directly into diseased tissue. This system Ron helped develop in our lab allows for the specific delivery of smart biological drugs to diseased tissues using the blood stream. The advantage of this technique is that the therapeutic viruses are released in a concentrated manner in the diseased tissue, eliciting an enhanced therapeutic effect while minimizing complications,” added Claudio.

Two additional Marshall graduate students, Kristeena Ray and Sarah Mathis, were selected as winners in their categories of the poster competition—Ray for a poster showcasing her research into the role of epigenetics in endometriosis-associated pain and Mathis for a poster describing her work to help develop a test that could make possible individualized chemotherapy treatments. Ray works in the lab of Dr. Nalini Santanam, Marshall professor of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology. Claudio serves as Mathis’s faculty mentor.

The conference was organized and hosted by the four institutions with the goal of expanding the field of cell biology research and fostering interactions among scientists at the universities in the Ohio Valley/mid-Appalachian region. In addition to the oral and poster presentations, the program featured keynote speaker Dr. Vinay Pathak, a senior investigator in HIV drug resistance at the National Cancer Institute, and networking opportunities for more than 80 students and faculty members who participated in the program. The conference was funded through a grant from the American Society for Cell Biology.


Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University

Marshall advances in next generation sequencing and bioinformatics


Friday, Oct. 21, 2011

Contact: Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964,

Forum to highlight Marshall advances in

next generation sequencing and bioinformatics

Donald Primerano, Ph.D.HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Scientific researchers, computer scientists and engineers will gather next week at Marshall University for a forum to focus attention on Marshall’s research capabilities in the fields of genomics and bioinformatics.

The free forum, called “Next Generation Sequencing and Bioinformatics,” will be held Thursday, Oct. 27, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in room 402 of the Drinko Library on Marshall’s Huntington campus. The program will include presentations about the university’s resources for advanced research in these cutting-edge scientific fields, current research projects under way on campus, and a discussion about what will be necessary to continue to build momentum.

According to event organizers, the scientific fields of molecular biology and genomics have undergone a spectacular transition over the past 20 years due to technological advances. Research studies have evolved from a single gene approach to genome-wide investigations that generate a massive amount of data to analyze. This change has led to development of bioinformatics – a research field that uses computer technology to help understand biological processes.

Over the past several years, Marshall has made a concerted effort to strategically build its capacity for this type of high-tech research. A new high-performance computing cluster has given Marshall students and faculty access to computing power, data and information previously available only to the most prestigious research institutions, and connection to the advanced Internet2® network that links the university with people, equipment and information at partner institutions around the world. Marshall is also the only institution in the state with a next generation sequencer, which allows scientists to sequence a genome faster and at lower cost than was possible with earlier methods.

Dr. Philippe Georgel, a professor of biological sciences in Marshall’s College of Science, will be helping to lead the forum. He said the university has made great strides recently.

“Marshall University is gathering momentum in terms of securing first-class equipment and building intellectual capabilities to develop competitive next generation sequencing capabilities,” Georgel said. “The decoding of the human genome has not only answered multiple biological questions, it has also opened new research avenues aimed at understanding how the expression of these thousands of genes can be coordinated.”

Another forum participant, Dr. Jim Denvir, assistant professor of bioinformatics and biostatistics at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, agreed, adding, “The acquisition of state-of-the-art genomic sequencing technology has positioned Marshall University to play a leading role in emerging avenues of biological research. These new research technologies reveal both exciting possibilities and big challenges across multiple-scientific disciplines.”

Organizers invite anyone with an interest in the topic to attend the forum. For more information or to register online, visit

The forum is made possible in part by a National Science Foundation grant that funds “Cyberinfrastructure for Transformational Scientific Discovery in West Virginia and Arkansas (CI-TRAIN),” a partnership among eight higher education institutions in West Virginia and Arkansas.

Marshall University biomedical sciences students to co-host conference in Charleston

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Contact: Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy 304-691-1713

National Cancer Institute senior investigator to be guest speaker

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine biomedical sciences students, in collaboration with students from West Virginia University, the University of Kentucky and Ohio University, will host the first Appalachian Regional Cell Conference in an effort to expand the field of cell biology research in the region.

The conference is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this Friday, Oct. 12, in Charleston at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at Charleston Area Medical Center, and is funded by a grant from the American Society for Cell Biology.

“The goal of this scientific meeting is to foster interactions among students at four universities within the Ohio Valley/mid-Appalachian region: West Virginia University, Marshall University, the University of Kentucky and Ohio University,” said M. Allison Wolf, one of the conference organizers and a graduate student at Marshall. “An annual, regional meeting of students from these peer institutions will generate unique benefits emerging from a larger gathering of students, including stimulating professional networking and discovering common research interests that may lead to future collaborations and sharing of resources.”

Dr. Richard Niles, senior associate dean for research and graduate education, praised the students for their efforts to coordinate the initiative.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for our graduate students to gain valuable experience in organizing and dealing with the logistics of running a scientific conference,” Niles said.  “It will also develop their peer networking skills, which will become important for whatever career path they choose.  I am very proud of Allison for taking on this organizational task despite her demanding Ph.D. research activities.”

The conference will feature keynote speaker Dr. Vinay Pathak, a senior investigator with the National Cancer Institute, whose area of study includes research on projects relating to HIV drug resistance.

For more information contact Allison Wolf at 304-696-3576.

Dr. Nader G. Abraham named vice dean for research at School of Medicine

Monday, Oct. 8, 2012
Leah Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, 304-691-1713 

Dr. Nader G. Abraham named vice dean for research at School of Medicine
International researcher brings NIH grants and team of researchers to medical school


Dr. Nader G. AbrahamNader G. Abraham, Ph.D., Dr. H.C., FAHA, an internationally-recognized researcher in the field of obesity and vascular disease, has been named the inaugural vice dean for research at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, President Stephen J. Kopp and Dean Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., announced today.  

Several members of Abraham’s research team will begin their official duties on Nov. 1, with the entire research operation in place in early 2013.

Abraham currently serves as chairman and professor of the department of physiology and pharmacology at the University of Toledo College Of Medicine. He is also affiliated with New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y., The Rockefeller University in New York and University of Catania in Italy.

“Dr. Abraham brings to Marshall University and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine exceptional experience and a proven track record in advancing successful grant-funded research. Put simply, he is a research catalyst,” Kopp said. “He is especially adept in fostering clinical translational research and building successful interdisciplinary research teams, attributes that will be of great benefit to our entire university. He most certainly will complement our efforts to expand applied research activities that yield commercially-viable discoveries.”

“This is a great day for the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Marshall University. Dr. Abraham is one of the preeminent biomedical researchers in the world, and his joining our faculty raises our profile immediately,” Shapiro said.

He continued, “Dr. Abraham has the unique and remarkable ability to energize and inspire others. This is illustrated by the group of scientists that will be coming with him. Recruiting any of these individuals on their own would be considered a terrific accomplishment for our school. I truly believe that Dr. Abraham is a key recruitment that will give Marshall University a significant leap forward toward becoming a premier biomedical research institution.”

Widely recognized for his research on vascular disease, which is a prelude to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases including hypertension, stroke, diabetes and obesity, Abraham and his team of researchers specifically study heme oxygenase, the most potent anti-oxidant gene in the human body. The team’s research also includes ways to speed up the implementation of laboratory findings into clinical therapeutic strategies for patients, i.e., translational medicine.

“I’m very excited about joining the faculty at Marshall University,” Abraham said. “I will be focusing on translational research projects in collaboration with the clinical departments, which will be an exciting experience for our medical students. I very much enjoy working with outstanding clinicians with little basic science experience and seeing them evolve into translational researchers. Truly, Marshall offers a unique opportunity to achieve these goals.”

Abraham is currently the principal investigator on two National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants focusing on stem cells-heme oxygenase, hormonal regulation of blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Over his 30-year-plus career, Abraham has served as principal investigator or co-investigator on grants or projects totaling more than $17.3 million. As project leader for a program project in pharmacology, he has worked on five grants with total NIH funding of more than $60 million, bringing his total career grant support to more than $77 million.

Several career highlights for Abraham include the following leadership positions:

  • 1996, chairman of the Society of Hematology and Stem Cells;
  • 2000, chairman of the 1st International Conference on Heme Oxygenase, New York;
  • 2002, chairman of the International Conference on Heme Oxygenase, Italy;
  • 2005, chairman of the International Conference on Heme Oxygenase, Japan; and
  • 2007, chairman of the International Conference on Heme Oxygenase, Poland.

Over his career, Abraham has received dozens of awards including the following:

  • National Institute of Health, Research Career Development Award;
  • Dr. David M. Ovitz Lecturer Award, University of Calgary, Canada;
  • Distinguished Professor Award, University of Saskatoon, Canada;
  • Dean’s Distinguished Award for Stem Cell Research, University of Catania, Italy;
  • Honorary doctoral degree in Pharmacy, University of Catania, Italy;      
  • Dean’s Distinguished Award, New York Medical College, New York; and
  • Honored Professorship, Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science. 

He has served as an invited lecturer internationally, including in China, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Copenhagen, Czech Republic and Poland. He is the author or co-author of more than 300 original articles and has mentored numerous postdoctoral and graduate students.  He is a Fellow of the American Heart Association.

Abraham brings to the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine a team of researchers including the following individuals: 

  • G. Drummond, Ph.D., a former associate professor at Rockefeller University and an expert in heme oxygenase who pioneered the use of metalloporphyrins to inhibit bilirubin production, and has more than 20 years of clinical trial experience in preventing jaundice in newborn infants.
  • D. Kim, Ph.D., a researcher in human stem cells;
  • K. Sodhi, M.D., a researcher in hypertension associated with obesity and diabetes;
  • S. Monu, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow who works on the expression of an endogenous antioxidant;
  • M. Maheshwari, a doctoral student; and,            
  • M. Choi, a lab assistant.

Abraham earned his Ph.D. in 1976 from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He spent his postdoctoral fellowship at The Rockefeller University, where he discovered and isolated the rat and human heme oxygenase gene responsible for the over-production of bilirubin in newborn infants, which manifests as jaundice. In early 1982, he developed inhibiters of heme oxygenase for the prevention of jaundice with his mentor Dr. A. Kappas, former vice president of The Rockefeller University and physician-in-chief.

In 1977, he became an associate scientist at New York Medical College in New York. He initiated the college’s first program project on heme oxygenase in 1985. During his time there, he was promoted to the rank of professor with tenure in medicine in 1993.

Abraham was named a visiting professor of medicine at New York University in 1993, at which time he also continued his affiliation with The Rockefeller University as a visiting scientist.

In 1996, he re-joined New York Medical College as a professor in the departments of pharmacology and medicine and also served as director of the stem cell and gene therapy program.

In 2009, while maintaining affiliations with both the New York Medical College and The Rockefeller University, Abraham was named chairman and professor of the department of physiology and pharmacology at the University of Toledo College of Medicine.  During his tenure as chair of the department at Toledo, NIH and pharmaceutical support increased from $2.5 million to more than $7 million in less than four years.

Ph.D. program recently graduates three students

This year has been an exceptional year in the BMS program for student graduates. The following students have recently successfully defended their Ph.D. dissertations:

J. Mike Brown, Ph.D.J. Mike Brown, Ph.D. – Mike was mentored by Dr. Monica Valentovic. His dissertation is entitled: “A Mechanistic Study of S-Adenosyl-L-methionine Protection Against Acetaminophen Hepatotoxicity.” He is currently a third-year pharmacy student at the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy.




Madhukar Kolli, Ph.D., D.V.M.

Madhukar Kolli, Ph.D., D.V.M. – Dr. Eric Blough mentored Madhukar. His dissertation title is: “The Use of Cerium Oxide and Curcumin Nanoparticles as Therapeutic Agents for the Treatment of Ventricular Hypertrophy Following Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.” He is currently working as a Veterinarian in Barboursville, W.Va.



Siva Nalabotu, Ph.D.Siva Krishna Nalabotu, Ph.D., D.V.M. – Siva was mentored by Dr. Eric Blough. His dissertation is entitled: “Evaluation of the role of oxidative stress, inflammation and apoptosis in the pulmonary and the hepatic toxicity induced by cerium oxide nanoparticles following intratracheal instillation in male sprague-dawley rats.” Siva will next be working as an Assistant Veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital in Florence, Ky. He says that he will use his research skills to educate his clients about the toxicity of different substances and the precautionary measures that can be taken to avoid toxicity in pets.

In Siva’s own words, “The experience I got from the Ph.D. program was utmost in my life. They were the best days in my life. I had excellent committee members who were very knowledgeable and highly encouraging. My advisor, Dr. Blough, was wonderful in guiding me throughout the program, and his valuable suggestions will be invaluable for my future. I also would like to thank Dr. Valentovic, who was very caring and helpful in advising me regarding the crucial decisions in my career.”

Congratulations, Mike, Madhukar, and Siva!

We have recently had several other students defend dissertations, and we will update you on them as soon as their graduation status is official.

BMS Program celebrates Eighth Annual Biomedical Sciences Research Retreat

Sarah Mathis, Ph.D. candidateOn August 24, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program hosted is ninth annual research retreat. Every year, faculty, staff, and research students in the program gather to share their research, enjoy a speech by an alumni guest, and present awards for research and service. The event, which was organized by Dr. Beverly Delidow, and took place at the Pullman Plaza Hotel. According to Diana R. Maue, Graduate Recruitment Coordinator for the program, “Every year at this event, we celebrate the Marshall Biomedical Sciences family and biomedical research itself.”

The event kicked off with a luncheon and poster session. This portion of the retreat gives everyone a chance to socialize and catch up on research developments in the program. After the poster session, a member of each research cluster gave a short speech. The alumni guest speaker then presented.

Nathan Head, Ph.D.The alumni guest speaker this year was Nathan Head, Ph.D. Dr. Head currently serves as a Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMDD). This agency was created in 2006 to coordinate federal resources with the goal of preventing attacks involving radiological, nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. His talk was entitled: “The Road Not Taken: Leaving Academia to Explore an Alternative Career in the Sciences.” His experiences give a stunning example of the possibilities that await for graduates of our program.

The alumni speaker was followed by the awards presentation. The following awards were presented at the retreat:
dsc_0170M. Allison Wolf, President of the BMS Graduate Student Organization (GSO), won the award for Best Overall Performance as a Graduate Student plaque. The award includes a plaque and paid trip to an international meeting (up to $3500). Allison is a Ph.D. Candidate working in Dr. Claudio’s lab.



dsc_0169Johannes Fahrmann, Vice President of the BMS GSO, received the award for Best Research Performance as a Graduate Student. Johannes received a plaque and paid trip to a national meeting (up to $2,000). He is a Ph.D. Candidate in Dr. Hardman’s lab.





Saeed Keshavarzian and Richard Niles, Ph.D.

Saeed Keshavarzian was honored for being the Medical Sciences student with the highest first year g.p.a.





Stephanie Van Meter and Richard Niles, Ph.D.Stephanie Van Meter was awarded for being the Ph.D. student with the highest first year g.p.a.





M. Allison Wolf and Stephen RogersSteven Rogers, who is now a Ph.D. student in Dr. Blough’s lab, won the new GSO M.S. Student Scholarship.




dsc_0153_0Miranda Carper, a Ph.D. Candidate in Dr. Claudio’s lab, won the new GSO Ph.D. Student Scholarship.





M. Allison Wolf and Margaret McFarlandMargaret McFarland and Connie Berk tied for the GSO Staff Appreciation Award.






Dr. Richard Egleton won the GSO Faculty Appreciation Award.





Congratulations to the award winners, and thank you to the participants. We look forward to seeing everyone at the next gathering.

BMS Graduate Program completes orientation week for incoming students

bms-picnic-2012-092The Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program recently welcomed a new group of incoming students. Each year, the program hosts an orientation for students entering the Ph.D., M.S. (Research Option), and M.S. (Medical Sciences) programs.

The program welcomed an impressive group from a wide variety of undergraduate institutions, including:


  • California Lutheran University
  • College of The Holy Cross
  • Glenville State College
  • Grambling State University
  • International (China)
  • Marshall University
  • Roanoke College
  • Seton Hill College
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of TN, Knoxville
  • University of South Florida
  • WV State University
  • West Virginia University

The first day of orientation included a campus tour, Biotechnology Science Center tour, posing for a class picture, lunch with faculty and fellow classmates, and learning about curricula and opportunities for growth. The Ph.D. and Research M.S. students also were introduced to the research within each cluster by respective faculty members, while the Medical Sciences’ students had the welcomed opportunity to meet with Cindy Warren from the medical school. 

bms-picnic-2012-107But, what would orientation be without the annual BMS Picnic! Later that day, incoming students gathered at Rotary Park for the fun and informal opportunity to meet their classmates, interact with current BMS students, and get to know faculty, staff and administrators. There were icebreaker games, as well as others, and great food. Check out the photo gallery to see the fun!

The program congratulates the new students on entering the program, and wishes them good luck in their first year!

To see all of the photos from the picnic, check out our Events Gallery.

Monica A. Valentovic, Ph.D.

Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.Professor
Department: Pharmacology, Physiology, and Toxicology
Research Clusters: Cancer Biology; Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes; Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences
Office: BBSC 435-G | Laboratory: BBSC 406
Phone: (304) 696-7332

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Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H.Professor and Cluster Coordinator
Department: Pharmacology, Physiology, and Toxicology
Adjunct Professor in Cardiology Department (Medicine)
Research Clusters: Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes; and Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences
Office: BBSC 435-S | Laboratory: BBSC 41
Phone: (304) 696-7321

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Donald Primerano, Ph.D.

Donald Primerano, Ph.D.Professor, Division Head for Microbiology, and Director of the Genomics Core Facility
Department: Biochemistry and Microbiology
Research Clusters: Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes; Infectious and Immunological Diseases
Office: BBSC 336F | Laboratories: BBSC 317, 318 and 326
Phone: (304) 696-7338 | Fax: (304) 696-7207

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Emine C. Koc, Ph.D.

Emine C. Koc, Ph.D.Emine C. Koc, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department: Biochemistry and Microbiology
Research Clusters: Cancer Biology; Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes; Infectious and Immunological Diseases
Office: BBSC 336-P | Laboratory: BBSC 308
Phone: (304) 696-3680 | Fax: (304) 696-7253

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