Four Marshall School of Medicine research students receive NASA research grants

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Four biomedical science Ph.D. students from the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine have received West Virginia Space Grant Consortium Graduate Research Fellowship grants to fund their continued dissertation research in a variety of disease-related areas.

Each student received a $12,000 grant from NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium for their projects, which vary from the study of protein functions to metabolic diseases to growth factors in cancer cells. The awards are supplemented by the School of Medicine and each student must work closely with a faculty member to conduct their research.

“These students are conducting valuable research to help move modern medicine forward,” said Richard Egleton, Ph.D., co-director of biomedical sciences at Marshall University. “Through these grants, both NASA and our institution help promote a dynamic environment for research among the next generation of researchers.”

The student recipients are:

Amos, DebbieDeborah L. Amos, of Dr. Nalini Santanam’s lab, will use the NASA grant to gain deeper insight into how exercise affects metabolic diseases, such as obesity, investigate the impact of exercise on lean/fat body mass and skeletal muscle function in a “stress less” mouse model and provide a means of improving skeletal muscle function and lean body mass.






Rachel MurphyRachel A. Murphy, of Dr. Monica Valentovic’s lab, will utilize the grant to study why the drug Tenofovir (a drug used to treat HIV and Hepatitis B) causes kidney damage by altering mitochondrial function and inducing oxidative stress.





Tomblin, Justin K.Justin K. Tomblin, with the lab of Travis Salisbury, Ph.D., will use the grant to study how growth factors regulate the expression and activity of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor in breast cancer cells.





Hunter, Caroline_2015Caroline A. Hunter, of Dr. Emine Koc’s lab, will use the grant to study the protein synthesis in mitochondria, metabolic syndrome, and potential treatments that could prevent the development of these and related diseases.





“I am honored to receive this grant. It is rewarding to know that NASA can see how my work can make a contribution in the prevention of diseases,” Hunter said. “This is a great opportunity for me to have my work funded so I can make further achievements doing what I love—research.”


Daron-Mathis successfully earns her Ph.D.

Sarah Daron-Mathis has successfully defended her dissertation entitled: Cancer Stem Cells in the Screening of Anticancer Drugs for Central Nervous System Tumors. This research focused on the development of a test to predict the outcome of specific therapeutic treatments to give an individual patient the best results. After a surgery, it is often difficult to know which anti-cancer drug(s) will be most effective in continuing to treat a tumor. Daron-Mathis stated,The test is novel in that it not only looks at the whole tumor, but also at the subpopulation that is resistant and causes relapse in a patient. Determining the chemotherapeutic drug that will work on the whole of the tumor and also this resistant population, we can better predict which drug will give the patient the most optimal outcome.”

Sarah Daron-Mathis 4.28.15 Use2Pier Paulo Claudio. M.D./Ph.D., Sarah’s mentor, noted that Sarah has “conducted progressive, out-of-the-box, cancer research in the Translational Laboratories at the McKown Translational Genomic Research Institute (TGRI), Edwards Cancer Center,” as well as spending six months doing research at the National Center for Research in Rome, Italy. For that experience, “several experiments involving the effects of microgravity on stem cell growth were repeated by an independent laboratory,” Dr. Claudio stated. Claudio also pointed out several successful presentations at STaR Symposium, the American Society for Gravitational Space Biology, the American Institute for Cancer Research conference in Washington DC, the Cell Differentiation and Development Center symposium, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science Spring Conference, the Annual Marshall University Research Day at the School of Medicine, the Appalachian Regional Cell Conference, and Life in Space for Life on Earth that was held in France. Notably, Sarah won three First Place Posters during these conferences.

As Daron-Mathis reflected upon her time in the Biomedical Program, she found that it had not been easy but she had the strength to persevere. “I worked with people from all over the world and not only gained scientific experience but also culture and friendship. I am very thankful to my committee for their understanding as I worked through medical problems. If it wasn’t for that support, I would not have finished. In the last six years I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, married, began to raise a family, learned Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, had a baby girl, and now have received my Ph.D. Getting the Ph.D. was the second hardest thing I have ever done (having my daughter is by far #1.)”

Congratulations, Sarah Daron-Mathis, Ph.D. on everything that you have accomplished!

Nande successfully defends dissertation

NandeRounak P. Nande successfully defended his dissertation: Investigation of ultrasound -targeted microbubbles as a therapeutic gene delivery system for prostate cancer. Nande’s research in the laboratory of Pier Paulo Claudio, M.D./Ph.D., focused on utilizing these microbubbles to carry adenoviral vectors with therapeutic genes to a cancerous tumor site. This delivery is shielded from discovery and quick deterioration by the immune system. According to Rounak, “this is particularly important in cancer gene therapy for potentially inaccessible tumors because the microbubbles may also limit the amount of inflammatory response to the viruses and may allow repeated injections. Thus, our novel viral delivery technique mediated by microbubbles and ultrasound brings new hope to the frontier of gene therapy and its use in clinical settings.​​”

Rounak has presented several posters of his research at different conferences in the USA such as American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT), Star Symposium, Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), Experimental Biology Conference (EB), Annual Research Day at the school of medicine, and the Appalachian Regional Cell Conference (ARCC). Also, he has presented orally at the annual research day for four consecutive years. Rounak’s “accolades include receiving a travel award from Marshall University for the Experimental Biology Conference, and a paid trip to an international meeting for winning the Best Overall Performance as a Graduate Student award in 2014. Additionally, since ARCC’s inception, Rounak has won 1st or 2nd place in poster competition for every ARCC conference entered. Lastly, he has received the NASA West Virginia space grant in the years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015,” said Dr. Pier Paulo Claudio, Nande’s mentor. Claudio also stated that Nande’s research has resulted in two publications – a first author and a second author – in addition to a book chapter in Cutting Edge Therapies for Cancer in the 21st Century.

Congratulations on your graduation, Rounak Nande, Ph.D.!

Ahmad receives national recognition for leadership and service at Marshall

Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. Candidate Taha Ahmad was recognized on May 1 as a distinguished leader and volunteer at Marshall University. The outgoing president of the Graduate Student Organization was amongst a group of students chosen to represent Marshall in the national ‘Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Ahmad, Taha_Who's Who National Recognition2015Colleges’. Since 1934 membership in the Who’s Who honors program has marked “a pinnacle of scholastic achievement” for recipients from over 1,000 colleges and universities. This year’s Marshall honorees were celebrated as part of the larger Leadership & Service Awards. The Marshall University Office of Student Affairs hosted the awards in the MU Foundation Hall to identify students that are making an impact on their school as well as their community.

Congratulations Taha!!

Second Annual BMS International Food Festival a success


GSOBMSGroupThe 2nd Annual Biomedical Sciences (BMS) International Food Festival was recently held at the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center’s second floor lounge. Sponsored by the Graduate Student Organization (GSO), students in Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine BMS Program along with some of its faculty, provided delicious appetizers, entrees and desserts to delight those lucky (and early) enough to enjoy.

Group at FoodMost cooks brought a favorite childhood dish or an offering that represents their ethnic background. Touring the world with freshly mashed guacamole and corn tortillas to Nepalese dumplings and other Asian favorites, on to Europe with sausage rolls, fettuccine, and fabulous desserts, and finally back to the Caribbean featuring spicy jerk chicken and Bahamian beans and rice, diners were treated to a fabulous journey.

Sean PiwarskiDr. Piyali Dasgupta loves different international cuisines and is happy to support the Student Organization, so she was excited to attend the Food Festival. GSO Historian, Rachel Murphy, agreed, saying, “the food is bangin’.”

Taha AhmadAlthough scheduled to run until 2pm, the lunch line had to close early since the tasty food disappeared so quickly. Taha Ahmad, GSO President, was pleased with the outcome. “The donations that we receive for this festival go to the scholarships that we provide. The more money that we can bring in with events like this, the more that we can support the people in our program with additional funding to attend scientific workshops, conferences, and other educational needs.”

Great cause, great conversation, great food. Yum!

Marshall School of Medicine researcher to receive national anatomy award – Marshall University represented by multi-disciplinary researchers at Experimental Biology conference

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Maria A. Serrat, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of anatomy and pathology at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Basmajian Award by the American Association of Anatomists.

serrat photoSerrat will be recognized during the organization’s Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology which started at the end of March in Boston.

The Basmajian Award recognizes members teaching human or veterinary gross anatomy, in the formative stages of their career, who have made outstanding accomplishments in biomedical research or scholarship in education.

“I am indebted to Dr. Laura Richardson for nominating me for this prestigious award, and for supporting my research and professional development since I joined the department in 2009,” Serrat said. “I could not have made such achievements without the support of Dr. Richardson and our chairman of anatomy and pathology, Dr. Linda Brown.”

Serrat’s research specializes in growth and morphology of the postnatal skeleton. One area of grant-funded focus is on heat-enhanced molecular delivery to skeletal growth plates.

Serrat graduated from Miami University in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. She then earned her master’s degree in anthropology from Kent State University and followed with a doctorate in biological anthropology from Kent State University in 2007. She completed postdoctoral training at Cornell University from 2008 to 2009.

In addition to receiving the award, Serrat will present “Imaging IGF-I uptake in growth plate cartilage using in vivo multiphoton microscopy” in a special symposium that she organized titled “Vascular and connective tissue imaging in situ: returning bone to the skeleton.”

In other conference news, school of medicine researcher Gary O. Rankin, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the department of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology, will lead a special symposium, “Pharmacogenetics and Drug Toxicity.”

Several Marshall graduate students were selected for graduate student travel awards for this year’s conference and will be showcasing their research through both oral and poster presentations. They are:

Jenna-KerbyJenna C. Kerby, first-year medical student, “Temperature-enhanced extremity lengthening is growth rate dependent.” Kerby was selected as one of only eight trainees to give an oral presentation in the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology Section of the American Physiological Society’s Abstract-Driven Trainee Featured Topic.

Caroline-2013-for-webCaroline Ann Hunter, biomedical sciences Ph.D. student, travel award received from American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), “c-Src regulates mitochondrial translation by phosphorylation of elongation factor Tu.”

Racine_Chris_2013Christopher Racine, biomedical sciences Ph.D. candidate, travel award received from American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), “Oxidative stress induced following exposure to 3,5-dichloroaniline (3,5-DCA) in vitro: Role in Nephrotoxicity.

Holly L. Tamski, biomedical sciences Ph.D. candidate, travel award from American Association of Anatomists (AAA), “Infrared Thermal Imaging to Collect Quantitative Surface Temperatures from Mice in Unilateral Limb Heating Study.”

Res07 Justin Kirk TomblinJustin K. Tomblin, biomedical sciences Ph.D. candidate, recipient of the Best Research Performance Award from Marshall’s biomedical sciences program which provides travel to a national meeting, “Pyrrolidine Dithiocarbamate Selectively Induces Autophagy and Cell Death in Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells.”


Undergraduate student Miles Gray, a senior biochemistry major, is also traveling to the conference. In addition to the student researchers, Marshall University faculty, from a variety of disciplines and programs, are scheduled to present their findings.

Researchers from the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program,  Forensic Science Graduate Program, the School of Pharmacy, and the School of Medicine will present at the meeting which runs through April 1.

This news story can also be found at and

Women of Color Award 2015 – Wright again

Tuesday, March 31st, Marshall Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. candidate Kristeena Ray Wright was flooded with emotion after her nominator of the Marshall student 2015 Women of Color Award stood before her and her peers announcing why she should receive this prestigious honor.

Ray Wright, Kristeena 3.31Words such as intelligent, personable, driven, approachable, professional, unassuming, open-minded, and dedicated, were used to help describe Kristeena. Also, anecdotal highlights were stated assuring the audience that Mrs. Wright is truly an amazing woman of color.

Once the award was announced, Kristeena turned to accept the beautiful and owner-signed Blenko vase, and saw her mother standing in front of her. Mrs. Ray had flown in from Chicago to surprise Kristeena and show her support for her as she received this special honor. Indeed it was special.Ray Wright Kristeena and mother 3.31

Kristeena Wright has been an advocate for equality for women, people of color, and various genders and sexual orientations. She has written performance pieces involving personal experiences, and openly shared them to help raise awareness. This provided pathways for others to connect and to feel understood. Additionally, Kristeena persevered through unavoidable personal difficulties, and not only continued through, but also strengthened the Biomedical Sciences doctorate program. Her commitment to her success has only inspired those around her.

Ray Wright Kristeena WOC 2015Congratulations to Kristeena!

To read the article in the local newspaper and see additional pictures, please visit: