BMS Graduate Student Organization participates in the Jared Box Project

by Saeed Keshavarzian, keshava1@live.marshall.edu

BMS students from left: Brad, Bill, Holly, Miranda, Allison, Johannes, and Saeed

As the holiday season approaches, we are reminded to think about others outside of our busy lives. This year, the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Student Organization (GSO) would like to share with you Jared’s story. He was a special five-year-old boy who, in 1999, was diagnosed with an incurable brainstem tumor; he unfortunately lost his battle with cancer in November 2000. In his short time on Earth, Jared went from doctor appointment to doctor appointment and always carried a backpack filled with his favorite toys and games. Those toys and games brought Jared such joy that, for a brief moment, he was not thinking about his illness, but was just being a child captivated in play.

This is the second year the BMS GSO has participated in the Jared Box Project, an endeavor to share the same joy and relief that toys brought to Jared with other children suffering similar childhood illnesses. Allison Wolf, GSO President and a BMS Ph.D. candidate, along with other BMS students organized the toy drive and a bake sale to contribute to filling Jared boxes.

Miranda and Allison, all smiles, with the toys for the children at Cabell Huntington Hospital

The GSO members delivered the toys to children at Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center on Friday, December 7th.  Allison said, “We have a wonderful group of students and faculty in our program who make events, such as the Jared Box Project, a success.” Miranda Carper, BMS Ph.D. candidate agreed, and also said that, “this is the second year I have participated and the experience left me feeling happy, humbled, and heart-broken all at the same time. Seeing the children’s faces light up when I handed them a gift warmed my heart, but also left me feeling amazed by their strength and determination.” 

Johannes organizing presents for the children

GSO Vice President, Johannes Fahrmann, who helped organize the Jared Box Project for the second time said that “being a part of this project is a great feeling and instills a sense of unity amongst the organization and the community. It also highlights the warmth that people have in their hearts and highlights one of the main goals, in my opinion, of the GSO which is to give back to those less fortunate.”

For more information on the Jared Box Project, please visit this website: http://www.thejaredbox.com/.

Biomedical sciences doctoral students take top awards at regional conference


Contact: 
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.

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Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University

First Annual Appalachian Regional Cell Conference to be held in October

Appalachian Regional Cell Conference Posterby Allison Wolf

A collaborative effort between students at Marshall University, WVU, UK and OU has led to the organization of the first annual Appalachian Regional Cell Conference (ARCC). The goal of this scientific symposium is to foster interaction and future collaboration among students. Miranda Carper, former President of the GSO, calls the event a “a dynamic and interactive opportunity for research students to present their work to their peers.” The conference will host poster and oral presentations.

The event will be held on October 12, 2012 at the Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston, WV. A grant received from the American Society for Cell Biology will provide the funding.

Dr. Vinay Pathak, who has worked with the National Cancer Institute since 1999 as a Senior Investigator, will deliver the keynote speech. Dr. Pathak’s lab focuses mostly on research projects relating to HIV drug resistance.

According to Graduate Student Organization (GSO) Vice President, Johannes Fahrmann, “one of the biggest advantages to a student run conference is the fact that it takes out some of the intimidation factor that may be involved with a larger scale meeting that is run by mostly established individuals.” GSO secretary Ben Owen adds that, “because this meeting is a smaller conference, as compared to national conferences sponsored by societies, students will have a better chance of networking with others in a more relaxed atmosphere.”

If you would like to receive an application, or have any questions about the ARCC conference, please contact Allison Wolf (teter6@marshall.edu).

Ph.D. candidate Johannes Fahrmann helps raise over $18,000 to fight cancer

Johannes Fahrmann, GSO Vice PresidentHere at the BMS Graduate Program, it is not just professors who make the headlines. Last week it was announced that our own Johannes Fahrmann, a Ph.D. candidate and Vice-President of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Organization (GSO), organized an event that raised nearly $18,000 for the American Cancer Society.

The event, “GRΣΣKS AGAINST CANCER,” was a coordinated effort between Marshall’s Relay-For-Life, the GSO and the Marshall Greek Community. It was one of the biggest collaborative efforts ever to take place between Marshall University student organizations to raise money for a local charity. 

More than 600 Marshall students were involved, and Johannes hopes that the media exposure this event receives will help motivate others to join the fight against cancer.

The funds will be used at the local level to fund future research projects and to assist with patient care. The majority of the money will stay in Huntington and also benefit the surrounding counties.

In addition to serving as Vice-President of the GSO, Johannes is currently the Community Service and Philanthropy Alumni Advisor for Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. He has been a member of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity since 2005 and held numerous positions in the organization. He has also served as president of Marshall University’s Relay-For-Life and still actively participates in the organization’s local functions.

The event is Johannes’s brainchild and something that he has wanted to do for a long time. He originally pitched the idea to the Greek advisors at Marshall and then brought the idea to the entire Greek Community. The competition kicked off February 8th and ran for two months. The winning fundraising team received a flat screen TV donated by the GSO.

At the culmination of the event, Johannes said, “When I originally presented this idea, I would have never imagined that it would have been so successful. Today we, the Greek Community, showed our loved ones and friends who have had or are currently battling cancer that we will fight by their side, that we will fight cancer and that we will win! I am forever grateful to the Greek Community and participating parties. This was truly a powerful statement on behalf of the Greek Community and Marshall University.”

Congratulations, Johannes!

24th Annual Research Day hosted at Marshall University School of Medicine

M. Allison Wolf, Ph.D. candidateOn March 20th, the Marshall University School of Medicine hosted its 24th Annual Medical School Research Day. This medical-school wide event, which also encompasses the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, is one of the few times in the academic year that everyone in the school community gathers to learn about the research taking place at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine (JCESOM).

The event included nearly 80 research presentations and a keynote speech by Dr. William Thies, the Chief Medical and Science Officer for the National Alzheimer’s Organization. The goals of Research Day include giving participants an opportunity to formally present their research, involving the community in the ongoing research being performed at JCESOM, and encouraging Continuing Medical Education in clinical research.

The presenters included professors, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students, and residents. On the ground floor of the Marshall Medical Center, dozens of research projects were presented. According to Dr. Richard Niles, Senior Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education, the research presented ranged from Vitamin D3 supplementation to chili peppers and small cell lung cancer.

The following members of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program participated:

  • Dr. Piyali Dasgupta
  • Dr. Jung Han Kim
  • Flavia De Carlo, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio’s lab
  • Johannes Francois Fahrmann, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Elaine Hardman’s lab
  • Rounak Nande, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio’s lab
  • Aaron Dom, a medical student and former Medical Sciences Master’s student researching in Dr. Piyali Dasgupta’s lab
  • M. Allison Wolf, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio’s lab
  • Meagan Valentine, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Simon Collier’s lab
  • Miranda Carper, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio’s lab
  • Sarah Mathis, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio’s lab

The event followed an Alzheimer’s Disease Symposium, which took place on March 19th. Dr. Richard Egleton of the BMS Graduate Program was a guest speaker.

A few members of the BMS Graduate Program also received honors for their presentations at Research Day. M. Allison Wolf’s poster, entitled “Benzyl isothiocyanate targets chemoresistant and metastatic head and neck cell carcinoma cells,” won in the Poster Basic Science category. A researcher in Dr. Piyali Dasgupta’s lab, Clayton Crabtree, won in the Oral Basic Science category for his presentation, “Capsaicin induces apoptosis in human small cell lung cancer via the TRPV pathway.”

To learn more about the 24th Annual Research Day, look to the event website: http://musom.marshall.edu/research/. You can also download the following pdf documents directly:

Research Day 2012 Syllabus

Research Day 2012 Winners

BMS Program celebrates Seventh Annual Biomedical Sciences Research Retreat

Students attending the research retreatOn August 19, the faculty, staff, and students of the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program gathered together for the Seventh Annual Biomedical Sciences Research Retreat. Held at the Ramada Limited in Huntington, the retreat served as an excellent opportunity to socialize in an informal setting over a tasty lunch, share research projects and advancements, welcome a guest alumni speaker, and present awards for outstanding service and research. Dr. Elsa Mangiarua organized the event, as she does every year. Thanks to her guidance the event, as always, went smoothly and was a great success.

The event began with a buffet lunch, followed by time to mingle and view research posters. After lunch, a lively discussion commenced as research students and faculty members discussed their research projects with each other. Although this is a small group that interacts frequently, events such as this still evoke quite a bit of exchange and interest.

George Kamphaus, Ph.D.The poster presentations were followed by a seminar delivered by Dr. George Kamphaus, a graduate of the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. Program who completed a Post-Doc at Harvard. He delivered a seminar entitled “Fc-Fusion of Clotting Factor IX: Development of a Long-acting Clotting Factor.” Dr. Kamphaus is currently a Senior Scientist working for Syntonix Pharmaceuticals. There is currently only one drug on the market targeted to treated Hemophilia B, and his company is working diligently to change this fact. Currently, Hemophilia B patients must receive injections of this drug twice weekly to treat their disease. The drug that Syntonix is developing is a clotting factor that has a longer duration of action, enabling patients to instead receive weekly injections. According to Dr. Kamphaus, there are patients in India suffering from this condition who must currently travel more than 12 hours to receive their injections; a drug that can be injected once weekly will make a significant difference in the lives of such patients.

During his seminar, Dr. Kamphaus spoke highly of the BMS Ph.D. Program, expressing that it prepared him well for a career in the pharmaceutical industry. Unlike more established academic programs that may employ a silo structure, pharmaceutical companies are often smaller start-ups that require researchers to frequently interact. According to Dr. Kamphaus, the interdisciplinary nature of the BMS Program prepared him well for this. He also spoke fondly of the level of concern from BMS Program instructors: “They care about their students, and this really comes across. The individual attention to students is extraordinary, and much different than what you would find in other programs. I think this sets up BMS graduates well for success.”

After the seminar, a representative from each research cluster delivered a short presentation covering current cluster research. Ben Owen, a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience and Developmental Biology Cluster, discussed his research on action potentials; Aileen Marcelo, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes Cluster, spoke of her work focusing on VEGF; Johannes Fahrmann, a Ph.D. Student in the Cancer Biology Cluster, discussed the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on downregulating NFkB within early-stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia; Dr. Gary Rankin of the Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences Cluster updated the group on his work on genetic polymorphisms and unexpected methodone mortality; and Dr. Wei-ping Zeng of the Infectious and Immunological Diseases Cluster elaborated on his work with CD4 T cell differentiation.

Paula KounsThe cluster updates were followed by the presentation of awards for the 2010-2011 school year. Miranda Carper, President of the BMS GSO, presented the faculty awards. Awards were given to Dr. Travis Salisbury for Faculty Appreciation and Paula Kouns for Staff Appreciation. Dr. Salisbury was lauded for his accessibility to students. A student who nominated Dr. Salisbury remarked, “I appreciate the fact that he talks to me like an equal or a colleague.” In praise of Paula Kouns, another student stated: “Outside of being a genuinely nice and caring person, Paula goes above and beyond as our department secretary.”

 

Dr. Richard Niles presented the graduate student awards. The following students received awards: 

Sunil Kakarla, Ph.D. candidateBest Research Performance (Plaque and a paid trip to a national meeting up to $2,000): Sunil Kakarla

 

 

 

 

Anne Silvis, Ph.D. candidateBest Overall Performance as a Graduate Student (Plaque and a paid trip to an international meeting, up to $3,500): Anne Silvis

 

 

 

 

Highest GPA for a First Year Medical Sciences student (Plaque): Ross DeChant, Brittany Wall

Highest GPA for a First Year Research student (Plaque): Steven Rogers

Lotspeich Award ($1,000): Jesse Thornton

Best Creative Title for the Inaugural Issue of the BMS Magazine ($100): Miranda Carper

Thank you to our participants, speakers and award-winners. Also, a big thank you goes out to Dr. Mangiarua for doing such a great job in organizing the event! We look forward to seeing everyone at the gathering again next year.

Dr. Nalini Santanam selected to present at World Congress on Endometriosis

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

An abstract by Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program has been selected for oral presentation at the 11th World Congress on Endometriosis. The World Congress on Endometriosis is held once every three years to focus on new developments in the field of Endometriosis. This year, the Congress will take place from September 4 – 7 in Montpelier, France.

Endometriosis is a clinical condition that afflicts 10-15% of women of reproductive age (mainly diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 35), posing a major cause for infertility and chronic pain. Since the etiology of this disease is still unknown, very few treatment options are available. Surgery is currently the best treatment; however, due to a high recurrence rate, the disease commonly returns within three to six months post-surgery. The conference provides attendees the opportunity to present and discuss new research relating to the condition. The meeting promotes exchange between biologists, scientists, endocrinologists, and gynecologists in order to disseminate information and promote research in the treatment and pathogenesis of the condition. Most attendees at the Congress are scientists and clinicians, and new findings are presented from both perspectives.

Each abstract that is submitted to the Congress undergoes a rigorous selection process, and only the top five abstracts in each category are accepted for oral presentation. In the “pain mechanisms” category, Dr. Santanam’s abstract, entitled “Pain sensitive microRNAs in women with Endometriosis,” was one of the five abstracts selected for oral presentation. The abstract presents recent research from Dr. Santanam’s lab identifying biomarkers called “microRNAs” that are not only altered during endometriosis, but also correlated with patients’ pain symptoms. Dr. Santanam also submitted a second abstract, “Oxidized lipids and pain in endometriosis,” that was selected for a poster presentation. This study investigates the role of oxidative stress in the etiology of pain associated with endometriosis.

Dr. Santanam has been involved in endometriosis research for the past 15 years and has been a biomedical researcher at Marshall since 2007. Her laboratory research focuses on identifying unique biomarkers that could assist in either the diagnosis or treatment of endometriosis. There are many collaborators who Dr. Santanam would like to thank for the success of her research. She expresses gratitude for her collaboration with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Marshall University and Cabell Huntington Hospital. In particular, she would like to single out her collaboration with Dr. Brenda Dawley, Dr. Robert Nerhood, Dr. David Jude, and Ms. Sandra White. She is excited to be attending the Congress in order to present some of the fascinating data that she has recently generated in her laboratory with the help of Marshall undergraduate and graduate students. Students and lab personell who participated in the data collection include: Johannes Fahrmann, Holly King, Courtney Crain, and Carla Cook.

Congratulations, Dr. Santanam, on the success of your research!

You can learn more about the World Congress on Endometriosis from their website: http://www.wce2011.com/.