Dr. Piyali Dasgupta awarded NIH grant for lung cancer research

Piyali Dagupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Marshall University faculty member has been awarded a three-year, $426,000 grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to further her lung cancer research.
 
Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, will use the grant to continue her work to determine if the nutritional agent capsaicin—the active ingredient in chili peppers—can improve the anti-cancer activity of the commonly used chemotherapy drug cisplatin in patients with small cell lung cancer.
 
Dasgupta received the funding through the National Cancer Institute’s Academic Research Enhancement Award program. The program supports research projects in the biomedical and behavioral sciences that strengthen the research environment of the institution and expose students to research. Her co-investigator is Dr. Monica Valentovic, a professor in the same department.
 
“Small cell lung cancer is characterized by a high rate of growth, early metastasis and a dismal survival rate,” said Dasgupta. “Although chemotherapy works well initially in these patients, they often relapse quickly and become unresponsive to chemotherapy. Since the preliminary data in our laboratory shows that capsaicin manifests anti-cancer activity in this type of cancer, we are hopeful our studies under this new grant may lead to new treatments.”
 
She continued, “I am thrilled to receive this funding and I am grateful to a lot of people who have been instrumental in our success to this point. My collaborator Dr. Valentovic is a fabulous scientist to work with. I am also grateful to all the members of my lab for their hard work and dedication.”
 
Dasgupta also acknowledged the support of the chairman of her department, Dr. Gary Rankin, and acknowledged Dr. Marcia Harrison and the MU-ADVANCE program, which she says made it possible for undergraduate students to work in her lab. MU-ADVANCE is a National Science Foundation-funded program to help increase the number of female science and engineering faculty at the university.
 
Dasgupta says she believes her proposal was selected for funding at least in part because the grant program’s focus on student research made it a good match for her lab. Undergraduates working in her lab have a track record of receiving research grants, authoring publications and presenting their findings at international conferences.
 
Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, congratulated the researchers, saying, “NIH grants are extraordinarily competitive, and I applaud Drs. Dasgupta and Valentovic for having a successful application. They are doing vital research that may very well have a positive impact on human health in the not-so-distant future. In addition, the grant will allow them to continue to give students hands-on, meaningful research opportunities in the lab.”
 
In addition to receiving the new NIH funding, Dasgupta recently was notified that her grant from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute has been renewed for an additional two years. The renewal, which extends the original three-year award, makes the total grant worth nearly $550,000. That grant is funding Dasgupta’s study of how nicotine, the active component in cigarette smoke, facilitates the progression of lung cancer. Valentovic is also the co-investigator on that award. 

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Marshall scientist awarded NIH grant for lung cancer research

The following story from the Marshall University Research Corporation highlights two researchers within the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program: Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.


Piyali Dagupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.

 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Marshall University faculty member has been awarded a three-year, $426,000 grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to further her lung cancer research.

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, will use the grant to continue her work to determine if the nutritional agent capsaicin—the active ingredient in chili peppers—can improve the anti-cancer activity of the commonly used chemotherapy drug cisplatin in patients with small cell lung cancer.

Dasgupta received the funding through the National Cancer Institute’s Academic Research Enhancement Award program. The program supports research projects in the biomedical and behavioral sciences that strengthen the research environment of the institution and expose students to research. Her co-investigator is Dr. Monica Valentovic, a professor in the same department.

“Small cell lung cancer is characterized by a high rate of growth, early metastasis and a dismal survival rate,” said Dasgupta. “Although chemotherapy works well initially in these patients, they often relapse quickly and become unresponsive to chemotherapy. Since the preliminary data in our laboratory shows that capsaicin manifests anti-cancer activity in this type of cancer, we are hopeful our studies under this new grant may lead to new treatments.”

She continued, “I am thrilled to receive this funding and I am grateful to a lot of people who have been instrumental in our success to this point. My collaborator Dr. Valentovic is a fabulous scientist to work with. I am also grateful to all the members of my lab for their hard work and dedication.”

Dasgupta also acknowledged the support of the chairman of her department, Dr. Gary Rankin, and acknowledged Dr. Marcia Harrison and the MU-ADVANCE program, which she says made it possible for undergraduate students to work in her lab. MU-ADVANCE is a National Science Foundation-funded program to help increase the number of female science and engineering faculty at the university.

Dasgupta says she believes her proposal was selected for funding at least in part because the grant program’s focus on student research made it a good match for her lab. Undergraduates working in her lab have a track record of receiving research grants, authoring publications and presenting their findings at international conferences.

Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, congratulated the researchers, saying, “NIH grants are extraordinarily competitive, and I applaud Drs. Dasgupta and Valentovic for having a successful application. They are doing vital research that may very well have a positive impact on human health in the not-so-distant future. In addition, the grant will allow them to continue to give students hands-on, meaningful research opportunities in the lab.”

In addition to receiving the new NIH funding, Dasgupta recently was notified that her grant from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute has been renewed for an additional two years. The renewal, which extends the original three-year award, makes the total grant worth nearly $550,000. That grant is funding Dasgupta’s study of how nicotine, the active component in cigarette smoke, facilitates the progression of lung cancer. Valentovic is also the co-investigator on that award.


Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964

Dr. Maria Serrat awarded faculty fellowship and mini-grant by MU-ADVANCE

Maria Serrat, Ph.D.

The Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine is proud to announce that Dr. Maria Serrat has been awarded an MU-ADVANCE fellowship and mini-grant. Dr. Serrat is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology who researches within two biomedical science research clusters: Neuroscience and Developmental Biology and Toxicology and Environmental Health Science. The Marshall University news release below highlights Dr. Serrat and the other award winners. Congratulations, Dr. Serrat!


MU Press Release Contact: Ginny Painter, ginny.painter@marshall.edu

Marshall University’s MU-ADVANCE program has named four faculty fellows and awarded five mini-grants as part of the program to enhance the research and professional development of female faculty members in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.MU-ADVANCE is funded through a National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative called “Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers,” or ADVANCE for short. The national program supports projects, like the one at Marshall, to help institutions transform long-standing practices and academic climate that discourage women from pursuing careers in high-tech fields.

MU-ADVANCE faculty fellowships, intended for tenure-track faculty members, are awarded competitively based on a formal research proposal submitted by each applicant. Each of the four faculty fellows selected this year will receive $15,000 to be used for her research, and $5,000 for a senior research collaborator to help foster her professional development and success while preparing for tenure.

This year’s faculty fellows include Dr. Kristi Fondren, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, who uses the Appalachian Trail and its hikers to analyze how humans develop relationships with the environment; Dr. Hyoil Han, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, who is working to develop a system to help biomedical researchers quickly access evidence-based literature regarding breast cancer; Dr. Elizabeth Niese, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, who will use her award to further her work in algebraic combinatorics and to provide research opportunities for math students at Marshall; and Dr. Maria Serrat, assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Pathology, whose research uses real-time imaging to determine the impact of environmental factors like nutrition, temperature and physical activity on bone elongation.

Serrat said, “The MU-ADVANCE fellowships allowed me to establish and maintain a formal collaboration with a senior faculty mentor from Cornell University, whose expertise in biophysical imaging was critical to the progression of my microscopy research here at Marshall.”

For Serrat, this newest grant is a continuation of the faculty fellowship award she received last year. She is also one of five MU-ADVANCE mini-grant recipients this year.

The mini-grants are awarded in amounts up to $1,000, and fund tuition for professional development courses, registration and travel expenses for national meetings, development of grant proposals, interdisciplinary research efforts and manuscript preparation.

All five of this year’s mini-grant recipients are assistant professors at Marshall and, in addition to Serrat, include Dr. April Fugett-Fuller and Dr. Jennifer Tiano of the Department of Psychology, Dr. Anna Mummert of the Department of Mathematics, and Dr. Bin Wang of the Department of Chemistry.

“The best thing about the fellowships and mini-grants, in addition to the research funding, is that they provide a structure for outlining your professional goals and a means for documenting when and how you will achieve them,” added Serrat. “MU-ADVANCE recognizes that it is hard being a new assistant professor, and their funding opportunities have been invaluable to my professional development by helping me articulate and carry out a research plan alongside my teaching and service commitments.”

According to Dr. Marcia A. Harrison, professor of biological sciences at Marshall and the principal investigator on the MU-ADVANCE grant from NSF, the fellowships and mini-grants complement the recruitment, retention and policy efforts undertaken at the university over the past five years as part of the program.

“MU-ADVANCE’s support of networking has been crucial in enhancing faculty career development,” Harrison said. “The fellowships and mini-grants provide networking opportunities by funding travel to professional conferences and workshops, and laboratory visits to connect faculty members with other professionals worldwide.

“The program also sponsors campus networking events to foster collegiality and collaborations at Marshall, and has brought in experts to teach faculty critical career advancement skills like writing, delegation and time management.”

According to the NSF, women continue to be significantly underrepresented in almost all science and engineering fields. In fact, although 41 percent of all faculty members at Marshall are women, only 27 percent of science, technology, engineering and mathematics faculty members are female.

Research indicates that the lack of women’s full participation in science and engineering academic careers is unrelated to their ability, interest and technical skills, but is more often a systemic consequence of the culture and organizational structure at institutions of higher education. Difficulty balancing work and family demands also plays a key role.

The MU-ADVANCE program was established in 2006 with a $1.2 million NSF grant. In 2009, Marshall’s program was awarded funding for an additional two years, funded in part through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

For more information about MU-ADVANCE, contact Harrison at harrison@marshall.edu or visit www.marshall.edu/mu-advance.

Area high school students perform award-winning research with Dr. Collier

From left to right: David Neff, Dr. Simon Collier, Nathan Wang, and Jared GallowayTwo area high school students are receiving national recognition for their research working in the lab of Dr. Simon Collier, Chair of the BMS program’s Neuroscience and Developmental Biology research cluster.

The students, Nathan N. Wang and Jared M. Galloway, are seniors at Fairland High School in Proctorville, Ohio. They have been working in Collier’s lab since summer 2010 with Marshall graduate student David Neff on a project to explore the function of a rubber-like protein, resilin, in insect flight.

Research in Collier’s lab focuses on the genetic control of the basic developmental processes of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. According to Collier, Drosophila has been studied for more than 100 years because the organism has many genes and genetic pathways similar to humans. Collier is considered a pioneer in the field.

Neff, who is overseeing the students’ research, said, “This is an important project because not only has it increased our understanding of insect flight, it also has potential implications for the design of biotechnological devices and possibly tissue implants, which could employ molecularly engineered protein sheets.”

Wang and Galloway were nationally recognized for their research in October, when they were named semifinalists in the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. The highest science honor awarded to American high school students, the award is sponsored by the Siemens Foundation. Their project was one of only three from Ohio to reach the national semifinals.

Earlier this year, their project earned them superior ratings at the Fairland Schools Local Science Fair, the Ohio Academy of Science District 14 Science Day and the Ohio Academy of Science State Science Day, where they were recognized with the Sigma Xi Interdisciplinary Research Award presented by the Ohio State University chapter of the scientific research society.

Collier said, “Nathan and Jared are indeed outstanding young students with very bright futures ahead of them. They are doing exemplary research in our lab and I’m looking forward to watching where their academic careers take them.”

The research was supported with funding from the National Science Foundation and the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.