Clayton Crabtree receives grant from Sigma Xi to study diabetic retinopathy

Clayton CrabtreeA Marshall University biology student has been awarded a grant to conduct research on diabetic retinopathy, a common eye disease during which excessive growth of blood vessels causes damage to the retina.

Clay M. Crabtree, a senior from Kenova, will receive the $1,800 Grants-in-Aid of Research award from the national science society Sigma Xi. The award will help fund his project to test potential treatments for the disease, which is the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans.

According to Crabtree, cigarette smoking is a risk factor for diabetic retinopathy because nicotine promotes the growth of blood vessels.

“Agents that can block the actions of nicotine should be useful for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy,” he continued. “My research involves testing three of these compounds for their ability to block the growth of new vessels in the retina.”

Crabtree’s mentor, Dr. Piyali Dasgupta of Marshall’s Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, said the grant will give Crabtree the opportunity to further his education through hands-on experience conducting research that could have a real impact on the health of people across the region.

“The findings from Clay’s project will be highly relevant to West Virginia because our state has a large number of diabetic patients who are active smokers,” she added. “It is a very commendable achievement to receive one of these grants and I look forward to seeing his project progress.”

Sigma Xi promotes the scientific enterprise and honors scientific achievement. The organization’s Grants-in-Aid of Research program, with funds designated from the National Academy of Sciences, provides undergraduate and graduate students with up to $2,500 for vision-related research.

Students use the funding to pay for travel expenses to and from a research site, or for purchase of laboratory equipment necessary to complete their research project.

According to Sigma Xi, the Grants-in-Aid of Research program is highly competitive and only approximately 20 percent of applicants receive funding.

For more information, contact Dasgupta at (304) 696-3612.

Courtney Crain Recognized for Excellence in Research

Courteney CrainCourteney Crain can now put another feather in her research cap! Ms. Crain is an undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., professor within Marshall University’s Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. She recently has been nominated to join Sigma Xi, which is the scientific honor society for research scientists and engineers ( It is an honor for Courtney to be nominated, as membership is by nomination only.

Courtney began researching as a junior biology major in Dr. Santanam’s lab in May 2010. A few months from then she was encouraged to apply for the NASA Undergraduate Fellowship. She was awarded this fellowship, which included a stipend and supply money to help support her continued reseach. This fellowship fueled Courtney’s focus on research and she submitted an abstract for the upcoming Sigma Xi Symposium. Her poster title was “Obesity in Catalase Transgenic Mice”, which she presented at the symposium on April 29, 2011. Courtney was recognized for her research accomplishments, and nominated for Sigma Xi membership by Dr. Marcia Harrison-Pittaniello, Professor of Biological Sciences at Marshall University.

Courtney plans to continue her research as a senior at Marshall, and hopes to continue her education in medical school.

Congratulations to Courtney!