On 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.
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.
The 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:
Best Research Performance (Plaque and a paid trip to a national meeting up to $2,000): Sunil Kakarla
Best 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.