Biomedical sciences student selected for Chancellor’s Scholar Program

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University biomedical sciences graduate student Kristeena L. Ray has been selected for the university’s Chancellor’s Scholar Program, an initiative to help ensure the academic success of underrepresented minority doctoral students.

The program will provide Ray with a stipend of $10,000 per semester. In addition, she will receive mentoring and research opportunities through the university, networking opportunities through the Southern Regional Education Board doctoral scholars program, and financial support for her dissertation and thesis work.

A native of Glen Allen, Va., Ray received her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Duke University in 2009. She worked as a research assistant at Duke and as a process development engineer at Talecris Biotherapeutics in Clayton, N.C. She has been a graduate student at Marshall since 2011.

“Kristeena is a truly outstanding graduate student and we are thrilled to present her with our first award from the new Chancellor’s Scholar Program,” said Dr. Shari Clarke, vice president for multicultural affairs. “The ideal candidate, she is dedicated, well-rounded and committed to her research.”

Ray said, “Being part of this program is such a gift and an honor. The stipend lightens the burden of locating funding and allows me to really focus on my research. I am also excited to take advantage of the additional benefits, including networking opportunities and membership in key organizations in my field.”

Ray works in the lab of Dr. Nalini Santanam, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Her research is focused on endometriosis and the pain caused by the disease, which is characterized by cells normally present in the uterus migrating outside the organ and attaching to other places in the pelvis. At least one in seven women suffers from the condition.

Specifically, Ray is investigating the epigenetics of pain in endometriosis the changes caused to DNA and genes by environment and lifestyle.

She said, “We’re looking at epigenetic markers in patients with endometriosis. We believe that our continuing research in this area will help us better understand what leads to endometriosis in some women and find alternate treatment options for its symptoms.

“Long-term, I am interested in the research and development behind drugs and therapies, such as one that may benefit women with endometriosis.”

In April, she presented her research at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which was held in conjunction with the Experimental Biology conference in Boston.

Ray serves as president of the Graduate Student Organization, is a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and volunteers with the March of Dimes and the Tri-State Literacy Council.

The Chancellor’s Scholar Program at Marshall is funded through the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.