Iriny Ekladious, a second year PhD student in the joint Biomedical Engineering and Biomolecular Pharmacology Program, was recently awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
The program “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students” pursuing graduate degrees in various NSF-supported programs across the country and “has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.”
This year alone, the National Science Foundation received over 14,000 competitive applications and only made 2,000 fellowship award offers. The chosen fellows “are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering.”
Iriny was also recently recognized for her service to the Boston University community as a Resident Assistant for Boston University’s Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) specialty housing. In an effort to create more support for women planning to major in STEM programs, BU opened a specialty community residence.
“It’s important to have a community of other women when you’re studying in the STEM fields,” says resident assistant Iriny Ekladious (ENG’17), a second year graduate student. “It can be intimidating, and women often feel outnumbered. Having a community like this gives students confidence and empowers them to say, ‘I’m good at this and I can do this,’ despite all the hurdles.”
Iriny’s dissertation work involves synthesizing, characterizing, and assessing the efficacy of pH-sensitive expansile nanoparticles for the local delivery of chemotherapeutic agents under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Grinstaff in the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology.
We are thrilled that Iriny has been recognized for extraordinary contributions in the engineering and field and for her exemplary leadership serving undergraduates in the WISE house!
Selected excerpts taken from an article originally published by BU Today on April 16, 2014.
Dr. Terry Gibbs receives the Excellence in Education and Mentoring Award from the Neurosteroid Congress
Terrell Gibbs, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, received the Excellence in Education and Mentoring Award at the Neurosteroid Congress held on April 3, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina.
Terry has served the scientific community with distinction for over 30 years. With undergraduate and doctoral training at MIT and Harvard Medical School, respectively, Terry pursued his interests in neuropharmacology, first at Downstate Medical Center and then at Boston University. His research has involved elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of CNS abnormalities such as autism and of CNS classes of agents such as benzodiazepines and neurosteroids. A long-standing collaboration with David Farb, Ph.D., Chair of Pharmacology at BU, has been an especially productive one in their joint efforts in the pursuit of molecular mechanisms of CNS phenomena. His work as a faculty member has also been characterized by a strong commitment to the education of students in various professional degree programs. Terry has played a key role in the design and implementation of the curriculum for the Biomolecular Pharmacology Predoctoral Training Program at Boston University, supported by NIGMS since 1997. He has guided innumerable PhD candidates through the concepts underlying ligand-receptor interactions, preparation for and successful completion of qualifying examinations, and the rigors of dissertation writing and defense. Medical, dental, and MA students at Boston University have also benefited from his remarkable skill at explaining the principles of pharmacology and the actions of drugs affecting the peripheral and central nervous system. All medical students over the past 23 years have learned the principles of pharmacodynamics under his tutelage and that his dedication to teaching the foundation of pharmacological principles has been a key component of their success on the boards.
Terry’s interest in pharmacologic research in many areas, and the rationale evaluation of evidence of drug efficacy and safety, have been hallmarks of his approach as an educator and served as an outstanding role model for both students and colleagues. His contributions to research have been numerous in the fields of benzodiazepines as modulators of GABAergic function and neuroactive steroids.
Hui Feng spends a lot of time staring through zebra fish. Through because these vertebrates, which have a great deal of genetics in common with humans, are transparent. In fact, one particular breed, called Casper—after the Friendly Ghost—is so phantasmal that Feng says that “you can read newspapers through this fish.”
Feng doesn’t read the news through them, though. The School of Medicine assistant professor of pharmacology and medicine is more interested in tracking the pathways of dyed tumor cells as they metastasize through the zebra fish’s vasculature, which is tinted a contrasting color. In the less than two years since her tank-filled lab opened, she has identified genes that, when blocked with targeted treatments, could prevent the metastasis of certain types of cancer, like the most stubborn forms of leukemia.
In recognition of her groundbreaking work, Feng was awarded the Ralph Edwards Career Development Professorship, which recognizes MED researchers. The award was made possible this year by the estate of obstetrician and gynecologist Ralph Edwards (MED’52).
Feng, director of the Laboratory of Zebrafish Genetics & Cancer Therapeutics, says the honor reminds her that University officials appreciate faculty research and they want to support it. “It’s not just about the money,” she says. “The spiritual or mental support really means so much to us.”
Karen Antman, MED dean and Medical Campus provost, recalls the researcher’s discoveries early in her career, which found their way to top-tier research journals, including Nature, Cell Biology, Cancer Cell, the Journal of Experimental Medicine, and PNAS. A graduate of Beijing Medical University, Feng completed a master’s in cardiovascular pharmacology at Peking Union Medical College and a doctorate in cellular biology at the University of Georgia.
“Since joining the School of Medicine faculty,” Antman says, “Dr. Feng has demonstrated an exceptional level of scholarship, mentorship, teaching, and collegiality and quickly established herself as an independent research scientist, effectively and efficiently setting up a robust research program.”
Feng is one of three assistant professors who were given career development awards, which recognize junior faculty who have been at the University for less than two years and have held no prior professorships. Cornel Ban, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of international relations, received the inaugural Stuart and Elizabeth Pratt Career Development Professorship, dedicated to CAS scholars. And Nachiketa Sahoo, a School of Management assistant professor of information systems, was awarded the Reidy Family Career Development Professorship, which has recognized faculty members in SMG and the College of Engineering in alternating years since 2010.
Contributions from BU trustee Stuart W. Pratt (CAS’69) and his wife, Elizabeth, and trustee Richard D. Reidy (SMG’82) and his wife, Minda G. Reidy (SMG’82, GSM’84) made the professorships possible.
Each award comes with a three-year nonrenewable stipend used to support scholarly or creative work and to cover a portion of the faculty member’s salary. Deans of the respective schools or colleges nominate faculty for these honors, and the Office of the Provost makes the final selections.
“We are extremely grateful to Stuart and Elizabeth Pratt, Richard and Minda Reidy, and posthumously, Ralph Edwards for their generosity and for the vision they’ve shown in supporting the future of these very important fields,” says Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer. These three professors were recognized for “their extraordinary accomplishments in areas of study, passion for the creation and transmission of knowledge, and their efforts to enhance the student experience.”
Ban’s research has focused on economic issues in Brazil, Spain, and Romania, and spans three principal topics: international finance, international economic organizations, and the diffusion of international economic ideas. He describes his first book, Governing Crises: The International Politics of Crisis Economics from Bretton Woods to the Great Recession, not yet published, as “a cautionary tale about how much we don’t know about how the financial markets work.” He is an expert on the failure of economic models used by governments or international banks to predict the financial crisis that swept the world within the past decade.
Ban earned a bachelor’s from Babes-Bolyai University, in Romania, a master’s degree from the University of Delaware, and a doctorate in political science from the University of Maryland. He says the award will give him the time and funding to launch his next book project, which will focus on the dynamics of international finance over the past couple of decades. “Without this kind of support,” he says, “I could not get it done.”
Andrew Bacevich, a CAS professor of history and international relations and acting chair of international relations, calls Ban an “emerging superstar” in the department. “Since his arrival a year ago, he has become a valued asset,” he says. “His performance as a teacher and scholar has demonstrated that he is precisely the sort of young faculty member for whom the Stuart and Elizabeth Pratt Career Development Professorship is designed.”
Sahoo holds a master’s degree in knowledge discovery and data mining and a doctorate in information systems and management, both from Carnegie Mellon University. His current research focus is on improving personalized information filtering techniques, such as that used by Netflix and Amazon, to help customers find products that best match their past interests. Recognizing that people are dynamic and that their preferences change over time, he has adjusted these filtering techniques so that they show more accurate recommendations across a variety of platforms.
In a separate branch of research, Sahoo is analyzing the messages exchanged between individuals on corporate social media, such as blogs, to identify expertise that exists inside a company.
“New technologies to help people connect to each other are exacerbating the problem of information overload at a personal level,” says Sahoo. “There is too much information to sift through and there is limited time. It’s important to develop tools and techniques that help us find the bits of relevant information faster.”
Sahoo says he will use the award to hire a research assistant to help with data collection and analysis.
“Dr. Sahoo is a wonderful addition to our faculty: a productive researcher, a great colleague, and a committed teacher,” says Kenneth Freeman, SMG’s Allen Questrom Professor and Dean.
At the Student Award Ceremony on Match Day, March 21, 2014, Rebecca Burke was awarded the Joseph Cochin Award in Pharmacology and Medical Ethics. This award honors the memory of Joseph Cochin, MD, PhD, who served as Professor of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at BUSM for many years. Dr. Cochin was an internationally recognized expert on opioid analgesia, pain control and medical ethics. Becky, a student in the Biomolecular Pharmacology Training Program from 2008-2012, received this award in recognition of her high achievement in pharmacology and accomplishments in research under the mentorship of Jan K. Blusztajn, PhD. Becky will receive her MD and PhD degrees at the BUSM May Graduation Ceremony and will continue her professional training with a residency at the University of Virginia in Neurological Surgery. Congratulations to Becky!
Richard D. Wainford, Ph.D., F.A.H.A., Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and member of The Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute at Boston University School of Medicine, has been awarded the 2014 Arthur C. Guyton Award for Excellence in Integrative Physiology and Medicine by The American Physiology Society (APS). This award is given annually to an individual who demonstrates outstanding promise based on his/her research program in feedback controls systems, quantitative modeling, and integrative physiology. The recipient is selected by members of the APS Awards Committee. In addition to the prestige of the award, the recipient is given $15,000 to support their research. Formal presentation of the Arthur C. Guyton Award will take place at the APS Business Meeting at the 2014 Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA on April 29, 2014.
As Director of the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Renal Research, Dr. Wainford’s research focuses on the central neural control of fluid and electrolyte homeostatis and blood pressure regulation. Please visit Dr. Wainford’s Laboratory website to learn more about his research.
Dr. Camron Bryant’s symposium proposal for the 2014 Annual Genes, Brain and Behavior Meeting of the International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society Meeting has been accepted as one of six symposia scheduled for this year’s meeting. The 16th annual conference will be held in Chicago, IL from May 10-13.
The title of the symposium that Dr. Bryant will chair is, “Behavioral, neural and genetic studies of compulsive eating in model organisms and humans.” The objective of this symposium is to highlight recent behavioral, neural, and genetic studies of compulsive eating that lie within the framework of addiction and to inform future studies in model organisms and humans.
Congratulations, Dr. Bryant!
Shelley J. Russek, PhD, professor of pharmacology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), and director of the School’s Graduate Program for Neuroscience, was recently honored with an award from the CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy) Foundation. The prestigious award, given as well to her colleague Amy Brooks-Kayal, MD, from University of Colorado Denver, will fund research studies for new drugs for epilepsy treatment.
Approximately 65 million people worldwide have epilepsy. Although certain brain injuries are known to predispose someone to epilepsy, there are no treatments that reduce this risk. Russek and her colleagues have found that an important cellular signaling pathway, the JAK/STAT pathway, is activated after brain injuries that lead to epilepsy, and that inhibiting this activation reduces subsequent seizure frequency in an experimental model. “We expect to identify lead JAK/STAT inhibitors that can be advanced towards clinical testing to prevent or inhibit development of acquired epilepsy following brain injury,” explained Russek.
CURE was founded by parents of children with epilepsy who were frustrated with their inability to protect their children from the devastation of seizures and the side effects of medications. Unwilling to sit back and accept the debilitating effects of epilepsy, these parents joined forces to spearhead the search for a cure. Each year, grants are funded based on promising trends in the field and the potential for breakthroughs in a specified area. Russek was selected with the assistance of the CURE Scientific Advisory Board, the Lay Review Council, and the scientific peer reviewers who generously volunteer their time to CURE.
CURE has raised more than $26 million to fund research and other initiatives. CURE funds seed grants to young and established investigators to explore new areas and collect the data necessary to apply for further funding by the National Institutes of Health. To date, CURE has awarded 151 cutting-edge projects.
Originally posted on the Boston University Medical Campus website.
Maya Woodbury was recently awarded the Predoctoral Fellowship in Pharmacology/Toxicology through the PhRMA Foundation. The title of her approved proposal is “miR-155/STAT3 signaling: a novel pharmacological target for Down syndrome.” For this project, she will receive financial support for her research in the amount of $20,000 per year for two years. The Foundation only awards about 10 such grants nationally each year.
According to the PhRMA Foundation’s 2012 Annual Report, “the mission of the PhRMA Foundation is to support young scientists in disciplines important to the pharmaceutical industry by awarding them competitive research fellowships and grants at a critical point at the outset of their careers. The aim is to encourage young scientists who will be the leaders of tomorrow to pursue careers in research and education related to drug discovery.”
Maya is currently a student in the Graduate Program for Neuroscience and the Biomolecular Pharmacology Program through the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine. She works in the Laboratory of Molecular NeuroTherapeutics under the mentorship of Dr. Tsuneya Ikezu.
The Peter F. McManus Charitable Trust Foundation recently honored Dr. Valentina Sabino for the second time with a grant to research the causes of alcohol addiction. The title of her approved project is “Neurobiological Bases of Alcohol Addiction.”
According to Dr. Sabino, “alcoholism constitutes one of the most serious public health problems worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that about 2 billion people worldwide consume alcoholic beverages, of which 76.3 million have alcohol use disorders. Alcohol is estimated to cause 20%–30% of esophageal cancer, liver cancer and cirrhosis, homicide, seizures, and motor vehicle accidents, causing 3.2% of the total deaths.
This project will systematically explore the role of an understudied receptor system, the Sigma receptors, in genetic and chronic ethanol-induced animal models of alcoholism. The focus will be the Nucleus Accumbens, an important brain region for alcohol and drug addiction, proposed as being the specific region where Sigma receptors mediated neuroplasticity in addicted brains.
These experiments will provide insights into this novel receptor system as a key mechanism involved in excessive drinking and alcohol-seeking behavior and propose a novel therapeutic target for alcohol addiction.”
Dr. Sabino received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 2006. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and Department of Psychiatry, and Co-Director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders at Boston University School of Medicine.
Congratulations, Dr. Sabino!
Dr. Camron Bryant has been selected as the recipient of the 2014 IBANGS Young Scientist Award. The Young Scientist Award honors a scientist who is 7 or fewer years post first faculty or faculty-equivalent appointment, and whose area of research is in behavioural and neural genetics. Key considerations are the scientific importance of research discoveries, record of achievement and future scientific plans and projected impact on the field.
Congratulations, Dr. Bryant!