Our Department Business Administrator Rod Romilly, B.S.E., retires this week. We had a big send off last week with a taco and nacho lunch. Thanks Rod for your years of service and best of luck in retirement!
I am Qiong Li, M.D., Ph.D., a visiting scholar from China. I am an associate professor and Vice President of the Nursing College at Xinxiang Medical University. My main research fields are stem cells and myocardial regeneration.
From September 2017 to August 2018, I worked at the Physiology and Biophysics Department at UAMS with Brian Storrie, Ph.D., as a visiting scholar supported by the China Scholarship Council. In this period, my research concentrated on the structure-function relationships of platelets. I learned some advanced imaging techniques, including the electron microscope, super-resolution microscopy and confocal microscopy. Professor Storrie gave me a lot of guidance. Irina, Shijie and Jeff gave me a lot of help and we also established friendships. I was most impressed with the professor’s wisdom and enthusiasm for scientific research. After returning to China, I hope to have the opportunity to invite Dr. Storrie to give lectures in China.
During my visit, I also visited Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., RN, dean of the College of Nursing, to discuss plans for future teachers’ exchanges. After spending some time examining the nursing curriculum, I will introduce some advanced and different teaching opinions to Xinxiang Medical University. The information I gained will also be helpful to the future research cooperation between the nursing colleges.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for helping me.
We caught up with 2009 graduate Ying Su, Ph.D.:
Upon completion of my Ph.D., I moved to Boston for post-doctoral training at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). During my tenure at DFCI, I developed a strong sense that scientific insight is essential in the drug development process. Hence, I decided to pursue a career in translational medicine in the healthcare industry.
Currently, I head up the Translational Medicine department at Deciphera Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Deciphera is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on addressing key mechanisms of tumor drug resistance. The Translational Medicine group provides scientific expertise to generate clinical development strategies including implementation of pharmacodynamic biomarkers indicating target engagement, hypothesis for patient enrichment and bringing clinical feedback back to discovery scientists.
I am grateful to have Dr. Rosie Simmen as my Ph.D. mentor and for all the training I have received at UAMS. It provided me with a solid foundation to pursue a fulfilling and rewarding career.
Science can lead you to some unexpected places.
Just ask Aime Franco, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Biophysics, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 22 but never expected to make a career out of researching it.
Franco gave the keynote talk July 25 to the students, mentors, administrators and guests gathered for the seventh annual Central Arkansas Undergraduate Summer Research Symposium. She initially wanted to be a physician, but then her training led down a different path. She started in sports medicine, then nutrition science and H. pylori research before circling around to thyroid cancer. In 2018, her research efforts paid off through a four-year $791,000 grant award from the National Cancer Institute to support her work.
“I never wanted to investigate the disease that I had,” Franco said. “There’s an element of ignorance is bliss and there are probably some things you just don’t want to know. But I think it has totally and completely enriched my experience in my research because I have a different perspective — that of a patient.”
Franco capped off the all-day symposium showcasing undergraduate research across the state of Arkansas where research careers like hers tend to take off. Students present their work with posters and oral presentations. About 120 students attended the event, with about 100 of them presenting their work. Their faculty research mentors as well as summer program administrators, poster judges and members of the public joined them for the event, for a total of about 250.
The focus on Franco’s story was intentional, said Grover P. Miller, Ph.D., a professor in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department in the College of Medicine. He has been co-directing the symposium with his department chair, Kevin D. Raney, Ph.D., for the past seven years.
“We like to pick someone who has gone through a journey to get where they are,” Miller said. “Linear careers are a thing of the past. Today’s science field is dynamic, ever changing, and people take different paths. We want the students to think about how their research experience might be a step along their path, even if bench research isn’t where their career ultimately takes them.”
A deeper understanding of science – and a strengthening of science communication skills, specifically – benefits both the students and society, Miller said.
“Science inundates a lot of our decision-making process as a society, but the people making those decisions don’t always have a background in scientific thinking,” Miller said. “It’s on us as scientists or science-backed thinkers to become better at communicating with leadership and the public at large.”
Lessons like that weren’t lost on Alexis Baker, a student from Hendrix College who attended with Sydnee Curry, who was presenting a poster on their biochemistry research on pain-sensing neurons.
“A big part of the experience of coming to events like these is the experience of being in a scientific setting and practicing communication,” Baker said. “We’re building up, going to bigger and bigger conferences. I want someday to apply for med school, so to practice being comfortable talking about science with scientists is even important for something like my med school entrance interviews.”
Kamille Willis from the University of Miami was another poster presenter, who spent the summer doing research at the National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson, Arkansas. She helped develop a flow cytometry assay to analyze antibodies against polyethylene glycol. She said that the symposium and events like it teach students to not only communicate, but to listen to questions and feedback.
“The first time it happens, it is a little difficult, but you have to get used to it. They’re not saying it to knock you down,” Willis said. “You have to learn to come from the perspective, ‘well, maybe I really didn’t consider that’ or ‘maybe that would be a good idea.’ Everyone here is looking to help you and better your research, and being part of that dialog is part of learning to be a scientist.”
In addition, Miller said another important benefit of the event is that it showcases just how much excellent work is being done in Arkansas and the support that makes it possible.
“We are a small state, but we have some great science here,” Miller said.
Franco agreed, and referenced the quality of the work in her closing remarks to the students.
“Although I’m fine with the path I took – I think each of our journeys lead us to where we need to be — I will say that I think you guys are so lucky to have an opportunity to do research of this quality at the undergraduate level and I really am in awe of what you have been able to accomplish and the work I’ve seen from you here today.”
The event was held in the I. Dodd Wilson Education Building and hosted by the Graduate School and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UAMS as well as the National Institutes of Health-supported INBRE program and the UAMS Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) to Increase Diversity in Research.
We checked up with 2018 graduate Sarah Zimmerman, Ph.D.:
I am now working as a postdoc with Roberta Faccio in the Orthopaedic Surgery department at Washington University School of Medicine. My project is on breast cancer metastasis to bone, and I am studying the role of DKK1 protein in the changes in bone mass and immune cell populations that occur during cancer progression.
Congratulations, Sarah, and please keep in touch!
Parimal Chowdhury, Ph.D., a Professor in the Department of Cellular Physiology and Molecular Biophysics, has been invited by the International Society for the Prevention of Tobacco Induced Diseases (ISPTID) to present a talk in their 14th Annual meeting to be held in Izmir, Turkey, October 4-6, 2018.
Dr. Chowdhury is a member of the Scientific Committee of ISPTID and serves as an American Regional Director of the society. The title of Dr. Chowdhury’s presentation is : A model of pancreatitis and pancreatic oncogenesis following exposure to Nicotine
Dr. Chowdhury recently presented a paper entitled: Radiation-induced endothelial dysfunction markers are differentially modulated by simulated microgravity” in 2018 Experimental Biology meeting, held in San Diego, California from April 21-25, 2018
Congratulations to Dr. Aime Franco on her promotion to Associate Professor with tenure!
More Great News for the Franco Laboratory, as their R01 application “MAPK Pathway modulation in thyroid tumorigenesis” was funded by the NIH (NCI). Congratulations!
Congratulations to Zachary Nickell from the Franco Lab on his acceptance to graduate school. Zach will be attending Florida Atlantic University in the fall to join their Ph.D. program in Evolutionary Biology.
Congratulations to Caitlin Caperton, a M.D./Ph.D. student in the Franco lab on the awarding of her fellowship for the SPaT Program. Her project will focus on the role of Ras in the development of follicular thyroid cancer and novel therapeutic approaches to treat advanced Ras-driven thyroid tumors.
Dean’s Honor Day: Master Teacher Award
Michael Jennings, Ph.D.
The annual College of Medicine Dean’s Honor Awards were held April 24. Jennings, who has served as professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics since 1995, was honored for his advocacy of the active learning methods and integrated curriculum for first- and second-year medical students that the College of Medicine has today.
Gwen Childs, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, noted Jennings’ eagerness to champion curriculum reform, starting in the early 2000s, in addition to his other leadership roles and responsibilities and his work as an active researcher internationally known for his work in the mechanisms of ion transport.
“Dr. Jennings was an early and effective advocate for moving us toward a more integrated, active, organ-based curriculum for M1s and M2s,” Childs said. “He understood the need to better engage and integrate our students in the learning process.”
In addition to formal roles on committees, Jennings was effective in getting faculty members on board with curriculum advancements and methodologies such as problem-based learning, team-based learning and hands-on simulation education as the college shifted from traditional lecture-focused education, Childs said.
Leslie Climer successfully defended her doctoral thesis entitled Lets Get Kracken: Anchoring the COG Complex to Golgi Membranes on Monday, April 16, 2018.
Jessica Bailey Blackburn successfully defended her doctoral thesis entitled Maintaining Order: What COG Complex Knockouts and Other Gycosylation Mutants Reveal About Golgi Trafficking, Processing, and Sorting on Tuesday, April 10, 2018.
Congratulations to the new Dr. Lorenzo M. Fernandes, who successfully completed his Ph.D. program on March 28, 2018.
Aime Franco, Ph.D., spoke at the kick off for the Hot Springs Village Walk for Cancer Research. She will also be the guest speaker for the community’s “Doctor in the Village” series on May 17. Get more details from the Hot Springs Village Voice website.
John Mark P. Pabona, M.D., a postdoctoral alumnus of Dr. Rosie Simmen’s group, presented the group’s research findings at the recent annual meeting of The Endocrine Society (ENDO 2018) in Chicago. Dr. Rosie Simmen and Dr. Frank Simmen were also in attendance. UAMS faculty co-authors of the presented work were Dr. Charles M. Quick (Pathology), Dr. Frank A. Simmen and Dr. Alexander F. Burnett (Obstetrics & Gynecology).
Congratulations to Sarah Zimmerman, Ph.D. candidate. She successfully defended her doctoral thesis The Role of Osteocytes in Osteogenesis Imperfecta on Monday, February 26, 2018.
Watch a video by the American Thyroid Association that features Aime Franco, Ph.D., concerning ATA thyroid research work and impact.