APS awards more than $140,000 to minority students of physiology


August 30, 2004 BETHESDA, Md. Since 1966, the American Physiological Society (APS) has awarded its Porter Physiology Fellowship to historically underrepresented minorities in science to encourage diversity among students pursuing full-time studies toward a Ph.D. in the discipline of physiology. This year, eight outstanding students have been awarded the one-year fellowship that provides each winner with an $18,000 stipend. To date, the APS has provided more than 100 fellowships to minority pre- and postdoctoral students.

2004-2005 APS Porter Physiology Fellows:

Christina Bennett University of Michigan
Ms. Bennett studies how Wnt protein-activated signaling pathways direct stem cells to develop into bone rather than fat. Her lab has discovered that activation of Wnt signaling inhibits differentiation of fat cells and prevents obesity in mice. Currently, she is testing whether Wnt signaling results in fewer fat cells and more bone forming cells in the marrow cavity. This work may provide a new target for preventing the bone loss associated with aging and/or menopause.

Adrienne Bratcher University of Louisville School of Medicine
Ms. Bratcher is conducting research in the area of hypertension. She is investigating the effects of increased dietary salt intake on microcirculation. Her research will give insight on the mechanism of hypertension due to high levels of salt.

Jessica Clark University of Arizona
The focus of Ms. Clark's research is epidermal growth factor (EGF) and its role in protecting the intestine against a disease that affects premature babies, called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Her lab has shown that supplementing EGF into infant formula reduces the incidence and severity of NEC in neonatal rats. There is currently no preventative treatment for NEC, so by better understanding the mechanisms of how EGF protects the intestine, this research may provide the basis for future therapeutic strategies for the treatment of human NEC.

Alfredo Garcia III Wright State University
Through the use of an in vitro experimental model, Mr. Garcia is studying the effects of excess oxygen on electrical signaling in the central nervous system (CNS). This research will help elucidate the neural mechanism that causes CNS oxygen toxicity. CNS oxygen toxicity is a potential health problem for hyperbaric oxygen therapy patients and U.S. Navy divers who breathe pure oxygen during their missions.

Damon Jacobs University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Secretion of enzymes and fluid is the primary function in many glands in the human body. Mr. Jacob's research is focused on the function of Myosin 5c, a molecular motor protein that is abundantly found in glandular tissues and is hypothesized to facilitate the process of secretion. His research may help to determine the molecular mechanisms that regulate secretion in various tissues, such as the pancreas, mammary gland, and the lacrimal gland.

Walson Metzger University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Mr. Metzger's research is designed to investigate how the hepatitis B Virus (HBV) induces apoptosis (cell death) in liver cells. His lab suspects that protein kinase C- (PKC-) and PKC- play an integral role in apoptosis through their interaction with hepatitis B X (HBx), a viral transactivator expressed during HBV infection. They hypothesize that, during HBV infection, these two PKC variations are activated and alter mitochondrial calcium signaling which contributes to apoptosis.

Gary Morris Eastern Virginia Medical School
Mr. Morris is researching the cAMP-dependent kinase, a family of enzymes that are central to physiological functions including energy metabolism, water homeostasis, gene expression, and muscle contraction. Structural variations in cAMP-dependent kinases give these enzymes the flexibility to regulate multiple cellular processes. This research will help in understanding one mechanism by which cells formulate responses to external signals such as hormones or therapeutic agents.

Stefanie Raymond-Whish Northern Arizona University
Ms. Raymond-Whish investigates the effects of environmentally relevant doses of uranium on the female reproductive system. Studies conducted in her lab suggest that uranium acts like the hormone estrogen by eliciting estrogen-sensitive responses in uterine tissue. She plans to investigate the mechanisms through which uranium elicits these responses.

"This program has aimed to make careers in physiology accessible to minority students since the 60's and has been widely successful in that goal," said Dr. Martin Frank, executive director of the APS. "Former Porter fellows include a director of a NIH Institute, leaders within the National Science Foundation, and department and program heads in academic institutions. The Society is happy to have assisted in their success," he added.

The Porter fellowships are designed to increase the participation of underrepresented minority students in the physiological sciences and to encourage their recruitment to responsible positions in academic institutions throughout the United States. In May, APS was honored with the 2003 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Engineering Mentoring, which in part recognized APS for 40 years of extraordinary efforts to mentor underrepresented minorities in the physiological sciences.

The fellowship is open to underrepresented ethnic minority applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its territories (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Native Alaskans or Native Pacific Islanders). For more information on the Porter Physiology Fellowship or the other education programs APS administers, go to www.the-aps.org/awards/student.htm or email the APS Education office at education@the-aps.org.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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