By Wendy Sarubbi | April 15, 2011 1:43 pm

A Molecular Biology and Microbiology major and a faculty member in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences recently received the 2011 UCF College of Medicine Founders’ Day Awards. The annual awards recognize extraordinary contributions to the university community.

College of Medicine winners were student Alana Bhavani Persaud and Professor Debopam Chakrabarti, Ph. D.

Alana maintains a perfect 4.0 grade point average and has been extensively involved in biomedical research while at the Burnett school. She initially worked on a project investigating the role of a LIM Kinase protein in metastasis of cancer. Currently she is working in Dr. Alexander Cole’s laboratory on an innate immunity project studying how Staphylococcus aureus colonizes the nasal carriage and causes disease. Her research was so groundbreaking that it was awarded a UCF SMART research grant.

Alana was selected as a President’s Scholar for 2010 which funded a study experience abroad. She also was honored with a fellowship from UCF’s Global Perspectives Office that allowed her to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Indian culture. She participated in a medical internship in St. Kitts related to her career goal of becoming a physician.

Alana is also heavily involved in extracurricular activities and community service. She is active in the American Medical Student Association and serves as the Academic Liaison Director for the Pre-professional Medical Society. She volunteered in the Pediatric Units at Florida Hospital and worked as a camp counselor for children with Sickle Cell Anemia at Camp Boggy Creek. Other volunteer activities include work with the Ronald McDonald House, Give the Kids the World, the Sangam Indian Association, and a Junior Achievement Partnership with local elementary schools.

In her “spare” time, Alana is a musician. She plays the harmonium, a traditional Indian instrument, and African drums.

Dr. Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist, was a dual award recipient, receiving the College of Medicine’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award and the University Award for Excellence in Research.

Dr. Chakrabarti’s focus is malaria, a disease responsible for approximately 1 million deaths a year. There are many drug-resistant strains of malaria, making it difficult to treat with existing drugs. Dr. Chakrabarti is researching the molecular mechanisms of the infectious parasite to identify novel therapies.

Recently he began analyzing more than 2,500 samples from marine organisms collected off deep sea waters near Florida’s coast that could hold the key to developing drugs to fight malaria, a mosquito-borne illness. He is excited about early promising results that have identified about 300 samples that can kill malaria parasites.

Dr. Chakrabarti has been researching drug targets against malaria for the past 20 years, the last 15 at the Burnett school. He previously worked at the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research and College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida. He has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Calcutta, India.

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