- Burnett School Cancer Division Cardio-Metabolism Division College of Medicine Infectious Disease Division Neurodegenerative Division Students
A dozen graduate student scientists presented their research addressing health conditions from tuberculosis to heart disease May 5 at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences 11th Annual Graduate Research Symposium.
The event’s goal – provide opportunities for young researchers to present their findings, tell the story of their scientific passion and learn what colleagues are doing across the Burnett School’s teaching labs.
Organizers applauded the diversity of studies coming from tomorrow’s scientific leaders. “The strength of Burnett is the wide range of people working side by side on a wide range of scientific topics,” said Dr. Kai McKinstry, chair of this year’s event who came to UCF about a year ago. “That’s one of the things that excited me to come to the College of Medicine. This symposium allows our graduate students to share each other’s work. That spurs conversations, collaborations and discussions of interdisciplinary tools, techniques and experimental models. It encourages communication among people who might not bump into each other every day.”
Research presentations were judged by Burnett School faculty and two guest judges – faculty member Dr. Nyla Dill, from the College of Medicine’s Medical Education Department, and Dr. Kenneth Alexander from Nemours Children’s Hospital. Winners from last year’s symposium moderated the presentations. Winners in the Ph.D. and Masters categories received monetary awards from faculty donations. Several awards are memorials to family members. The 2016 winners are:
1st place Ph.D. (Biomedical Sciences Director’s Award, $250, donated by Dr. Griffith Parks): Aladdin Riad – “Role of Lipid Peroxide Derived Dicarboxylic Acids in Atherosclerotic Calcification.” College of Medicine Mentor: Dr. Sampath Parthasarathy
2nd place Ph.D. (Everett W. Cole, Jr. Memorial Award, $100, donated by Dr. Alexander Cole): Hillary Bengtson – “Detection of XDR-TB using Deoxyribozyme Sensors.” College of Medicine Mentor: Dr. Kyle Rhode
1st place Masters (Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Award, $250, donated by Dr. Saleh Naser): Kristen Skruber – “The development of anti-metastatic agents which selectively target the polyamine transport system of human cancers.” College of Medicine Mentor: Dr. Otto Phanstiel.
2nd place Masters (Maya Singla Memorial Award, $100, donated by Dr. Dinender Singla): Bhavesh Gurwani – “Apolipoprotein-AI Regulates Hepatic VLDL Secretion by Controlling Intracellular VLDL Trafficking.” College of Medicine Mentor: Dr. Shadab Siddiqi.
Bengtson’s study focused on developing point-of-care diagnostic technologies for tuberculosis, which causes 9 million new infections and 1.5 million deaths a year. Existing diagnostics have high failure rates, high cost and take too long – delaying care. She is working to develop a molecular testing system that can detect TB and also identify strains that are drug resistant. She said the collaboration between her mentors – Dr. Rhode and Dr. Dmitry Kolpashchikov, from UCF’s Chemistry Department, where she did her undergraduate study, had shown her the excitement of interdisciplinary research. “I like the challenge of research,” she said. “Something changes every day. It teaches you perseverance.”
Riad is examining the molecular aspects of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. His is looking at the role of calcification that occurs when lipids are deposited in the arteries. The higher the calcification, the higher the atherosclerosis and the more advanced the heart disease. Riad called his award-winning symposium presentation “intense and exciting. You are really excited to talk about your research. The hard part is you only have about 10 minutes to describe all the things you are excited about.”
Dr. Griffith Parks, director of the Burnett School, said the symposium was a chance to celebrate the work of young scientists dedicated to fighting disease. “Here we get to celebrate the fruits of all the hard work of our graduate students,” he said.