Members of our faculty are always striving to increase the research presence of the department. Many innovative proposals are submitted each year to federal and state agencies and private foundations with the hope of receiving a coveted grant.There was significant success in 2012!
Department awarded GAANN Grant
The Department of Biological Sciences was recently awarded a GAANN (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of this grant is to increase the number of under-represented minorities in professional fields in Biology. The grant will support at least 6 graduate student fellowships over the next three years.
Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, M. Kathryn Iovine and Professor Jennifer Swann will oversee the GAANN fellowship program. The specific components of the fellowship include a full tuition waver, fellowship stipend for two years, funds to attend a scientific conference, a supervised teaching experience. After year 2 of the fellowship, students will be supported as either a teaching assistant or a research assistant in the department.
Faculty awarded research support
Lynne Cassimeris received funding for three different projects:
- PA CURE - Computer automated image analysis methods provide the large data sets needed for statistical analysis. Cassimeris is adapting several automated algorithms to follow the polymerization dynamics of microtubules in living cells. This new methodology will be applied to understanding how a chemotherapy targeting microtubules is able to disrupt their normal function.
- National Institutes of Health - Cancer cells ignore normal control signals and reproduce excessively. The Cassimeris Lab found evidence for a previously unrecognized pathway that can control when cells divide (reproduce) and whether they live or die. This pathway looks critical for cancer cell survival. Cassimeris is looking to identify the molecular pathway controlling the life and death decision, which could lead to new ways of targeting cancer cells for death.
- Department of Defense - The best treatment option available now for late stage metastatic prostate cancer is a drug that targets the microtubule cytoskeleton of cells (the cell's bones). Cassimeris hypothesizes that the microtubule cytoskeleton regulates intracellular metabolism and that a combination therapy of drugs targeting microtubules with those blocking intracellular metabolism will provide enhanced killing of prostate cancer cell lines.
Kathy Iovine was awarded two grants:
- National Science Foundation – Skeletal growth and patterning are coordinated by direct cell-cell communication mediated by Cx43 gap junctions. The goal of this grant is to reveal the Cx43-dependent changes in gene expression, and in turn to place these genes in a molecular network. Findings from this proposal will provide novel insights into how gap junctional communication can regulate complex developmental processes, such as building a functional skeleton.
- National Institutes of Health – Cx43 coordinates skeletal growth (cell proliferation) with skeletal patterning (joint formation). Prior findings revealed that the secreted signaling factor, Sema3d, mediates Cx43-dependent cell proliferation and joint formation. Sema3d could mediate these effects through regulation of the vasculature, neuronal growth, cell proliferation, or cell differentiation. The goal of this proposal is to reveal which of these cellular processes is regulated by Sema3d function.
Murray Itzkowitz received funding for his conservation ecology research:
- Texas Parks and Wildlife – The aim is to protect the highly endangered Leon Springs pupfish (Cyprinodon bovinus) found in the West Texas desert. (see related article)