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12/4/2015 9:00 AMYes
1
Emil R. Unanue, MD, an internationally renowned immunologist at the School of Medicine, has received a Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award for his invaluable contributions to the field of immunology. The annual awards honor scientists who have made outstanding contributions to biomedical research in fields that profoundly affect global health.
Emil R. Unanue, MD, an internationally renowned immunologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received a Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award for his invaluable contributions to the field of immunology.
 
The annual awards honor scientists who have made outstanding contributions to biomedical research in fields that profoundly affect global health. This year, the honorees stood out for their advances in tropical and neglected diseases, and immunology. 
 
Unanue, one of four researchers honored at a ceremony in Paris, was recognized for his work to understand how the immune system identifies foreign protein fragments, or antigens   a first step in mounting an immune response. That work has paved the way for research into therapies for autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, which are caused by misdirected immune responses.
 
“I am very honored to receive this award and this recognition,” said Unanue, the Paul and Ellen Lacy Professor of Pathology and Immunology. “I have been fortunate throughout my career to work with and among extremely dedicated researchers whose ultimate goal has been to understand and advance science. I am grateful that support for basic research exists and am encouraged by the promise of innovation still to come.”
GIL LEFAUCONNIER
Emil Unanue, MD, is one of four scientists to receive a 2015 Sanofi-Pasteur Institut Award. He was honored for his invaluable contributions to the field of immunology.
 
During Unanue’s tenure as head of the university’sDepartment of Pathology and Immunology from 1985-2006, the immunology program became one of the most productive centers in the world for immunological research.
 
He is recognized internationally as a leader in research to decipher how the immune system recognizes foreign antigens and how immune systems T cells respond. These cells are important components of the body’s response to infectious diseases. When misdirected against the body’s own tissues, they can make major harmful contributions that lead to autoimmune conditions.
 
In the 1980s, Unanue’s research group uncovered a critical component of how T cells recognize foreign invaders. Scientists previously had speculated that the cells were recognizing the shapes of intact pathogens, but Unanue showed that they were identifying parts of pathogens during their interactions with another group of immune cells, the antigen-presenting cells.
 
These cells pick up antigens and degrade them to fragments or peptides. Unanue and Paul Allen, PhD, the Robert L. Kroc Professor of Pathology and Immunology, discovered that antigen-presenting cells bind these peptides to a special group of molecules known as the major histocompatibility complex.

 

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11/17/2015 11:00 AMYes
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The study raises the possibility of using inexpensive and widely available anti-parasitic drugs as a preventive measure in places where the parasite and TB are common — stopping infection with the parasite and reducing susceptibility to TB and the risk of a latent TB infection progressing to disease.

Scientists have shown how a parasitic worm infection common in the developing world increases susceptibility to tuberculosis. The study demonstrated that treating the parasite reduces lung damage seen in mice that also are infected with tuberculosis, thereby eliminating the vulnerability to tuberculosis (TB) that the parasite is known to cause.
 
The study raises the possibility of using inexpensive and widely available anti-parasitic drugs as a preventive measure in places where the parasite and TB are common — stopping infection with the parasite and reducing susceptibility to TB and the risk of a latent TB infection progressing to disease.
 
The research, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, appears online Nov. 16 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
 
“Scientists and doctors have known that having both infections — this parasitic worm and tuberculosis — results in increased susceptibility to severe lung disease than having TB alone,” said Shabaana A. Khader, PhD, associate professor of molecular microbiology. “But if we don’t understand why co-infection increases the susceptibility to TB, it is difficult to know how to deal with the situation.”

 

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11/10/2015 9:00 AMYes
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The work, published Nov. 9 in advanced online publication of Nature Methods, is the first to combine deep-penetration, high-resolution photoacoustic tomography with a reversibly switchable, non-fluorescent bacterial phytochrome.

Using a high-tech imaging method, a team of biomedical engineers at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis was able to seeearly-developing cancer cells deeper in tissue than ever before with the help of a novel protein from a bacterium.
 
Lihong Wang, PhD, the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the School of Engineering; Junjie Yao, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Wang’s lab, and a team of engineers found that by genetically modifying glioblastoma cancer cells to express BphP1 protein, derived from the rhodopsuedomonas palustris bacterium, they could clearly see tens to hundreds of live cancer cells as deep as 1 centimeter in tissue using photoacoustic tomography.
 
The work, published Nov. 9 in advanced online publication of Nature Methods, is the first to combine deep-penetration, high-resolution photoacoustic tomography with a reversibly switchable, non-fluorescent bacterial phytochrome.

 

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6/14/2013 12:00 AMYes

Congrats Eric!! ​

 

  • Team/Name: Eric Hamilton and Melanie Bauer

  • Title: Communicating Science to the Public: A New Graduate Course and Practicum
  • University: Washington University in St. Louis
  • Field of Study: Plant Biology (Eric) & Psychology (Melanie)
  • Bio: We are both graduate students at Washington University in St. Louis with experience doing science outreach. Melanie Bauer, a 3rd-year graduate student in psychology, has presented science to the public through participation in science outreach and science journalism. Eric Hamilton, a 1st-year plant biology graduate student, is working to establish a strong relationship between area plant biologists and community gardeners.
  • Entry Summary: We scientists try and often fail to communicate our research to the general public. To address this issue, we propose a graduate level course to train students to translate the jargon of their fields and communicate a message that is interesting and relevant for the general public. We also propose a practicum component for this course in which students would practice their science communication skills with local, regional, and national audiences.

MORE ABOUT THIS AWARD

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8/17/2012 12:00 AMYes
4

When the body makes immune T cells, it relies on a molecular channel more commonly seen in nerves and heart muscles to ensure that the powerful T cells have the right mixture of aggressiveness and restraint, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered.​

When the body makes immune T cells, it relies on a molecular
channel more commonly seen in nerves and heart muscles to ensure that the powerful T cells have the right mixture of aggressiveness and restraint, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered.

AllenImmuneIslands2.jpgScientists report online in Nature Immunology that fledgling T cells temporarily make a protein that creates an opening in their surfaces known as a voltage-gated sodium channel. The cells only make the protein at key points in a testing process that occurs in the thymus, an immune organ located near the heart. The channel allows the cells to “hear” the results of testing, which eliminates an estimated 95 percent of potential T cells.

“The thymus applies a kind of Goldilocks principle, seeking the cells that are just right, rather than those that are too hot or too cold,” says senior author Paul Allen, PhD, the Robert L. Kroc Professor of Pathology and Immunology. “The goal is not only to screen out the T cells that won’t react to invaders, but also to eliminate over-reactive T cells that could attack the body and cause autoimmune diseases. The voltage-gated sodium channel is the opening through which the T cell learns its fate.”

According to Allen, the finding is an important step forward in understanding how the immune system builds a repertoire of tens of millions of T cells, each primed to fight individual bacterial and viral invaders. Understanding this process will help scientists find better ways to control and enhance the immune system’s ability to fight diseases and cancer.
 
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8/1/2012 12:00 AMYes
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Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have received a $4.7 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to investigate heart disease in patients with diabetes.​
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have received a $4.7 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to investigate heart disease in patients with diabetes.
 
“Diabetes is an incredibly common problem,” saysJean E. Schaffer, MD, the Virginia Minnich Distinguished Professor of Medicine. “It affects a huge swath of the population. Importantly, people with diabetes don’t just have a metabolic disorder. They develop complications in many organs. And one of the most deadly complications is heart disease. We’re particularly interested in why people with diabetes suffer from unusually severe forms of heart disease.”
 
For reasons not fully understood, people with diabetes are more likely to develop blockages in arteries. After a heart attack, the course of the subsequent heart disease is more aggressive than in people without diabetes. And even independent of blocked arteries, there is evidence that their hearts do not function like those of individuals without diabetes.
 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 26 million Americans are living with type 2 diabetes and another 79 million with undiagnosed diabetes or pre-diabetes, a condition that increases their risk of developing the full-blown variety. With such statistics, it is becoming increasingly important to explore the reasons behind the aggressive progress of cardiovascular disease in patients whose bodies do not properly regulate blood sugar.
 
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7/18/2012 12:00 AMYes
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Scientists have assembled the most detailed chronology to date of the human brain’s long, slow slide into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
The timeline, developed through research led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, appears July 11 in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Scientists have assembled the most detailed chronology to date of the human brain’s long, slow slide into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
 
The timeline, developed through research led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, appears July 11 in The New England Journal of Medicine
 
As part of an international research partnership known as the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN), scientists at Washington University and elsewhere evaluated a variety of pre-symptomatic markers of Alzheimer’s disease in 128 subjects from families genetically predisposed to develop the disorder. Individuals in the study have a 50 percent chance of inheriting one of three mutations that are certain to cause Alzheimer’s, often at an unusually young age.
 
Using medical histories of the subjects’ parents to estimate the age of the onset of symptoms for the study participants, the scientists assembled a timeline of changes in the brain leading to the memory loss and cognitive decline that characterizes Alzheimer’s. The earliest of these changes, a drop in spinal fluid levels of the key ingredient of Alzheimer’s brain plaques, can be detected 25 years before the anticipated age of onset.
 
“A series of changes begins in the brain decades before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are noticed by patients or families, and this cascade of events may provide a timeline for symptomatic onset,” says first author Randall Bateman, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “As we learn more about the origins of Alzheimer’s to plan preventive treatments, this Alzheimer’s timeline will be invaluable for successful drug trials.”
 
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7/11/2012 12:00 AMYes
4

Humans have known for centuries that copper is a potent weapon against infection. New research shows that the bacteria that cause serious urinary tract infections “know” this, too, and steal copper to prevent the metal from being used against them.​

 

Humans have known for centuries that copper is a potent weapon against infection. New research shows that the bacteria that cause serious urinary tract infections “know” this, too, and steal copper to prevent the metal from being used against them.

 

 

Blocking this thievery with a drug may significantly improve patients’ chances of fighting off infections, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The findings appear online July 8 in Nature Chemical Biology.

 

 

In the United States alone, annual treatment costs for urinary tract infections are estimated to run as high as $1.6 billion. Most urinary tract infections are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli).

 

“While some patients are able to clear these infections without issue, the infection persists in others or recurs despite antibiotic therapy,” says senior author Jeff Henderson, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology. “In some cases, the infection spreads to the kidney or the blood and becomes life-threatening. We’ve been investigating what’s different about the bacteria that cause these more troublesome infections

 

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7/3/2012 12:00 AMYes
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A protein required to regrow injured peripheral nerves has been identified by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The finding, in mice, has implications for improving recovery after nerve injury in the extremities. It also opens new avenues of investigation toward triggering nerve regeneration in the central nervous system, notorious for its inability to heal.

A protein required to regrow injured peripheral nerves has been identified by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
 
The finding, in mice, has implications for improving recovery after nerve injury in the extremities. It also opens new avenues of investigation toward triggering nerve regeneration in the central nervous system, notorious for its inability to heal.
Peripheral nerves provide the sense of touch and drive the muscles that move arms and legs, hands and feet. Unlike nerves of the central nervous system, peripheral nerves can regenerate after they are cut or crushed. But the mechanisms behind the regeneration are not well understood.
 
In the new study, published online June 20 in Neuron, the scientists show that a protein called dual leucine zipper kinase (DLK) regulates signals that tell the nerve cell it has been injured – often communicating over distances of several feet. The protein governs whether the neuron turns on its regeneration program.
 
“DLK is a key molecule linking an injury to the nerve’s response to that injury, allowing the nerve to regenerate,” says Aaron DiAntonio, MD, PhD, professor of developmental biology. “How does an injured nerve know that it is injured? How does it take that information and turn on a regenerative program and regrow connections? And why does only the peripheral nervous system respond this way, while the central nervous system does not? We think DLK is part of the answer.”
 
The nerve cell body containing the nucleus or “brain” of a peripheral nerve resides in the spinal cord. During early development, these nerves send long, thin, branching wires, called axons, out to the tips of the fingers and toes. Once the axons reach their targets (a muscle, for example), they stop extending and remain mostly unchanged for the life of the organism. Unless they’re damaged.

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6/25/2012 12:00 AMYes

Biomedical engineer and DBBS faculty member Rohit Pappu directs the new Center for Biological Systems Engineering, where he and a team of key investigators use network approaches to solve problems underlying complex diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration​

by Tony Fitzpatrick

Huntington’s disease is cruel and devastating. The inherited disorder’s signature is the wasting away of brain nerve cells, leading to a host of nightmarish symptoms and outcomes. In Huntington’s, a portion of DNA known as a CAG repeat occurs 30 to 120 times rather than the 10 to 28 times that it does in normal cells. As the gene passes through families, the CAG repeats often get longer, hastening the development of disease at increasingly younger ages. Symptoms include uncontrolled movements, fidgeting, hallucinations, paranoia and dementia. One in 10,000 people of European stock is affected by Huntington’s. There is no cure, and while some drugs show promise, no known way exists to prevent the disease from getting worse.
 
Rohit Pappu, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering and director of the new Center for Biological Systems Engineering, studies proteins involved in the development of Huntington’s disease and related neurodegenerative motor control disorders. All involve an ensemble of recently recognized eccentric proteins, known as intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs), and share the common theme of protein aggregation, or clumping, leading to neuronal death and disease. Perhaps the best-known example of protein aggregation is the beta amyloid plaques seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients.

 

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11/29/2011 12:00 AMYes
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Ellis decodes the mysteries of breast cancer in search of better treatments​

When Matthew Ellis was 10 years old, growing up in Kibworth Beauchamp, England, he told his religious studies teacher he wanted to be a doctor.

“I have no idea why,” says Ellis, MD, PhD, now professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and head of breast oncology at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. “I never considered doing anything else.”
 
Though he was a driven student who loved the sciences, especially biology, Ellis says he did not necessarily excel at the hands-on elements of laboratory work.
 
“I managed to electrocute myself studying whether vegetable oil could be used as a lubricant in engines,” he says. “I tripped all the circuit breakers in the physics lab.”
 
He also set off school fire alarms when a light filter he was using to watch the conversion of sucrose to glucose caught on fire. And then there was that trip to the hospital for stitches during his woodworking exam.
 
“I learned I was much better at thinking than actually doing lab experiments,” he says with a laugh. “Which is where I’ve ended up now. Others do the experiments, and I interpret the data. It’s much safer.”​

Robert Boston
Matthew Ellis, MD, PhD, and Rodrigo Goncalves, MD, postdoctoral research scholar, look at breast cancer samples. Goncalves is helping Ellis set up a clinical trial for young women with breast cancer at a public hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Matthew is an energetic guy who thinks outside the box and keeps at the cutting edge in breast cancer research,” says John Dipersio, MD, PhD, the Virginia E. and Sam J. Golman Professor of Medicine.

 

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11/21/2011 12:00 AMYes
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John A. Cooper, MD, PhD, has been named interim head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis​

John A. Cooper, MD, PhD, has been named interim head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
 
Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, announced the appointment, which will become effective Nov. 15.
 

Cooper is a professor in the university’s Department of Cell Biology and Physiology. He also served on the steering committee of the Biochemistry Graduate Program from 2003-07 and has been the program’s director since 2008.

“We are pleased Dr. Cooper will be filling this role,” Shapiro says. “Under his leadership, we anticipate that the department will continue its great scientific tradition and play a key role in school-wide research and in graduate and medical education.”
 
Cooper succeeds Thomas E. Ellenberger, DVM, PhD, the Raymond H. Wittcoff Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, who has served as head of the department since 2005. Ellenberger is stepping down to focus on research and will remain in the department at Washington University.
 
“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the department and the School of Medicine in this new capacity,” Cooper says. “I have always had great respect and admiration for the faculty of this department, who have an outstanding record of research, teaching and service.”
 
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11/17/2011 12:00 AMYes
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An experimental treatment for urinary tract infections has easily passed its first test in animals, alleviating weeks-long infections in mice in as little as six hours.​

An experimental treatment for urinary tract infections has easily passed its first test in animals, alleviating weeks-long infections in mice in as little as six hours.

“This drug can block the spread of the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections far better than any other previously reported compound,” says senior author Scott J. Hultgren, PhD, the Helen L Stoever Professor of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “If it has similar effects in humans, the potential applications would be very exciting.”

The compound is a novel derivative of the natural sugar called mannose, making it unlikely to be toxic. Because the body normally directs excess sugars to the kidney for disposal in the urine, the new drug is naturally sent to exactly where it needs to be to treat infections of the urinary tract.

The results appear Nov. 16 in Science Translational Medicine.

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11/14/2011 12:00 AMYes
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Scientist will use fungus to turn fecal sludge into fuel.​

Washington University in St. Louis will receive funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables researchers worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that address persistent health and development challenges.

Yinjie Tang, PhD, the Francis Ahmann Career Development Assistant Professor in energy, environmental & chemical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, will pursue an innovative global health research project, titled “Using Fecal Sludge for Butanol Fermentation.”
 
Grand Challenges Explorations funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Tang’s project is one of 110 Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced Nov. 8.
 
“We believe in the power of innovation — that a single bold idea can pioneer solutions to our greatest health and development challenges,” says Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Grand Challenges Explorations seeks to identify and fund these new ideas wherever they come from, allowing scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to pursue the kinds of creative ideas and novel approaches that could help to accelerate the end of polio, cure HIV infection or improve sanitation.”

 

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11/7/2011 12:00 AMYes
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In a new study published Oct. 26 in Science Translational Medicine, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis demonstrate a rigorous way to test the effects of probiotic bacteria on digestive health: they zeroed in on the community of microbes that naturally live in the intestine and help to digest foods our bodies can’t on their own.

Yogurt is popular among consumers, largely because the special live bacteria it contains are thought to benefit digestive health. But how much influence do these bacteria actually have on digestion and, by extension, on overall health?

 
It’s a question that plagues food regulators charged with evaluating the health claims made by manufacturers of yogurt and other “functional foods” that contain probiotics or other added ingredients designed to promote health and wellness. Scientists have had a difficult time testing the credibility of these claims because people don’t live in laboratories, where diet and environment can be carefully controlled.
 
In a new study published Oct. 26 in Science Translational Medicine, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis demonstrate a rigorous way to test the effects of probiotic bacteria on digestive health: they zeroed in on the community of microbes that naturally live in the intestine and help to digest foods our bodies can’t on their own.
 
The research establishes a way to understand more fully the complex relationship that exists between diet and the way the gut microbiome operates to digest particular foods.
 

“Now, we can directly test the influence of existing or candidate probiotics on the ability of our gut microbial community to digest various components of our diets,” says senior author Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology. “Our group’s goal is to help develop new ways to improve the nutritional value of the foods we consume, in part by optimizing the features contained in the gut microbial communities of people at various stages of life and from different cultural traditions.”

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11/7/2011 12:00 AMYes
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Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that a protein may help prevent the kind of brain damage that occurs in babies with cerebral palsy.​

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that a protein may help prevent the kind of brain damage that occurs in babies with cerebral palsy.

Using a mouse model that mimics the devastating condition in newborns, the researchers found that high levels of the protective protein, Nmnat1, substantially reduce damage that develops when the brain is deprived of oxygen and blood flow. The finding offers a potential new strategy for treating cerebral palsy as well as strokes, and perhaps Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The research is reported online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
 

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10/5/2011 12:00 AMYes
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Lan Yang wins for innovative work with tiny optical resonators and microlasers

The White House announced Sept. 27 that Lan Yang, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

The early career award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. This year, there are 94 recipients.
 
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8/3/2011 12:00 AMYes
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The same trait that makes a rare immune cell invaluable in fighting some infections also can be exploited by other diseases to cause harm, two new studies show.
The same trait that makes a rare immune cell invaluable in fighting some infections also can be exploited by other diseases to cause harm, two new studies show.
 
In papers published online in Immunity, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reveal that the cells, known as CD8 alpha+ dendritic cells (CD8a+ DCs), can help the body beat back infection by a common parasite, but the same cells can be hijacked by a bacterium to decimate the body’s defenses.
The trait that makes the cells both an asset and a liability is the way they alert other immune cells, causing them to attack invaders. CD8a+ DCs can sound the alarm in a manner that is particularly helpful for stripping away invaders’ disguises. But this process takes time, and Listeria bacteria can take advantage of that delay to wreak havoc inside the spleen.

“As we’ve discovered how useful these cells can be in fighting different kinds of infections, researchers have wondered why they’re so rare,” says Kenneth Murphy, MD, PhD, the Eugene L. Opie First Centennial Professor of Pathology and Immunology. “This may be why — overcommitting to any one defensive strategy opens up opportunities for counterstrategies that exploit it.”

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7/29/2011 12:00 AMYes
4

​US News and World Report has released their School Listing & Ranking for Top Biological Science Programs and DBBS has been ranked #11!

US News and World Report has released their School Listing & Ranking for Top Biological Science Programs and DBBS has been ranked #11!

See the full list here!

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7/29/2011 12:00 AMYes
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The newly established fund to support innovative cancer research at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center has awarded its first two $900,000 grants aimed at thwarting cancer's ability to resist treatment.

Helen Piwnica-Worms, PhD, the Gerty T. Cori Professor and head of Cell biology and Physiology, and Jason Weber, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of cell biology and physiology, received one of the awards for their plan to develop new tumor treatment strategies using information gained from sequencing all the DNA of individual cancer patients.

 

Dennis Hallahan, MD, the Elizabeth H. and James S. McDonnell III Distinguished Professor and head of Radiation Oncology; Michael J. Welch, PhD, professor of radiology; and Thomas Ellenberger, DVM, PhD, head of biochemistry and molecular biology, received an award for their proposal to use cancer cells’ responses to radiation treatments to better target them for additional therapies.

 

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10/29/2015 9:00 AMNo

Arpita Bose, PhD, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named a Packard Fellow, a prestigious distinction awarded to only 18 top young researchers nationwide this year.

Arpita Bose, PhD, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named a Packard Fellow, a prestigious distinction awarded to only 18 top young researchers nationwide this year.
The Packard Foundation established the fellowships program in 1988 to provide early-career scientists with flexible funding and the freedom to take risks and explore new frontiers in their fields. Each year, the foundation invites 50 universities to nominate two faculty members for consideration.
 
 
The award comes with a five-year, $875,000 grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Bose, who joined the faculty a year ago, said she will use the money to hire postdoctoral research associates —independent minds with trained hands, as she terms them — to work on some big ideas she has about a small organism.
 
The organism, called Rhodopseudomonas palustris TIE-1, is a purple bacterium with unusual metabolic flexibility, including the ability to pull electrons out of iron or directly from an electrode. “They’re like plants in many ways,” Bose said, “but they can do strange things plants cannot do.”
 
In earlier work, Bose showed that R. palustris will accept electrons from an electrode in a bioreactor and use the electrons to make biomass from carbon dioxide. Although these reactions will proceed in the dark, both electron uptake and the expression of an enzyme that plays a key role in building carbon chains increase in the light.
 
Bose’s idea is to exploit this microbe’s metabolic versatility to exploit resources that are abundant or can be sustainably regenerated, and to get rid of ones found in excess.
 
“These microbes can take electrons from electricity, or from iron, and use them to make atmospheric carbon dioxide into biomass or into biofuels,” she said.
 
“It’s a win-win,” she said. “We can make electricity sustainably and iron is abundant, so we’re not competing for them. And carbon dioxide, which we make in excess, could be turned into biomass or biofuels, which could be buried to sequester carbon.
 
“Plants can’t do this. They cannot use electricity or iron. They can fix carbon dioxide but they require water as the source of electrons and also arable land,” Bose said.
 
“I think microbes hold the key to a lot of bioenergy and environmental pollution problems,” she said, “because they interesting metabolic capabilites. These capabilities might appear strange and exotic to us, mostly because we think of our planet as  being forever the same as it is now. But our planet is always evolving; it has seen things that we can’t imagine. Our planet’s oldest friends are microbes and they have co-evolved.”
 
During her graduate work and postdoctoral research, Bose has used genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology to understand microbial metabolism. Her master’s research at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, dealt with the physiological response of the organism that causes tuberculosis to oxygen starvation.
 
For her doctorate, she studied methanogenesis performed by the poorly understood archaea (a domain of microbes distinct from bacteria) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
 
Bose was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) research associate for a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studied photoferrotrophy performed by purple non-sulfur bacteria. She then moved to Harvard University, where, as a HHMI fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation and a L’Oreal & AAAS Woman in Science fellow, she used a combinatorial approach to study microbial metabolism at the environmental level 
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10/27/2015 8:00 AMNo

The funding will allow him to continue research aimed at understanding the mutations that initiate acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and how they might be targeted with new approaches.

Timothy J. Ley, MD, a leukemia researcher and hematologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received a seven-year, $6.4 million Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The funding will allow him to continue research aimed at understanding the mutations that initiate acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and how they might be targeted with new approaches.

This is the first year the NCI has given Outstanding Investigator Awards, which go to scientists with “outstanding records of productivity” to pursue cancer research with unusual potential, according to the NCI.

“The NCI Outstanding Investigator Award addresses a problem that many cancer researchers experience: finding a balance between focusing on their science while ensuring that they will have funds to continue their research in the future,” said Dinah Singer, PhD, director of the NCI’s Division of Cancer Biology. “With seven years of uninterrupted funding, NCI is providing investigators the opportunity to fully develop exceptional and ambitious cancer research programs.”​​​​​

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10/14/2015 9:00 AMNo

Three DBBS scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Siteman Cancer Center each will receive $900,000 in funding – $2.7 million total – over two years for their innovative approaches to fighting leukemia and other types of cancer.

Three scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Siteman Cancer Center each will receive $900,000 in funding – $2.7 million total – over two years for their innovative approaches to fighting leukemia and other types of cancer.
 
The awards, from the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Research Fund, are meant to further promising early-stage science that might not receive funding from traditional sources.
The recipients are:
Ley
 
Two of the projects are aimed at improving long-term outcomes for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. An estimated 14,000 people in the United States will die of AML this year.
Druley

 

Ley and Druley are working to better assess which patients with AML are more likely to relapse after initial treatment with chemotherapy. They will compare different methods for measuring lingering cancer-related mutations that signal a greater likelihood of relapse. Better detection of the residual disease could lead to more effective therapies.

Achilefu is focused on developing a new approach to treat prostate cancer using a combination of light and a photosensitizing drug to kill cancer cells. He hopes to advance the treatment of primary, microscopic and metastatic tumors without inducing drug resistance.
Achilefu
The method is similar to photodynamic therapy, which is effective at treating recurrent forms of superficially located cancers, such as melanoma, that are more easily penetrated by light or reached by an endoscope. Unlike conventional methods that utilize light from an external source, Achilefu will employ a safe dose of clinically available radiopharmaceuticals to serve as the light source from within the tumor cells. Such light will stimulate the photosensitizers in cancer cells, converting them into highly toxic drugs. By selectively triggering therapy inside cancer cells, Achilefu and his team hope to minimize the toxic effects of drugs to healthy tissue.
 
Alvin J. Siteman, an emeritus Washington University trustee and chairman of Site Oil Co., established the Siteman Cancer Research Fund in 2010. Since then, the fund has provided nearly $8.2 million in funding to nine projects at Washington University/Siteman Cancer Center. All projects are reviewed and recommended by an external review panel.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Yes
  
10/6/2015 12:00 AMNo

The prize, awarded by Keio University in Tokyo, recognizes scientists who have made outstanding and creative contributions to medicine or the life sciences, for the benefit of humankind.​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, director of the Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is a recipient of the 2015 Keio Medical Science Prize. 
 
The prize, awarded by Keio University in Tokyo, recognizes scientists who have made outstanding and creative contributions to medicine or the life sciences, for the benefit of humankind.
 
Gordon is being honored for his pioneering role in establishing a field of research devoted to the human microbiome. His own studies have linked the community of microbes in the gut to good health and disease, providing a new and expanded perspective of the body as a tapestry of interacting microbial and human parts. 
 
Gordon, also the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor, will share the prize with Yoshinori Ohsumi, PhD, of the Frontier Research Center at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Ohsumi is being recognized for his work in uncovering the molecular underpinnings of autophagy, a process by which cells normally degrade and recycle misshapen proteins and other debris. Neurodegenerative diseases and cancer have been associated with autophagy when the process goes awry. 
 
Gordon and Ohsumi will be honored Nov. 25 at a ceremony in Tokyo. 
 
Gordon’s research focuses on the tens of trillions of microbes that live in the gut, where they process foods and synthesize vitamins and nutrients that human cells can’t manage on their own. 
 
Seminal studies by Gordon and graduate students in his lab have examined the gut microbiomes of infants, children and adults, including twins, living in different parts of the world with culturally distinct lifestyles. 
 
To understand the workings of the gut microbiome, he and his students have developed methods for transferring gut microbial communities from these people – some of whom are healthy and others who suffer from obesity or malnutrition – into mice raised under sterile conditions. 
 
The animals are fed the same or different diets as the microbe donors, helping the researchers decipher how gut microbial communities operate within their human hosts and how they can be manipulated to treat and ultimately prevent disease. 
 
Research by Gordon and his students fundamentally has changed the understanding of two global health problems: obesity and childhood malnutrition. Their work has provided compelling evidence that dysfunctional gut microbiomes are an underlying cause of both disorders.
 
Gordon’s research points to new directions for solving the daunting problem of how to feed a rapidly growing human population with foods that improve nutrition in infants and children as well as adults. At a time when there is a pressing need to develop sustainable food systems that yield affordable and more nutritious foods, his studies indicate that diets should be designed with an understanding of how food ingredients interact with gut microbe communities. This knowledge promises to help guide choices about what new high-nutrient food sources to develop, how those foods should be processed, and how new nutritional guidelines can be developed. 
 
“The spirit of openness, collaboration and inquisitiveness and the hands-on access to the latest technologies in places like the Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology provide a foundation for innovative interdisciplinary science that crosses traditional academic boundaries,Gordon said. “Students are motivated and able to address pressing problems that need to be solved during this very challenging century for humanity.” 
 
Gordon has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He also has received the Robert Koch Award (2013), which is widely regarded as the leading international prize in microbiology, the Passano Foundation’s Laureate Award (2014), the Dickson Prize in Medicine (2014) and, earlier this year, the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine. 
 
Gordon said his greatest honor and good fortune as a scientist is that more than 120 “very gifted, creative, courageous and highly collaborative” PhD and MD/PhD students and postdoctoral fellows have chosen do their research in his lab. Gordon joined the faculty in 1981, after completing his clinical training in internal medicine and gastroenterology and a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 
 
Through the years, Gordon has held various positions at the university, including as head of the Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology (now Developmental Biology) from 1991-2004. In 2004, he was named founding director of the university’s interdepartmental Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology. 

Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, and many of the people who make up his lab.

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Yes
  
9/15/2015 12:00 AMNo

Three antibiotics that, individually, are not effective against a drug-resistant staph infection can kill the deadly pathogen when combined as a trio, according to new research.

Three antibiotics that, individually, are not effective against a drug-resistant staph infection can kill the deadly pathogen when combined as a trio, according to new research.
The researchers, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, have killed the bug — methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus(MRSA) — in test tubes and laboratory mice, and believe the same three-drug strategy may work in people.

“MRSA infections kill 11,000 people each year in the United States, and the pathogen is considered one of the world’s worst drug-resistant microbes,” said principal investigator Gautam Dantas, PhD, an associate professor of pathology and immunology. “Using the drug combination to treat people has the potential to begin quickly because all three antibiotics are approved by the FDA.”
The study is published online Sept. 14 in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

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8/14/2015 12:00 AMNo

The Washington University team was made up of medical student Paul Gamble, and Dana Watt and Michelle Faits, who are PhD students in the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences. James Sorrell, a technology project coordinator at the Skandalaris Center, also participated on the team.

A team of Washington University students on the Medical Campus recently won top honors in the Neuro Startup Challenge, a biotech startup competition designed to commercialize promising brain-related discoveries of scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
 
The team developed a business plan to commercialize a test for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a nervous system disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. The test detects whether patients with MS are carriers of a virus that could interact negatively with drugs known to alleviate symptoms of the disease.

“Because there currently isn’t a very effective way to identify carriers of the virus, doctors don’t have a great way of knowing whether their patients will suffer adverse reactions when given monoclonal antibody therapies,” said Washington University team leader Michelle Faits. “Therefore, although these types of therapies are highly effective at treating MS, they aren’t very widely used.”
 
More than 70 teams competed in the challenge earlier this year and developed business plans to commercialize 13 NIH technologies. The Washington University team was made up of medical student Paul Gamble, and Dana Watt and Faits, who are PhD students in the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences. James Sorrell, a technology project coordinator at the Skandalaris Center, also participated on the team.

 

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Yes
  
7/31/2015 12:00 AMNo

WashU grows young scientists​

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7/28/2015 12:00 AMNo

5 Steps to Dealing with stress as a Graduate Student or Postdoc​

I Can't Stress This Enough
 
Five Steps to Dealing with Stress as a Graduate Student or Postdoc
by Liz Haswell
 
Those who know me well may find this post ironic, as I am definitely prone to attacks of anxiety. My humble hope is that the fact that I am not a relaxed person by nature actually makes me a good resource for this discussion. At any rate, below are my current ideas about dealing with and reducing stress. I hope they are useful to you!
 
Step One: Take care of your biology before your Biology.
 
A friend from my years at Caltech coined this phrase to remind herself to take the time to pee during long experiments. She was right: to do good science you need to get enough sleep, exercise, and eat well. Of course there are times when you can’t get 8 hours, and I’m not saying that eating the food pyramid will always be possible. I personally find it hard to sleep well at any time, much less when I’m feeling stressed. Just do your best and remember that you will eventually run out of gas if you don’t fuel up. Also make sure you feed and rest your brain by taking time for socializing, vacationing, and/or time to yourself. If it helps, schedule your time out so that it feels completely legitimate. One of my all-time favorite blog posts on this topic, by Harvard professor Radhika Nagpal, is here.
 
Step Two: Empty your head.
 
Do this however you like—on paper or a Word file or whatever. But get your ideas, to-do lists, tasks, concerns, etc. out of your head and into a reliable system for later retrieval. I get a lot of relief just from writing down what needs to be done. Also, find a way to put tasks into future files, in a way that won’t get lost, so that you can put them out of your mind. I use Outlook or my daily planner. In June, I don’t want to be worrying about a grant that isn’t due until September. So I put a reminder to start working on this grant on Aug 1 in my calendar, and I try not to think about it again until then. The classic book Getting Things Done covers the idea of “brain dumps” and “tickler files” in abundant detail.
 
Step Three: Prioritize by month, week and day.
 
This is a key step after the brain-dump. It’s deliberately choosing the one to three (but no more than three) things that you really want to accomplish during a given period of time, and making them your serious and solid focus. This is a way to make sure that the big, important stuff that might be hard or uncomfortable to do gets done instead of the trivial, easy stuff; otherwise you may find yourself doing what’s easy rather than what’s important. There are planners that help with this on a daily basis, like the Emergent Task Planner or Day Designer, but obviously any piece of paper or computer file can do the same. I find it useful to decide what’s important to focus on for the upcoming month on the first day of the month, for the upcoming week on Sunday nights, and for the next day at the end of the day. This strategy can really reduce stress by helping you identify what’s important to focus on and let go of the things that are not.
 
Step Four: Set goals of quality as well as completion.
 
Would you rather be doing a lot of mediocre work, or be doing a few things really well? I personally value quality over quantity in many areas of life (wine, graduate students, husbands, etc.). No matter how smart and competent you are, it is not possible to do an excellent and compelling job at everything that comes across your path. So you have to choose. First you must decide what you DO want to accomplish well (give a great talk, make substantial progress on an experiment, make industry connections). Then, you simplify your life and reduce stress by a) “satisficing” or b) jettisoning the rest.
  1. Satisficing. My colleague and friend Bethany Zolman taught me the word satisfice. It is a very useful word for a perfectionist. I use it to mean that for many tasks, you only need to produce work that is satisfactory (e.g., not crappy) and that will suffice (e.g., just good enough). Obviously many things can’t or shouldn’t be treated this way, but it is useful to know when to stop “polishing the turd”.
  2. Jettisoning. It is critical (but reallly hard) to learn when and how to say no to commitments, obligations, and activities that don’t line up with the goals you’ve set for yourself. This doesn’t mean that you should never attend seminars outside of your research area, or that you should skip contributing to the lab blog. But you should weigh each activity against what you’ve decided is important, or what you want to develop in yourself, or what you want to be known for. See a great LifeHacker post on saying no here
Step Five: Review what you’ve accomplished.
 
The point of all this is to be productive while staying sane. But it can seem like a never-ending treadmill if you don’t pause to evaluate (and celebrate!) every now and then. A review at the end of the month can be pretty enlightening—maybe you got way off track and are surprised to even be reminded of some of your goals, or maybe you accomplished far more than you thought you would. A regular review can also make it clear if there are important things you are regularly choosing not to do—and you can make a deliberate decision to make them top priority. No matter what, it will reduce anxiety to see how things are going and then adjust for the following month (or week or day).
How do you manage stress? What do you think of the ideas above? Leave a comment or send me your ideas through Twitter!

To read more from the Haswell Lab, click HERE.

Yes
  
7/17/2015 12:00 AMNo

John A. Cooper, MD​, PhD, has been named head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

 
John Cooper, MD, PhD, has been named head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the School of Medicine.
Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, announced the appointment. “I thank John for his outstanding service and dedication in leading the department as the interim head,” Shapiro said. “We look forward to working with John in the coming months and years as he leads a department with a rich history and tradition to even greater prominence and achievement.”
 
The department has a long and distinguished history of scientific accomplishments at the School of Medicine, including pioneering research by eight Nobel Prize winners, a legacy that began with Carl and Gerty Cori in 1947, who were honored for work describing carbohydrate metabolism.
 
“I am honored to have the opportunity to continue serving the department and the School of Medicine in this capacity,” Cooper said. “The distinguished history of the faculty, which continues to this day, makes this leadership role a remarkable privilege. I look forward to continuing to assist the department in its critical roles of research, education and service to the School of Medicine and the university.”
 
Cooper is a professor of cell biology and physiology and of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. His research is focused on understanding how cells move and change shape. Cellular movement plays important roles in disease, especially in understanding how cancer cells spread to other parts of the body and how the body’s immune cells pursue and eliminate foreign invaders. Much of his work has focused on understanding the cellular skeletal system of filaments and motors, based on actin, which provides the machinery for cells to change shape, divide and move.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
 
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Cooper is also a member of Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Cooper served on the steering committee of the Biochemistry Graduate Program from 2003-07 and was the program’s director from 2008-11. He received the Distinguished Faculty Award for Graduate Student Teaching from the School of Medicine in 2010. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council (ECFC) and represented ECFC to the Faculty Senate. He completed the Academic Medical Leadership Development Program sponsored by Washington University and BJC in 2014.
 
Cooper earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry magna cum laude from Brown University in 1977. He attended Johns Hopkins University as student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, earning a medical degree in 1982 with election to Alpha Omega Alpha and a doctorate in cell biology in 1983. Cooper came to Washington University in 1984 as a resident in anatomic pathology. He received postdoctoral training in the Department of Biochemistry and then joined the faculty in Cell Biology and Physiology. He was a Lucille P. Markey Scholar and an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association.
 
A prolific research scientist, Cooper has published more than 100 scientific papers and review articles. He has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, on grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other funding agencies and on several committees for professional societies, including the American Society for Cell Biology. 
No
  
7/16/2015 12:00 AMNo

Erik D. Herzog, PhD, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, and Rochelle D. Smith, assistant provost of diversity initiatives, received a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) for a program to encourage undergraduates from diverse backgrounds to pursue graduate study, such as PhD or MD-PhD programs, in the neurosciences or related fields. 

By Charlotte Gordon
In an effort to increase diversity in the neurosciences,  Washington University in St. Louis has received a federal grant to participate in a national pipeline program with that mission. 
Herzog
Erik D. Herzog, PhD, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, and Rochelle D. Smith, assistant provost of diversity initiatives, received a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) for a program to encourage undergraduates from diverse backgrounds to pursue graduate study, such as PhD or MD-PhD programs, in the neurosciences or related fields. 

“The future of neuroscience research requires talented, diverse scientists,” Herzog said. “We aim to attract, retain and train the next generation of neuroscientists in basic and translational research. We must, for example, recognize that diseases of the nervous system can affect populations that have been understudied.”
Smith
Herzog is director of the program, and Smith is program manager. Smith also is the director of diversity, summer programs and community outreach for the university’s Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences. Lorren Buck and Diana Jose-Edwards serve as program coordinators.
The Blueprint Program for Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (BP-ENDURE) is an initiative of multiple institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
BP-ENDURE launched in 2005 to provide five-year grants for up to six undergraduate programs. In addition to training undergraduates in the interdisciplinary neurosciences, the programs aim to develop research tools and create research resources for the neuroscience community and research institutions. 

In this round of funding, only three new programs were awarded, including the BP-ENDURE: St. Louis Neuroscience Pipeline Program. The St. Louis Pipeline is a collaboration among neuroscientists at Washington University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Harris-Stowe State University. Undergraduate minority students from these and other institutions around the country were encouraged to apply. Nine students were selected based on their strong academic records, letters of recommendation and deep interest in neuroscience. 

Program participants engage in two paid summers and one academic year of intensive, independent neuroscience research under the mentorship of Washington University faculty. They receive a $5,000 stipend and will work directly with Herzog, Smith and the participating faculty to gain individualized career counseling and mentorship. In addition, participants engage in writing workshops, research seminars and social activities.

The first group began the program in late May. They are engaged in research on topics such as the genetics of Parkinson’s disease, the molecular basis of brain cancers, the cells involved in reward behaviors, the circuits underlying the response to stress and ways to improve the resolution of brain scans. 
Some are students at WashU or Harris-Stowe, but others attend Carleton College, George Mason University, Harvard University, Oberlin College and San Diego State University.
For eligibility and other details, visit the BP-ENDURE St. Louis website. 

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