Biomedical and Public Health Graduate Students Hold Annual Research Day

Betty Eipper, professor of neuroscience and molecular, microbial and structural biology, was selected as the 2012 recipient of the Osborn Biomedical Science Graduate Teaching Award. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)
Betty Eipper, professor of neuroscience and molecular, microbial and structural biology, was selected as the 2012 recipient of the Osborn Biomedical Science Graduate Teaching Award. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)

Biomedical science and public health students got a chance to highlight their research accomplishments during the annual Graduate Student Research Day (GSRD) held recently at the UConn Health Center. GSRD is sponsored by the Graduate Programs Committee and takes place in June of each year.

“It’s a celebration of their work,” said Barbara Kream, associate dean of the graduate school. “It gives them a chance to really highlight what they’ve done and have an audience. It’s also really important for students to practice their communication skills and be able to communicate their results whether it is an oral presentation or a poster presentation.”

The day included research talks by students in the seven areas of concentration in the biomedical science Ph.D. program; a judged poster session exhibiting the research of biomedical science and public health graduate students; a research talk by Arpita Singh, last year’s Lepow Award winner; and a keynote address by an invited researcher.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Jeff Lichtman, the Jeremy R. Knowles professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University. Lichtman’s research focuses on understanding how information is transmitted in the brain by studying how neural circuits are formed and changed through development. His laboratory utilizes modern optical imaging techniques to visualize synaptic rearrangements directly in living animals.

The poster session included 24 presenters with more than a dozen faculty members serving as judges. The president of the Graduate Student Organization, Megan Miller, says the posters are judged on several criteria including the scientific material being presented, how well founded the hypothesis is, and whether it is a scientifically reasonable project. The student is also judged on the graphics and layout of the poster as well as how well the student presents the material and answers questions.

Kream says the research day’s poster session offers valuable experience for students. Because there are only a certain number of slots for oral presentations at national meetings, poster presentations are becoming a more common and popular way of communicating your research to others in your field.

In addition to research presentations, several awards were announced at the daylong event, including:

Sonali Ghosh
Sonali Ghosh, Ph.D. student in the Department of Molecular, Microbial and Structural Biology, received the 2012 Lepow Award. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)

Sonali Ghosh received the 2012 Lepow Award. Established in 1986 in honor of Dr. Irwin H. Lepow, a well-known faculty member, researcher and founding father of the Health Center, this award is given to support the outstanding fourth-year student in the biomedical science Ph.D. program. The recipient receives a monetary award and presents a research talk at Graduate Student Research Day the following year. Ghosh is in the Department of Molecular, Microbial and Structural Biology and her mentor is Dr. Peter Setlow. Her major area of research has been on the return to life or “germination” of spores of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, a relative of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of the disease anthrax. In particular, she has elucidated the major reason that small percentages of spores delay their germination, and as a consequence these “superdormant” spores are extremely difficult to destroy.

Betty Eipper, professor of neuroscience and molecular, microbial and structural biology, was selected as the 2012 recipient of the Osborn Biomedical Science Graduate Teaching Award. The basic science chairs established the Osborn Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching in Biomedical Science in 2005. This award honors the many important contributions to graduate education by Dr. Mary Jane Osborn, past chair of the Department of Microbiology, member of the National Academy of Sciences, and currently professor emeritus at the Health Center. The intention of this award is to recognize a Health Center graduate school faculty member for his or her commitment to providing the best education in the classroom and training in the laboratory.

Erin Boisvert, Ph.D. student, Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, won first place in the Graduate Student Research Day poster contest. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)
Erin Boisvert, Ph.D. student, Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, won first place in the Graduate Student Research Day poster contest. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)

Poster presentation winners:

Erin Boisvert, Ph.D. student, Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology
Mentor: Xue-Jun Li
Poster: “The specification of nociceptive neurons from human embryonic stem cells.”

Kaitlyn Vernier, Ph.D. student, Department of Cell Biology
Mentor: Linda Shapiro
Poster: “CD13 regulates blood vessel normalization in solid tumors.”

Melissa Fox, Ph.D. student, Department of Cell Biology
Mentor: Kevin Claffey
Poster: “Reduced AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Expression Promotes Breast Tumorigenesis.”