15 graduate students win research honors

Fifteen students received honors Nov. 10 during the 36th annual Sigma Xi Research Forum/2004 Graduate Student Organization Poster Session awards ceremony. There were 74 entries for the poster session and 68 abstracts for the research forum.

Each entry represented an original research project carried out primarily by a student. The top 10 finalists for the poster session received either $150 or $100.

"Every year that I've been a graduate student, this poster session has been a tremendous success," said Elizabeth Pickett, GSO president and molecular biology graduate student. "This year's event is no exception for several reasons Ñ the increased number of students who entered, the increased faculty participation and the increased number of people casually observing the posters on a daily basis."

Jonathan Hommel, a student in the integrative biology graduate program, received the Best-of-Show award for the best oral and poster presentation. His topic was "Leptin Signals Directly to Dopamine Neurons of the VTA to Regulate Feeding Behavior" under mentor Dr. Ralph DiLeone. He received a travel award of $700 to attend a research conference.

"I'm thrilled to be named Best-of-Show, as there are so many great posters," said Mr. Hommel, who will attend a Keystone Conference on molecular causes of obesity in February in Colorado. "In some ways, you could flip a coin to determine the winner because of the high quality of research coming out of UT Southwestern. I'm excited and proud that people recognize the research we've been doing."

The other winners and their topics are as follows:

Renee Chosed, biological chemistry, "Biochemical Characterization of Plant and Animal Cysteine Protease Effector Proteins." Mentor: Dr. Kim Orth.

Daniel Clarke, molecular microbiology, "Why Does Acanthamoeba castellanii Not Progress Beyond the Cornea to Produce Intraocular Infections?" Mentor: Dr. Jerry Niederkorn.

Stacey Glasgow, integrative biology, "The Role of Ptf1a in Neural Tube Development." Mentor: Dr. Jane Johnson.

Melissa McCoy, integrative biology, "The Role of TNF in a Neuroinflammatory Model of Parkinson's Disease." Mentor: Dr. Malu Tansey.

Michele Osztrogonacz, division of basic science, "Cocaine Withdrawal Normalizes a Chronic Cocaine-Induced Decrease in Neurogenesis." Mentor: Dr. Amelia Eisch.

Celeste Roney, radiological sciences, "Progress Towards In-Vivo Detection of Alzheimer's in a Mouse Model." Mentor: Dr. Frederick Bonte.

Ankur Saxena, genetics and development, "Ephrins and Chemokines in Cardiovascular Development." Mentor: Dr. Deepak Srivastava.

Nathan York, immunology, "Autoreactive CD8+ T Cells in Autoimmune Demyelination." Mentor: Dr. Nitin Karandikar.

Ying Zou, genetics and development, "Characteristic Replication Timing of Individual Human Telomeres." Mentor: Dr. Jerry Shay.

Besides the poster session awards, six students were recognized for their abstracts submitted for the Sigma Xi research forum. The students, chosen for recognition by a seven-judge panel, each received $250 and a complimentary Sigma Xi Research Society student membership.

The six Sigma Xi winning abstracts and their topics are as follows:

Prasanna Alluri, biological chemistry, "A Chemical Genetic Approach to Regulation of Gene Expression." Mentor: Dr. Thomas Kodadek.

Jonathan Hommel, integrative biology, "Leptin Signals Directly to Dopamine Neurons of the VTA to Regulate Feeding Behavior." Mentor: Dr. Ralph DiLeone.

Prashant Mishra, molecular biophysics, "Regulation of Visual Signaling Through Conformational Plasticity in the Multi-PDZ Domain Protein INAD." Mentor: Dr. Rama Ranganathan.

Brad Pfeiffer, neuroscience, "Effects of Acute Overexpression of Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP) on Synaptic Function." Mentor: Dr. Kim Huber.

Brandon Probst, biological chemistry, "A Biochemical Screen Implicates PAS Kinase in the Regulation of Metabolism and Translation." Mentor: Dr. Steve McKnight.

Jennifer Trosky, molecular microbiology, "Inhibition of MAPK Signaling by VopA from Vibrio parahaemolyticus." Mentor: Dr. Kim Orth.

"The posters and abstracts selected were clearly outstanding," said Dr. Melanie Cobb, dean of the graduate school and holder of the Jane and Bill Browning Jr. Chair in Medical Science and the Rolf Haberecht and Ute Schwartz Haberecht Deanship of the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Honor of Olga & Max Haberecht and Anna & Hans Schwarz. "I've heard lots of people comment that the posters submitted this year were particularly exceptional."

The awards presentation was preceded by the annual Sigma Xi lecture by Dr. Cobb, professor of pharmacology, who spoke on "Information Flow in MAP Kinase Cascades."