Guidry wins PEO Scholar's Award

Paula Guidry, a fourth-year student in UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, has won a $10,000 Scholar Award from the Philanthropic and Educational Organization (PEO), which awards competitive scholarships to women attending graduate school in the United States and Canada.

She was one of 85 winners from among 772 nominees.

Ms. Guidry, who grew up in Amarillo, studies how the immune system in the gut distinguishes between benign and harmful cells. The gastrointestinal tract is the body's first line of defense against foreign pathogens and, she said, "It has to do a very complex job."                                                     

Paula Guidry is in her final year of graduate school, thanks, in part, to a PEO Scholar Award.

She focuses on a family of molecules called the major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, which helps alert immune-system cells to the presence of infection and cancer. MHC molecules grab pieces of viruses, bacteria or cancerous cells and display them to passing immune cells, which then "decide" if the particles are harmful or not. And if a cell displays too few MHC particles, the immune system destroys that cell.

Ms. Guidry, 28, who works in the laboratory of Dr. Iwona Stroynowski, associate professor in the Center for Immunology, has discovered several MHC molecules that are made only in the intestine, and is seeking to learn what their functions are.

Dr. Nancy E. Street, graduate school associate dean, said, "Ms. Guidry very quickly became independent in her research, and I predict that there will be great scientific accomplish-ments in her future."

The PEO was founded in 1869 by seven women students on the campus of Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Today, it has grown to more than a quarter of a million members in chapters throughout the United States and Canada. It has granted Scholar Awards of more than $8 million.