Research News

Excellence in Research Events Celebrate Faculty & Trainee Accomplishments

October 25, 2018 by Jennifer Nachbur

The Larner College of Medicine at UVM hosted the third annual "Celebrating Excellence in Research" on Monday, October 29, and Tuesday, October 30, 2018. This two-day event highlights the research being conducted by junior faculty, senior faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and graduate students at the College.

The Larner College of Medicine hosted the third annual "Celebrating Excellence in Research" on October 29 and 30, culminating with a Research Awards ceremony and keynote address by Elaine Ostrander, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health.

The two-day event - designed to highlight the research being conducted by junior faculty, senior faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and graduate students at the College - kicked off October 29 with the Junior Graduate Student Division presentations at the Graduate Student & PostDoc Research Showcase, followed by a presentation by 2018 UVM Medical Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award Recipient and Professor Emeritus Nicholas Heintz, Ph.D.'79. Senior graduate students presented that afternoon and on October 30, postdoctoral fellows delivered presentations and then Christopher Berger, Ph.D., director of graduate and postdoctoral training presented the Graduate Student & PostDoc Research Showcase awards.

The Dean's Excellence in Research Awards event took place that evening and included a State of Research at the Larner College of Medicine overview (view PDF of presentation here) by Gordon Jensen, M.D., Ph.D., senior associate dean for research, and keynote address, titled “Canines, Cancer, and Comparative Genomics,” by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Distinguished Investigator Elaine Ostrander, Ph.D.

Ostrander is an NIH Distinguished Investigator, chief of the Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute of NIH and also heads the Section of Comparative Genetics. She received her Ph.D. from the Oregon Health Sciences University, and completed postdoctoral training at Harvard. She then went to UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, where, with collaborators, she began the canine genome project, and built the canine linkage and radiation hybrid maps. Prior to joining the NIH in 2004, she held positions at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington, where she rose to the rank of member in the Human Biology and Clinical Research Divisions, and head of the Genetics Program. At NIH, her lab works in both human and canine genetics using state-of-the-art genomic approaches to identify prostate cancer susceptibility genes. She is best known for her studies of the domestic dog as a well-phenotyped species with an extensively documented population structure that offers unique opportunities for solving fundamental biological problems. Her lab developed the primary genomic mapping resources for the canine genetics field, and applied them to studies of disease and morphology. For instance, she and her collaborators were the first to map genes for canine epilepsy, Addison's disease, kidney, squamous cell and histiocytic cancers. All are now candidates for comparable human disorders. In recent years, Ostrander's experiments have revealed how modifications in small numbers of genes produce the enormous differences in canine body shape and size that characterize the spectrum of breeds. She has published over 285 papers and received multiple awards, including the American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Award, Burroughs Welcome Award for Functional Genomics, Asa Mays Award, Lifetime Achievement Awards for both her prostate cancer and canine genetics work, and in the 2013 Genetics Society of America Medal. (Source: NIH Intramural Research Program).

2018 Dean's Excellence in Research Award Winners

The Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Trainee Showcase

Junior Graduate Category

Winner: Alex Thompson for "Mutations in the Kinesin Motor Protein KIF22 Cause Defects in Skeletal Development." Thompson's mentor is UVM Assistant Professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics Jason Stumpff, Ph.D.

Runner Up: Alisa Cario for "Understanding the link between Structure and Function of the Microtubule Associated Protein Tau using single molecule FRET." Cario's mentor is UVM Professor of Molecular PHysiology & Biophysics and Director of Graduate and Postdoctoral Training Chris Berger, Ph.D.

Senior Graduate Category

Winner: Christopher Dustin for "DUOX1-dependent IL-33 secretion from the airway epithelium involves positive feedback signaling through activation of IL-33R/ST2." Dustin's mentor is UVM Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Albert Van der Vliet, Ph.D.

Runner Up: Leslie Sepaniac for "Different Mechanisms of Micronucleus Formation and Impact to Genomic Stability." Sepaniac's mentor is Jason Stumpff, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Winner: Kirsten Tracy, Ph.D. for "Mitotically associated long non-coding RNA MANCR affects genomic stability in breast cancer." Tracy's mentor is UVM Professor of Biochemistry Jane Lian, Ph.D.

Runner Up: Friederike Uhlig, Ph.D. for "Quorum sensing-regulated molecules alter gut-brain axis and intestinal function." Uhlig's mentor is UVM Professor of Neurological Sciences Gary Mawe, Ph.D.

Trainee Awards for Outstanding Research Publication

Graduate Student

Jamie Abbott for "Substrate interaction defects in histidyl-tRNA synthetase linked to dominant axonal peripheral neuropathy." Abbott's mentor is UVM Professor of Biochemistry Christopher Francklyn, Ph.D.

Medical Student

Lindsay Howe for "Effect of Pregnancy Interval on Second Pregnancy Blood Pressure Following Prior Preeclampsia." Howe's mentor is UVM Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences Ira Bernstein, M.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Osama Harraz, Ph.D. for "Endothelial GqPCR activity controls capillary electrical signaling and brain blood flow through PIP2 depletion." Harraz's mentor is UVM Professor and Chair of Pharmacology Mark Nelson, Ph.D.


Borzoo Farhang, D.O. for "The effect of zinc lozenge on postoperative sore throat: A prospective randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study." Farhang's mentor is UVM Associate Professor of Anesthesiology Lydia Grondin, M.D.

UVM Health Network Medical Group Awards

Junior Researcher of the Year

Christopher Anker, M.D.

Senior Researcher of the Year

Christopher Huston, M.D.

Research Grants    

Emmet Whitaker, M.D., and Gregory Holmes, M.D.

Innovation Grants

Nina Narasimhadevara, M.D., and Macaulay Onuigbo, M.D.

Daniel Wolfson, M.D., and Sanchit Maruti, M.D.

Larner College of Medicine Faculty Awards

Research Mentorship

Renee Stapleton, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine

Rising Star New Investigator

Thomas Ahern, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Surgery

Mid-Career Investigator

Brian Sprague, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Surgery

Research Laureate

Jason Bates, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine