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Published in CenterView on May 30, 2011

New Ph.D. lends diamond perspective to physiology

By Jack Mazurak

Graduating physiologist Dr. Josh Speed recognizes earning a doctorate is much like baseball, the sport he played since childhood.


It's both a team endeavor - where young scientists rely on advice from lab staff and mentors - and an individual sport when you go to bat for a grant or try to convince a journal to publish your study.

"You've got a great coach, a team behind you and you've had all these practices," he said. "Then you step up to the plate and it's just you. You're judged as an individual, on the strength of your work."

Speed, a Hattiesburg native, received his Ph.D. last week for research in renal endothelin, a mechanism for regulating blood pressure. His work has already scored him some runs.

The American Heart Association funded him with a pre-doctoral stipend the past two years. In 2011, the American Physiological Society gave him a Caroline tum Suden/Frances Hellebrandt Professional Opportunity Award.

His doctoral-degree path started in high school with a knack for math, formulas and lab work. Belhaven University's bachelor's program in chemistry and a baseball scholarship fit Speed like a hand in a mitt, so he moved to Jackson in 2001.

"I loved playing baseball, but my studies had to come first. When there was practice and I had a lab, I was in the lab," he said.

Looking into science careers, Speed took a lab-technician job at UMMC with Dr. Joey Granger. That proved pivotal as Granger is a physiologist and dean of the School of Graduates Studies in the Health Sciences.

"Out of college, I had no idea about this career possibility," Speed said. "I've had a great - a very great - mentor and guide in Dr. Granger."

This summer, Speed and his wife, Sharley, will move to Augusta, Ga., where he'll start a post-doctoral fellowship at Georgia Health Sciences University's Vascular Biology Center. It's a whole new inning in a bigger game for Speed, and he says he's ready to play.