October

Kartikeya Johda, a second-year Ph.D. student in biomedical materials science, shares his research on dental implants with Dr. Eric George, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics and poster judge.
Kartikeya Johda, a second-year Ph.D. student in biomedical materials science, shares his research on dental implants with Dr. Eric George, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics and poster judge.

SGSHS Research Day highlights trainees, Distinguished Alumnus

Published on Monday, October 30, 2017

Media Contact: Karen Bascom

The School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences held its annual Research Day Friday, October 27 in the Norman C. Nelson Student Union.

“Research Day is an opportunity for our trainees to share their scientific findings and celebrate their accomplishments,” said Dr. Joey Granger, SGSHS dean.

This year’s event had a record 83 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and instructors from 16 programs and departments share their work through poster presentations. Faculty judges chose the best presentations of the day.

Marcelo Sakiyama, a fourth-year pathology student, studies racial differences in a peptide associated with prostate cancer.

“MICA [the peptide] shows up in cells under stress,” Sakiyama said. When large amounts of this peptide are separated from the rest of the protein, Sakiyama said this is a sign of an aggressive tumor.

Marcelo Sakiyama, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Pathology, shares his research with Dr. Damian Romero, assistant professor of biochemistry.
Marcelo Sakiyama, center, shares his research with Dr. Damian Romero, right, assistant professor of biochemistry.

His research found that tumor cells from Caucasian patients have higher levels of MICA than African-American patients. However, treating the cells with the anticancer-drug bortezomib caused African-American cell lines to release 100 times more MICA than the controls, but decrease the release rate in Caucasian cell lines.

“These results show race-specific expression of MICA in prostate cancer patients and in cell lines,” Sakiyama said, which could have implications for treatment. “Our next goal is to test cells from more racially diverse samples.”

Sponsored by the Office of Alumni Affairs and the SGSHS Alumni Chapter, the annual Research Day also recognizes an alumnus who has made significant contributions to their field, Granger said.

The 2017 Distinguished Alumnus, Dr. Robert Hester, is a 1982 graduate of the biomedical engineering Ph.D. program previously run by UMMC and Mississippi State University.

Now a Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor and professor of physiology and biophysics, Hester admits that in graduate school he missed the minimum grade to move on in physiology by one point. Twice.

“By the time I did pass, I really knew my physiology,” he said.

“Physiology is about problem-solving,” Hester said, which aligns with his interest in engineering, using full systems to understand how things work.

Dr. Robert Hester addresses the students at the school's annual Research Day.
Dr. Robert Hester addresses students at the school's annual Research Day.

Hester’s decades of research have focused on the mechanisms of blood flow control in skeletal muscle, exercise physiology and pathophysiology of orthopedic trauma. Most recently, his work has focused on mathematical modeling of human physiology through HumMod, a legacy project of his Ph.D. mentor Dr. Arthur Guyton and Dr. Thomas Coleman.

For the young scientists in attendance, Hester had this advice: “If you want to succeed, you need to double your failure rate.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they came to success when they gave up,” he said, quoting Thomas Edison.

Trainees had the opportunity to ask Hester their own questions.

“How do you stay at the cutting-edge of your field?” one asked.

“Read,” Hester said. “Read work by the leaders in your field. In addition, meet these people at scientific conferences. Networking is essential. If you don’t, you might as well work in a bank.”

2017 poster award winners

Graduate student poster award winners from left, Carolann Risley, David Spencer, Gwen Davis, Xiao Zhang, Haley Pipkins, Cassie Chandler, Lindsey Kuiper, Jessica Bradshaw and David Sandlin. Not pictured: Sydney Vita
Graduate student poster award winners include, from left, Carolann Risley, David Spencer, Gwen Davis, Xiao Zhang, Haley Pipkins, Cassie Chandler, Lindsey Kuiper, Jessica Bradshaw and David Sandlin. Not pictured is Sydney Vita.
Postdoctoral fellow presentation award-winners include from left, Dr. Matthias Krenn, Dr. Alecia Moore, Dr. Fabio Gava, Dr. Kristin Edwards, Dr. Edgar Torres-Fernandez. Not pictured: Dr. Sadia Ashraf.
Postdoctoral fellow presentation award winners include, from left, Dr. Matthias Krenn, Dr. Alecia Moore, Dr. Fabio Gava, Dr. Kristin Edwards, Dr. Edgar Torres-Fernandez. Not pictured is Dr. Sadia Ashraf.