- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The Staff Assembly will honor her and other award recipients at a ceremony in late summer or early fall, said Tasha Burr and Danielle Kehler, co-chairs of the Citations of Excellence Committee. McReynolds will receive a $1500 check.
“Our nominee, a 10-year UC Davis employee and longtime scientist with a master's degree in pharmacology and a bachelor's degree in animal science, excels at program management, research administration, and research itself,” wrote nominators Bruce Hammock, forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey and communications specialist Kathy Keatley Garvey.
“She was the lead author of research that may be ‘the missing link' as to why some COVID-19 patients recover and some don't,” they wrote. “Her innovative work on a blood plasma biomarker discovered in hospitalized COVID-19 patients may not only predict the severity of adult respiratory distress syndrome but further research may lead to inhibiting its progression. She initiated the collaborative research to test specialized pro‑resolving mediators (SPM) for their therapeutic potential against COVID-19 in a preclinical model at Rutgers University. This ongoing study is expected to provide ‘proof-of-concept' for a novel treatment to COVID-19.”
The trio pointed out that “her expertise includes grants management (applying and budgeting), organizing program outreach, coordinating training grants for trainees funded by a multi-million national grant, and mentoring students, whether in the lab or in the classroom. Our nominee goes above and beyond what is expected of her. Her supervisor says she is ‘the most amazing person I've ever met. For her entire career at UC Davis, she has been a phenomenal asset to the laboratory and campus. In her role in the laboratory, she oversees an accountant who handles the complex budget problems of the federally funded UC Davis Superfund Program Project. This multi-college, multi-principal investigator program has essentially five separate NIH grants, each of which itself is multi-departmental and multi-college supported by three cores.”
In addition, McReynolds also helped establish a community research program on human and environmental health in Northern California with the Yurok Indian Tribe, and a research translation program with several state agencies to identify STEM opportunities between UC Davis and surrounding communities.
Coordinated National Meeting
Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and for nearly four decades has directed the UC Davis Superfund Research Program (funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) noted that in 2019-20, McReynolds coordinated the national meeting of the Superfund Programs with multiple state and federal agencies. “She played an integral and critical role in submitting a competing renewal for years 30-35 of the program. This massive effort involved integrating multiple budgets across campus and coordinating with NIH, the campus research office, and multiple colleges.”
“On all of these projects, her knowledge of accounting and grantsmanship, coupled with her personal skills (always congenial and eager to help) proved critical,” Hammock said. “She was involved even to the point of editing specific objectives to make the projects more integrated, which relied on her knowledge as a scientist as well.” This was on top of being office manager for the large Hammock research laboratory involving a team of multiple disciplines.
“During this time, she served as both the lab manager and the accountant/business manager, replacing a retiree,” Hammock noted.
The nominators pointed out that McReynolds is a doctoral candidate (now PhD graduate), wife, mother of two, and a community volunteer. Known for sharing her scientific expertise, she organized a “Science Day” with UC Davis and Davis primary schools; organized speakers for “Meet a Scientist”; judged Davis science fairs; helped struggling high school students with their science projects; and coached the Davis Youth Robotics Team.
“She balances her multiple difficult tasks with skill, efficiency and good humor,” the nominators wrote. “She is always eager to help, even to transporting a colleague's newly eclosed, out-of-season monarch butterfly to an overwintering site in Santa Cruz!”
'Brilliant Researcher and Wonderful Instructor'
Kimsey praised her work in teaching and mentoring students in his animal biology classes. “She has not only made their time and efforts highly productive in the research arena, but provides effective counseling on their career trajectories, how to balance personal life, kids and family with university life,” Kimsey said. “She is not only a brilliant researcher, a wonderful instructor for undergraduates that enter the laboratory, but is a dedicated and caring mentor. Her principal investigator has stated that she is possibly the most amazing person he has ever met. I very certainly concur in all regards.”
McReynolds, who received her doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology in June, initially sought a career as a veterinarian. She received her bachelor's degree in animal science from UC Davis in 1999, and her master's degree in animal science from Washington State University, Pullman, in 2001.
“After receiving a master's degree in animal science, I quickly realized that I had an interest and passion for understanding the roles of nutrition and environment on disease outcomes in both human and animal health,” McReynolds related. “Instead of continuing my research career in animal science, I left to gain experience in development therapeutics for humans and animals. My work in understanding the role of bioactive lipid mediators began in 2006 when I joined Arete Therapeutics, South San Francisco, as project manager to advance soluble epoxide inhibitors through clinical trials for treating hypertension. After leaving Arete, I joined Dr. Hammock's laboratory as a research administrator where I gained important experience in project management, budgeting and grants administration. Once my children were old enough to accommodate the often-inconsistent schedule of laboratory work, I continued my career goals of becoming a PhD scientist.”
McReynolds traced her interest in scientific research to her “formative years in a small town in western Kentucky, cataloging observations of animals in a notebook.”
Understanding the Roles of Lipid Mediators
McReynolds has studied the biological activity of lipid mediators for the past 12 years. “My current efforts focus on understanding the roles of lipid mediators in inflammation especially relating to pain and degenerative disease,” said McReynolds, who is a member of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and the American Chemical Society. “My research focuses on developing tools for use in in vitro and in vivo knockout studies to understand their role in inflammation with a focus on mechanism of pharmacokinetics.”
McReynolds said her “career aspirations are to lead collaborative research programs that will use science to improve overall health outcomes by developing disruptive treatment or diagnostic capabilities to predict early responders/nonresponders to therapies,” she said, adding that “I approach problems and challenges now, not with a pass/fail approach, but with an understanding of how to address the problem at hand.”
“In my career, I strive to make significant contributions in advancing science to understand disease so that there are better treatment options for everyone; I strive to provide encouragement to women struggling to balance a family and career, to lead by example that it is possible to be a mom and scientist; I strive to motivate others, as I have been motivated by my mentors, that their fears are not too big to prevent them from reaching their goals; I strive to create a positive, collaborative work environment. Ultimately, I strive to share my enthusiasm for science and learning as well as unique background to advance a basic understanding of biology that will benefit global health outcomes for all.”
The Staff Assembly's annual awards program provides recognition for individual staff and staff teams “who have demonstrated outstanding achievement that go above and beyond the requirements outlined in their position descriptions.” Staff Assembly presents Individual awards in the categories of innovation, research, service, supervision and teaching; and team awards for project or program staff, office staff, or other similar groups.