July 17, 2006 |
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Four researchers in Hammock labs win top awards
Intern Weaver switched from soccer to science
DAVIS--Four researchers working in the labs of entomologist Bruce Hammock at the University of California, Davis, have won distinguished awards this summer.
It’s considered rare for one lab to produce so many award recipients—and all at one time, said Robert Washino, outgoing chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
“I am exceptionally proud of each of them,” Hammock said.
The award winners are graduate students Tim Weaver, Pasha Aronov and Hsing-Ju “Cindy” Tsai and staff research associate and recent doctoral recipient Kara R. Schmelzer.
Weaver received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-NIH Research Scholar Award, a one to two-year fellowship. He also received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Research Training Fellowship for Medical and Dental Students Award, but chose to accept the research scholar award.
Weaver will be investigating the biochemistry of why some transplanted kidneys are rejected and others are not. “Not only is this a very prestigious award but it also allows Tim to work at NIH – the nation’s premiere biomedical research laboratory,” Hammock said. “The award program allows him to interact personally with some of the leaders in the world in science.” (See related story on Tim Weaver)
Aronov was selected for a NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Graduate Training Grant in Environmental Toxicology, a one-year fellowship under way at UC Davis. He has developed an analytical method for the analysis of vitamin D metabolites as they relate to osteoporosis, inflammation and cancer. The training program. directed by Bob Rice at UC Davis, is the oldest NIEHS training grant in the nation, Hammock said, “and has trained many of the toxicologists now in responsible positions with academic, industrial and government laboratories throughout the nation.” Aronov also received the Henry A. Jastro and Peter J. Shields Graduate Research Scholarship Award.
Tsai won a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Integrating Medicine into Basic Science Fellowship Award (to be completed in the Hammock labs) and also the Henry A. Jastro and Peter J. Shields Graduate Research Scholarship Award.
She is studying the uptake and distribution of a new class of drugs that she hopes will treat inflammatory bowel disease. “This is a new training program at Davis to provide clinical experience and training in biomedical research to our most promising graduate student,” Hammock said.
Schmelzer won the 2006 John E. Kinsella Memorial Award from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Her upcoming paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes an approach to increase the safety of Cox inhibitors such as Vioxx and celebrex and technology to evaluate the role of nutrition on inflammation.
The annual Kinsella award, memorializing a former dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, recognizes doctorate students who have made major contributions to nutrition and human health.
Weaver, from Livermore, is a second-year medical student at UC Davis School of Medicine. Schmelzer, from Washington D.C., completed four years in the U.S. Navy in 1997. Aronov came to the United States four years ago from Russia, and Tsai, three years ago from Taiwan.
DAVIS--Tim Weaver definitely loves soccer.
He played soccer on a full athletic scholarship at the University of San Francisco, and after graduation, played professional soccer for two years with the San Jose Earthquakes, until 2000.
“I played soccer with a number of the very hard-working, dedicated athletes who ended up on the U.S. World Cup team,” Weaver said, “and I have the greatest respect for these guys.”
Then he switched to science.
University of California, Davis entomologist Bruce Hammock and scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are glad he did.
Weaver, a graduate student in Hammock’s lab and a second-year student at the UC Davis School of Medicine, has received a coveted Howard Hughes Medical Institute-NIH Research Scholar Award. He leaves for the NIH lab in Bethesda, Md., on Aug. 8 for a one to two-year fellowship.
Weaver is one of four researchers working in Hammock’s labs to receive distinguished awards this summer. (See related story)
“It is wonderful for us to have a biochemist in the laboratory who also knows the clinic,” said Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and the Cancer Research Center. “Tim will be a great help to all of us in translating our basic science to the bedside and a great link between the work at UC Davis and that at NIH.”
Hammock, who maintains labs in both Briggs and Everson halls, also directs the NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)-UC Davis Superfund Basic Research Program and serves as the principal investigator of the NIH Biotechnology Training Program.
Weaver’s research involves finding solutions to problems that lead to kidney transplant failure. “I’ll be working in collaboration with the Hammock Labs, while at NIH with the National Institute for Digestive, Diabetes, and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK),” Weaver said.
“I was working with Dr. Hammock and Dr. Richard Perez (director of the UC Davis Medical Center Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program) to investigate the role of inflammation and lipid metabolism on vascular dysfunction and renal transplant organ function.”
Now Weaver will be doing similar work at NIH, collaborating with Hammock and Allan Kirk, chief of the NIDDK transplantation branch. “Technically, we will be looking at how lipid metabolites and enzyme regulators influence monocyte and T-cell activation, overall effecting kidney transplant outcomes,” Weaver said.
“I will also be working in the Renal Diagnostics and Therapeutics Lab looking at the role of epoxy acids in sepsis-induced renal failure. I will spend two years at the NIH and then return to complete one more year in the Hammock labs, completing my Ph.D. Then it’s back to finishing medical school.”
Weaver was also selected for a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Research Training Fellowship for Medical and Dental Students Award, but chose to accept the research scholar award.
The former Livermore resident left the San Jose Earthquakes to accept a position as a clinical pulmonary technician and research assistant at the UC San Francisco Medical Center “to prepare for medical school.”
“I’ve always loved the sciences and have always wanted to become a doctor,” he said.
When he joined Hammock’s lab in August 2005, Hammock quipped: “Oh, good, now we can form a lab soccer team.”
Weaver’s kidney transplant work is of special interest to Hammock. “Being alive, thanks to a kidney transplant two years ago, gives me more than passing interest in Tim’s project,” Hammock said.
And yes, Weaver followed the World Cup finals, culminating in Italy outscoring France. Did he watch every minute of the finals? “Yes, just about! It has been difficult, though, because I also am studying for one of my most important board exams right now as well.
“It was extremely difficult to see the U.S. team start and finish so poorly. However, soccer has come a long way in the U.S. in a short time. We will bounce back. I’m happy for Italy. They are under a lot of pressure at the moment. Their credibility as a soccer nation has recently come under pressure. There is no better way to answer the critics than winning the world cup. Overall, I’m part Portuguese, Italian, and German….three of the top four finishers, so I couldn’t be happier!”
Hammock (front) Schmelzer, Weaver, Aronov, Tsai