January 26, 2023

Graduate Student Research Day returns in-person with 43 scientific presentations

Sonia Khalid explains her research project at the Graduate Student Research Presentation Day. Khalid's poster won first place honors.

(Visit our Flickr for more photos from the event.)

The Wayne State University School of Medicine’s annual Chuan-Pu Lee, Ph.D., Endowed Graduate Student Research Presentation Day was held Jan. 24 in Scott Hall’s cafeteria and the Margherio Family Conference Center.

The student-organized event was held in person for the first time since 2019. Now in its 26th year, it showcases the diverse biomedical research of graduate students at the School of Medicine and from other WSU schools and colleges.

The event provides a platform for graduate students to present their work to WSU research faculty and students, and encourages interdepartmental collaboration. This year, students presented 15 10-minute oral talks and 28 poster presentations.

Organizing committee member Andrew Butcko, at left, Dean Wael Sakr, M.D., and organizing committee member Nouran Yonis at the event.

The research day is supported by a gift from Dr. Lee, who died in 2016. The endowed funds provide awards and prizes. Dr. Lee retired in 2011 after 36 years on the School of Medicine faculty. She was a strong advocate for WSU graduate students, offering pre- and post-doctoral travel awards to help offset the cost of national and international conferences.

Several faculty members from both the medical and main campus volunteered to judge the student presentations.

The 2023 organizing committee and day-of moderators included Andrew Butcko, Cathy Mcleod, Ashten Stambersky, Paul Morse, Annie Nguyen, Jugmohit Toor, Margaret Akpo and Nouran Yonis.

M.D.-Ph.D. candidate Rafael Ramos discusses his research poster at the Jan. 24 event.

Sponsors included the Michigan Society of Hematology and Oncology, and Arbor Assays. The organizing committee also shared special thanks to the WSU vice dean of Research and Graduate Programs; the Alumni Office; and the departments of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences; the Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics; Cancer Biology; Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology; Pharmacology; and Pathology.

The event included a keynote address from Derek Narendra, M.D., Ph.D., a Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and tenure-track investigator for the National Institutes of Health. His laboratory focuses on mitochondrial drivers and stress responses in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, frontotemporal dementia and myopathy. During his graduate research he identified a novel mitophagy pathway involving the coordinated activities of PRKN and PINK1, mutations that are the leading cause of early onset Parkinson’s.

An awards ceremony followed his presentation. The student winners were:

Oral presentations

First place: Samantha Heldman – “Identification of liquid crystal monomers and their mixtures as novel metabolism disrupting chemicals,” Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Second place: Alixandria Mascarin – “Fos-expressing neuronal ensembles in reward neurocircuitry underlie cocaine-primed relapse in female and male rats,” Translational Neuroscience Program

Poster presentations

First place: Sonia Khalid – “Intermittent morphine access throughout gestation impairs mouse maternal behavior development and enhances anxiety outcomes,” Research and Development Service, John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences

Second place: Aaron Lotvola – “The mechanism and significance of c-Myc suppression by ABHD5 in prostate cancer cells,” Cancer Biology Graduate Program

Honorable mentions

Rayane Dennaoui

Maryam Safdar

Annie Nguyen

Isabella Cubillejo

Rafael Ramos

Jugmohit Toor

Aiman Shahab

Amirreza Samarbakhsh

Mizumi Seita

Aditi Singh

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