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OUHSC Graduate College Presents $24,250 in Research Awards

Friday, May 12, 2017 - Campus News -

To prepare for careers in research, students must not only learn the science of their specialty, but they must practice presenting their work, both orally and in posters.

For 42 years, the Graduate College at the OU Health Sciences Center has provided a forum for students to gain that experience. The GREAT (Graduate Research Education and Technology) Symposium showcases the original research of students and post-doctoral fellows, who also compete for travel awards to present their research at national and international scientific meetings.

This year, the Graduate College presented $24,250 in awards to students and fellows for their research. The travel awards are important because they allow students to present their research again at larger meetings out of state, where connections are often made that will further their careers.

“We are proud of this year’s GREAT participants and the significant quality of research projects that they presented,” said Anne Pereira, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate College. “We have very bright students who are dedicated to discovering new answers for the health problems that people face.”

Students leverage the travel awards in significant ways. Dana S. Mowls, MPH, who is working toward a doctorate in epidemiology, won a travel award last year for her oral research presentation, “Long-term Quit Rates in Fax-Referred as Compared to Self-Referred Tobacco Quitline Registrants.” She used her travel award to defray her costs to go to the University of California, where she collaborated with other tobacco control researchers. The collaboration resulted in her ability to analyze and interpret biomarkers of tobacco exposure, which she measured among participants in her dissertation study.

Another student, Jenna Guthmiller, who won travel awards last year and this year, said she values the networking and learning that the travel awards make possible when she is able to attend national and international conferences. She is using her recent award to present her research at a conference in Whistler, British Columbia.

“My dissertation work is focused on understanding immunity against malaria, a disease that threatens nearly half of the world’s population and for which no vaccine exists,” she said. “Through our work at OUHSC, we’ve discovered that experimental malaria drives a massive pro-inflammatory immune response that preferentially drives the expansion of short-lived antibody secreting cells, which do not provide protection against parasite burdens. Simultaneously, the massive pro-inflammatory immune responses suppress protective long-lived antibody secreting cell responses. Our studies help inform the development of immune-based therapeutics or vaccines that target and limit malarial disease.” 

The Graduate College is one of seven colleges at the OU Health Sciences Center. It is the college that educates future health care scientists from a variety of research disciplines in the Colleges of Allied Health, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health. Students come from around the world and have many different aspirations and dreams. Some want to establish research careers in academia, industry, health care or government. Some are developing skills to teach the next generation of health scientists, while others aim to communicate science to non-specialists. A growing number of Ph.D. and M.S. candidates want to become entrepreneurs or consultants in new technologies or patent law. Some choose to develop careers in regulatory and policy matters.

“Our students in the Graduate College receive a well-rounded education that prepares them to enter a number of fields and make a difference with their knowledge and desire to help solve the important medical and public health issues of today,” Pereira said.

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