Ph.D. Student, Nick Pabon, Receives Two Fellowships

download_20150225_131436We would like to congratulate second-year CPCB student Nicolas Pabon, who was awarded two fellowships.

Nick received a five-year NIH predoctoral fellowship.

“The purpose of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (Parent F31) is to enable promising predoctoral students to obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research.”

Successful applicants have a good academic record and research experience. They demonstrate the potential to develop into an independent and productive researcher in biomedical, behavioral or clinical science and also show a commitment to achieving that goal.

He also received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award. GRFP supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

Nick is a part of the Camacho Group and studies protein-protein interactions and strategies for inhibiting them.

Research Highlight: Clark Lab


Their model species, Pieris rapae

The Clark Lab, alongside the Morehouse Lab (Department of Biological Sciences), have been using the the bursa copulatrix as a model to research the mechanisms that equip an entire organ with its characteristic physiological functions.

Digestive Organ in the Female Reproductive Tract Borrows Genes from Multiple Organ Systems to Adopt Critical Functions

Camille Meslin1, Melissa S. Plakke2, Aaron B. Deutsch2, Brandon S. Small1, Nathan I. Morehouse2*, Nathan L. Clark1*
1 Department of Computational and Systems Biology, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
2 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Abstract: “The origin of novel organismal traits is a critical question in evolutionary biology. While different studies have revealed mechanisms by which novel morphological or physiological traits have evolved, the mechanisms that equip an entire organ with its characteristic physiological functions are relatively unknown. We have addressed this question by using the bursa copulatrix as a model. The bursa copulatrix is a very unique organ within the female reproductive tract in butterflies and moths that processes the male spermatophore, a nuptial gift that provides the female with nutrition. Using gene expression from 9 tissues across 2 developmental stages and phylogenetic analyses, we revealed that the bursa borrowed genes from non-reproductive tissues to gain muscular and digestive functions, transforming it into a stomach-like organ within the reproductive tract. We also showed the bursa responds to spermatophore deposition by altering its gene expression pattern. Finally, we identified bursa-specific genes that may provide novel bursa-specific functions. Overall, our work provides critical insight into female reproductive traits and genetic mechanisms that may be used to equip an organ with its physiological functions.”

Oltvai comments on statin research and their effect on cancer

University of Pittsburgh researchers are studying statins and their effect on cancer. Their research says that [statins] ‘appear to be a promising, cost-effective’ way of reducing cancer spread.

Dr. Oltvai said:

“‘While statins probably aren’t going to be effective against a patient’s primary tumour, they could work to block the tumour’s ability to metastasise.

‘And that is very important because most cancer patients die of the metastases.’

He added that the solution may be to give statins alongside treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, he stressed that much more work is needed and said that people should not start dosing themselves with statins as an anti-cancer drug.”


Read the article here:
MACRAE, FIONA. Statins may stop spread of cancer. 28 Jan 2015. IOL Lifestyle.


The research was also featured on WESA, Pittsburgh: