Faculty and Students Recognized for Research and Innovation

HIGH POINT, N.C., Jan. 31, 2019 – Members of the High Point University community frequently conduct, publish and share research and creative works in a variety of ways. Below is a recap of research initiatives from the past month.

Pharmacy Students Present at National Conference

HPU pharmacy students presented research at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists midyear meeting in Anaheim, California. The meeting is attended by more than 25,000 pharmacy professionals from around the world, and it provides opportunities for professional development, networking, enhancing practice skills and staying current with the latest products and innovations. The students, CJ Puleo, Chris Houpt, Kelly Odegaard, Jessica Fernandez and Mimi Pham, attended and presented posters at the meeting, where they were able to share their research with professionals. Their research mentors include HPU pharmacy faculty members Dr. Peter Gal, Dr. Comfort Boateng and Dr. Julie Cooper.

“Being able to work on research projects at HPU has given me a deeper insight into the topics that we cover in class,” says Odegaard. “Thinking through the entire process has pushed me to question current practices and want to do more to further the practice of pharmacy. I’ve really enjoyed working with Dr. Gal over the last year and a half and have learned so much in the process.”

“Having the opportunity to conduct research in a field that I’m passionate about has been wonderful,” says Pham. “I’ve learned so much from my preceptors, but what I’ve enjoyed most is having the ability to present about my project. The whole experience has been humbling, and it’s made me more excited to enter the pharmacy field.” 


Students Share Research at National Meeting of Professional Astronomers

HPU physics majors Thomas Boudreaux, Kyle Corcoran and Stephen Walser shared research at the 233rd Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. They each gave poster presentations. Boudreaux presented “Effects of the Primordial Binary Fraction on the Evolution of Globular Clusters,” research he conducted last summer at Harvard University as part of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory REU Summer Research Program. Corcoran presented “A Journey to Mars: HPUniverse Day and Its Impact on Young Minds and a Community” detailing the annual science outreach program at HPU. He also presented “Evryscope Observations of Post-Common-Envelope Hot Subdwarf Systems” on work done in collaboration with astronomers at UNC-Chapel Hill to characterize period changes in extreme binary systems, using data from the Evryscope array in Chile. Walser presented “Evryscope Photometry of the New Hot Subdwarf Reflection Effect Binary EC 01578-1743,” which focuses on a new reflection effect binary discovered by the Evryscope and attempts to characterize it.

“This meeting is sometimes referred to as the ‘Super Bowl of Astronomy,’” says Brad Barlow, assistant professor of astrophysics. “It brings thousands of astronomers together to discuss the latest science results, public outreach efforts and more. Our students did a great job presenting and forging new collaborations with professionals.”

HPU Physical Therapy Presents Research at Largest National PT Conference

Fourteen students and faculty from HPU’s Department of Physical Therapy presented research at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting on Jan. 23-26 in Washington, D.C. The event was attended by more than 16,000 professionals. HPU students and faculty were a notable presence throughout presenting posters, platform presentations and educational sessions on topics ranging from hip strength, bone mineral density, injury risk and workload in athletes to physical therapy practice. Posters were presented by physical therapy students Coty Rajek, Monifa Williams, Natalie Devine and Layla Moran, Meghan Patton, Emily Tower, Erika Klein and Michael Nielsen, as well as faculty Dr. Dora Gosselin and Dr. Lance Mabry. Dr. David Sinacore and Dr. Jeffrey Taylor gave platform presentations, and Dr. Kevin Ford and Dr. Eric Hegedus gave educational sessions.

“A notable presence at this conference signals a great physical therapy program,” says Hegedus, professor and founding chair in the Department of Physical Therapy at HPU. “As a newer program, we wanted to send the message that we are a great program at a great university. The number and quality of presentations certainly sent that message by having the High Point University Doctor of Physical Therapy program front and center.”

Pharmacy Professor’s Work Accepted for Publication

A manuscript co-authored by Dr. Julie Cooper, associate professor of clinical sciences at HPU, will appear in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. Titled “Cost Related Medication Underuse: Strategies to Improve Medication Adherence at Care Transitions,” her research focuses on how patients use medication when they are discharged from the hospital.

“Medication misuse is epidemic. Problems include under prescription of preventative medications, unrecognized drug interactions and cost related medication underuse,” says Cooper. “Our current work supports a long-term goal of improving these transitions. This commentary highlights how pharmacists help patients engage health care complexity to access needed medications at care transitions.”

Biochemistry Professor, Student Publish Research on Health and Human Disease

Dr. Melissa Srougi, assistant professor of biochemistry at HPU, and Matt Beck, a 2016 graduate of HPU who is now a first-year medical student, co-authored an article which will appear in the Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications journal. Titled “Loss of ATM Positively Regulates Rac1 Activity and Cellular Migration Through Oxidative Stress,” the peer-reviewed article details research they performed through HPU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program in the Sciences and Undergraduate Research and Creative Works programs. Among the findings included in the article, their research delineates a novel mechanism whereby patients with the neurological disorder Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) have a predisposition to cancer.

“Our research has identified a new pathway that activates a protein critical in cell migration and invasion, particularly in individuals suffering with A-T,” says Srougi. “It also uncovers new therapeutic options for A-T patients to prevent the formation and spread of tumors.” 

Professor Wins Travel Award, Named Spotlight Speaker for National Conference

Dr. Heather Miller, assistant professor of biochemistry at HPU, received a Faculty Travel Award to attend the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in April. The competitive award is for professors who have conducted their research at primarily undergraduate institutions. She was also selected as a Spotlight Speaker during the conference for submitting one of the most compelling research abstracts. She will give an oral presentation titled “Human Tat-Specific Factor 1 Binds and Exports HIV-1 RNA to the Cytoplasm.” It is the collective work of her lab, which includes undergraduate HPU students Molly Hulver, Julia Trautman and Sebastian Roszczenko, and HPU graduate Amanda Goodwin, currently in medical school.

“We study a human protein that acts as a host factor in HIV-infected individuals,” says Miller. “Viruses heavily rely on host factors (proteins) to function rather than encoding all of the necessary genes themselves. HIV hijacks many human proteins so that viral genes are expressed more effectively, helping the virus and hurting the host. Our group aims to detect this particular protein binding the HIV genome and gain more details about how it is used by HIV.”

Pharmacy Professor Awarded Grant for Research

Dr. Aurijit Sarkar, assistant professor of basic pharmaceutical sciences at HPU, is the recipient of a competitive grant for his research on antibiotic resistant bacteria. The New Investigator Award sponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy provides start-up funding for the independent research programs of early-career pharmacy faculty. Sarkar’s study is titled “Towards Targeting Antibiotic Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.”

“Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as staph, is spreading rapidly due to the prevailing opioid crisis,” says Sarkar. “Staph is fast becoming resistant to antibiotics that are used to treat infections. Very few new antibiotics have come forth across the past three decades, which limits treatment options. This grant will help us identify new compounds that eliminate resistance to currently available antibiotics, thereby maintaining their clinical utility.”

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