HIGH POINT, N.C., June 28, 2022 – 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 recent research initiatives.
HPU Professors, Exercise Science and Physical Therapy Students Present Research in California
HPU professors and students in the Congdon School of Health Sciences traveled to San Diego, California, to present their research at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting and World Congresses from May 31 to June 4.
Drs. Kimberly Reich and Kevin Ford, faculty within the Congdon School of Health Sciences, chaired scientific sessions at the conference. Reich led a session on fitness assessment, and Ford led a session on ACL injury prevention and rehabilitation strategies.
Eight students presented research at the conference on topics including epidemiology, running injury, fitness assessment, thermoregulation, sport biomechanics, ACL injury prevention, soccer and sports medicine biomechanics.
“Presenting my research in San Diego was truly an amazing experience,” said Kacey Wheeler, a Class of 2022 graduate from Louisville, Kentucky. “I got to stand beside some of the best researchers in the field, and my advisor, Dr. Ford, helped me establish connections that will benefit my future aspirations. I do not take for granted how HPU uniquely prepared me to confidently speak to professionals about my research and to represent my university with pride.”
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has more than 50,000 members and certified professionals that represent 90 countries around the world.
HPU Chemistry Students and Professors Publish Research and are Awarded Editor’s Choice
HPU students and Drs. Heather Miller and Meghan Blackledge, associate professors of chemistry, recently published peer-reviewed research in two American Chemical Society (ACS) Journals. Student authors Brianna Viering, a rising senior, and Class of 2021 graduates Rachel Bernsden, Taylor Cunningham, Lauren Kaelin, W. Dexter Boldog and Ashley King received the Editor’s Choice for their paper in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Viering, Cunningham and King collaborated on a follow-up paper published in the ACS Chemical Biology.
Members of the Miller and Blackledge labs study MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Both research papers describe the synthesis and study of small molecules called antibiotic adjuvants. They work in conjunction with existing antibiotics to help break down resistance mechanisms that bacteria have put in place. Drs. Miller and Blackledge worked with the student researchers on how the novel antibiotic adjuvants make beta-lactam antibiotics effective against MRSA. Their goal is to create antibiotic adjuvants that would be used in a clinic eventually.
“Participating in academic research was the most rewarding activity that I did during my time at HPU, and I would encourage anyone who is interested to give it a shot,” said Cunningham, now a medical student at Campbell University. “When I first started at HPU, my goal was to be a part of a publication. It was awesome to see all of the hard work we all put in finally come together and see how meaningful it really was.”
The research was funded by a major grant from the National Institutes of Health, supporting faculty and students to purchase equipment, reagents and perform research at HPU.
Pharmacy Professor Receives Grant for Research
Dr. Cale Fahrenholtz, assistant professor of basic pharmaceutical sciences in the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy, was awarded an $8,000 grant for his research on the treatment of peripheral nerve sheath tumors. The grant is part of the 2022 AACP New Investigator Research Award.
His current research focuses on developing new treatments for malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors in patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). He says these tumors are the most common cause of death in NF1 patients, and the current standard of care shows limited clinical success. Fahrenholtz and his team are testing silver nanoparticles as a cancer-selective therapy.
“This award is important to me as it validates my research program as peer-reviewers saw the potential of this novel therapy,” said Fahrenholtz. “This award will let me continue my research program, support future research funding opportunities and to continue training students at HPU to become the next generation of scientists.”
The AACP New Investigator Award is awarded to assist promising early-career faculty in the development of an independent research program to lay the groundwork for future extramural funding.
HPU Professor and Students Discover New Star Systems
Dr. Brad Barlow, associate professor of astrophysics, along with four undergraduate students and an HPU alumnus, recently published a peer-reviewed paper on their work focused on using NASA’s orbiting TESS spacecraft to discover more than 100 new binary star systems. Their research was published in the Astrophysical Journal, the highest-ranked academic journal for astrophysics in the world by Google Scholar.
Binary star systems are pairs of stars that orbit one another due to their mutual gravity, and they can help shed light on studies of stellar evolution, galaxies and cosmology. They are discovered through brightness changes they exhibit as the two stars orbit one another, but this can be an inefficient process using traditional telescopes on the Earth’s surface.
New candidate binary stars in Dr. Barlow’s study were selected using a novel method the team previously helped develop that uses statistical information published by the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft. In short, Gaia reported measurements with worse precision for stars that were in binaries compared to stars that were not. Dr. Barlow’s team used the TESS spacecraft to monitor these stars intensely for several months through a NASA-funded grant project. Around 95% of the targets they selected ended up being new binary star systems, thereby demonstrating the efficiency of their selection method. The team analyzed nearly four million individual data points from TESS to discover these new star systems.
“Working on this project the past two-and-half years was absolutely thrilling,” said Barlow. “Once per month, NASA’s TESS mission would downlink a new batch of data, and we would quickly analyze it to find interesting systems. I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is to watch undergraduates experience the thrill of discovery first-hand.”
Using a mathematical technique called Fourier decomposition, they found they can classify different types of binaries efficiently, without inspecting the data manually, but by quantifying subtle differences in the brightness signals unique to each type of system. The team is now exploring the full efficacy of this method and how it might be applied to future astronomical surveys.