HPU Faculty and Students Recognized for Research and Innovation

Oct 04th, 2022

HPU Faculty and Students Recognized for Research and Innovation

HIGH POINT, N.C., Oct. 4, 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.

Pharmacy professors each awarded the NC Biotech Flash grant for their research

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Dr. Robert Coover

Drs. Robert Coover and Aurijit Sarkar, professors in the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy, both were awarded an NC Biotech Flash grant. Flash grants provide funding at the early stages of innovative research ideas that have high potential for commercial usage.

Dr. Coover’s research is titled “Targeting RAC1 in Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors.” In the lab, they are combining chemistry and biology to make new potential drugs that target malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors. These are extremely deadly tumors that are often associated with a disease called Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1). NF1 is a common genetic disorder without a cure. The work they are doing will hopefully lead to better options for patients and ultimately longer lives.

“Receiving this grant is a great achievement,” said Coover. “NC Biotech does great things for the state of North Carolina by fostering innovative growth and bettering patient outcomes. I am grateful my fellow colleagues and I are recognized for our scientific contributions and especially to the students who have dedicated many hours to working in the lab. I am extremely invested in the success of the students who join my lab, and I know I’m at my best when I can put them in a position to learn advanced topics and perform specialized techniques in such a way that helps them achieve their next career goal.”

HPU Aurijit Sarkar 2
Dr. Aurijit Sarkar

Dr. Sarkar’s group aims to design chemicals that will work with penicillins to fight off infections. His funded project is titled “Establishing the translational potential of aminopyriimidines as penicillin enhancers against MRSA.” MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, causes deadly infections and antibiotic resistance limits treatment options. That is why his team is trying to create a solution against MRSA infections.

“Our research program is part of a concerted effort by High Point University faculty to resolve some serious diseases that remain difficult to treat, despite a century of improvements in health care,” said Sarkar. “Drs. Coover, Fahrenholtz and I have combined forces to try and cure these infections. This grant was awarded in competition with investigators from research-focused institutions across the state, which demonstrates the importance of our investigation. Further, this grant will also support undergraduate researchers, exposing them to cutting-edge research and helping them build their careers.”

Sarkar is working with five undergraduate students on this specific research.

HPU students and faculty present research in Belgium

Dr. Brad Barlow, associate professor of astrophysics, and two of his students, presented their research at an international astrophysics conference in Belgium. Astronomers from around the world gathered at the 10th Meeting on Hot Subdwarfs and Related Objects to discuss evolved stars.

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Dr. Brad Barlow, associate professor of astrophysics, and two of his students, presented their research at an international astrophysics conference in Belgium. From left to right is HPU senior Bryce Smith, physics major; Isaac Lopez, former HPU research assistant; Dave Kilkenny, professor at the University of the Western Cape; and Dr. Barlow.

Bryce Smith, a senior physics major, presented on a new white dwarf star he discovered orbiting a pulsating star using pulse timing measurements collected with NASA’s TESS spacecraft. Isaac Lopez, a post-baccalaureate researcher, also gave a presentation on the discovery of dozens of new variable stars using the Zwicky Transient Facility in California and the McDonald Observatory in Texas. Barlow led a presentation on the first detection of Doppler beaming in the light curves of red dwarf stars orbiting evolved stars, which is an effect predicted by Einstein’s relativity theory.

“A specialized conference like sdOB10 can be intimidating to newcomers in the field, especially undergraduates,” says Barlow. “Bryce delivered one of the best and most confident talks ever by a junior-level participant in the 20-year history of this conference series. The new collaborations we forged while there will push us into exciting new research directions for years to come.”

Barlow was chosen to host the 12th Meeting on Hot Subdwarfs and Related Objects in North Carolina, in 2025.

Computer science professor’s research published in a leading scientific journal

HPU Yong Wei 4
Dr. Yong Wei

Dr. Yong Wei, professor of computer science, recently published his research in the prestigious Langmuir journal, an American Chemical Society journal. His research focuses on using deep machine learning models to study the protein molecular structure evolution in the process of lysozyme adsorption on a graphene surface.

“Publishing research papers in this journal greatly boosts the academic reputation of High Point University and shows the high caliber of High Point University faculty,” said Wei.

Wei says understanding the interfacial behaviors of biomolecules is crucial to applications in biomaterials and nanoparticle-based biosensing technologies.