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Graduate School

Sarachek Fellowship Award Recipient

Pragyesh Dhungel

pragyesh dhungel

Pragyesh Dhungel is a doctoral candidate in microbiology. His dissertation research title is, "Selective Synthesis of Viral and Cellular Proteins during Vaccinia Virus-induced Host Shutoff". Dhungel studies vaccinia virus, which is used as a live vaccine to eradicate smallpox. Vaccinia, member of poxvirus family, is presently being engineered to treat various infectious diseases, multiple cancers, and is used as vaccines for diseases like AIDS, Zika, Ebola, etc. While vaccinia is engineered for many purposes, there is a major gap in understanding the fundamental mechanism of vaccinia gene expression during host protein synthesis shutoff.

Dhungel received his bachelor's from Kathmandu University in Nepal. Dr. Zhilong Yang, professor in biology, is his major professor.

Pragyesh Dhungel is seeking a post-doctorate position and is currently communicating with the National Cancer Institute, Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California-Berkeley. His research emphasis is to address the major gap in the mechanism of fundamental gene expression of vaccinia. The finding will provide knowledge to improve poxvirus-based therapies and vaccines.

The Sarachek funding will be used for relocation and to attend the XXII International Poxvirus, Asfarvirus and Iridovirus Conference, in Taipei, Taiwan from May 26th-30th, 2018. The remaining Sarachek Fellowship will be used to aid his own project to generate preliminary data, this data will open doors to the academic career that Pragyesh Dhungel is seeking. 

Sarachek Travel Award Recipients

Ryan Greenway

ryan greenway

Ryan Greenway is a doctoral candidate in biology. He received his bachelor's degree in zoology from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater Oklahoma. The primary focus of Greenway's research is to understand the genetic changes that allow animals to live in extreme environments and how these changes can cause new species to form. Greenway studies different species of fish living in extremely toxic environments. The toxin these fishes are adapted to is highly toxic to most other animals, including humans. Figuring out if these different fish species have evolved in the same way or in completely unique ways will provide useful insight into the predictability of evolution at the molecular level. Studying evolutionary solutions to dealing with high concentrations of this toxin may have implications for biomedical and toxicological research relevant to human disease and aging.

Greenway will use the funds to travel to Tampa, FL to attend the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) in January of 2019. He will be presenting his research on how interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear proteins can play a role in the formation of new species of animals as an invited speaker in a special symposium titled "Beyond the powerhouse: integrating mitonuclear evolution, physiology, and theory in comparative biology." By attending this meeting, Greenway will be able to showcase his recent research and interact with prominent biologists as he seeks out postdoctoral research opportunities.

Brintha Parasumanna Girinathan

brintha parasumanna girinathan

Brintha Parasumanna Girinathan is a doctoral candidate in genetics. She received her bachelors and masters in Biochemistry from Bharathiyar University, in Tamil Nadu India.

The primary focus of her research is to identify virulence gene regulation in anaerobic bacteria, Clostridium difficile and her dissertation title is “Integrating toxin production, sporulation, and motility by redefining the role of TcdR and characterizing the sin regulon in Clostridium difficile.” C. difficile is a gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium and is the leading cause of hospital-acquired infection in the United States posing a severe threat to patient safety and public health. Prolonged hospitalization and antibiotic therapy are the major risk factors of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). The bacteria exist in two states – an active vegetative form, and a dormant spore form. In its vegetative state, the bacteria produce two enterotoxins, Toxin A and Toxin B, which is the hallmark of pathogenic CDI. Her research interest is to unravel the molecular mechanism of genes, regulating the developmental switch in bacteria in response to unfavorable conditions. More specifically, she works on identifying the gene regulatory network that controls toxin production, sporulation and the pathways that connect these major regulatory networks. She uses an interdisciplinary approach using laboratory-based experimentation and bioinformatics analysis to answer her key objectives.

Brintha Parasumanna Girinathan will use her travel award to attend the ASM Microbe International Conference at Georgia World Congress Centre, Georgia. She plans to graduate in Summer 2018, and this harmonizes well with the timing of the conference. Attending this conference will acquaint her a vast platform to meet and interact with diverse group of international researchers who are experts in her area of interest. She also plans to participate in the professional development workshop on analyzing the Data in PATRIC: Assembly, Annotation, SNPs, RNA-Seq with a Suite of Tools that will be an added advantage to her future career in science.

Learn more about Al and Rosalee Sarachek.