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Source: Carol Shanklin, 785-532-7927,
Web site:
News release prepared by: Kay Garrett, 785-532-6,

Friday, April 24, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Three doctoral students at Kansas State University are receiving Sarachek awards to help further their research.

Since 2002, Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek, both career biologists from Wichita, have been helping to advance the careers of K-State doctoral students whose research uses molecular biological techniques as tools of discovery. The Saracheks annually award one fellowship of up to $15,000 and several scientific travel awards of up to $1,000.

Vinai Chittezham Thomas, doctoral student in microbiology, is receiving the 2009 Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek Predoctoral Honors Fellowship in Molecular Biology, while Ginny Antony, doctoral student in plant pathology, and Xin Deng, doctoral student in genetics, are each receiving $1,000 scientific travel awards. All three students are from Manhattan.

According to the Saracheks, the fields of study for their awards can be as dissimilar as heart disease research and wheat blight studies, but addressing the important questions of each field demands rigorous molecular level investigations.

Alvin Sarachek received his doctorate in genetics from K-State in 1957. He said he values the K-State tradition of offering a broad array of quality programs in the life sciences, many with outstanding national reputations. He also said that he and his wife wanted to contribute to that tradition of excellence by recognizing students whose research on a variety of biological problems involves molecular approaches.

All three Sarachek recipients have maintained perfect 4.0 grade point averages in their advanced studies, and their research results have been accepted for publication in notable scientific journals in their fields, said Carol Shanklin, dean of the K-State Graduate School.

"These students are applying the tools of molecular biology to important scientific problems, and their investigations are yielding new insights and understanding," Shanklin said. "With extraordinary support from the Sarachek family, students will continue their scientific careers, to the benefit of society, we believe."

Thomas studies how bacterial pathogens assemble to create almost impenetrable biofilms. His research goal is to understand if it's possible to disrupt biofilm formation. Treatments for cardiac endocarditis, urinary tract infection, bacteremia and infections associated with implants could result from the studies.

Thomas conducts his work with Lynn Hancock, assistant professor of biology. Based on the biofilm research he has done in Hancock's lab, Thomas has been invited to join the research group of Ferric Fang at University of Washington after graduating from K-State. Fang is an eminent scientist in the field of Salmonella pathogenesis.

"Being selected to receive the Sarachek Predoctoral Honors Fellowship will give me the opportunity to participate in scientific collaboration and academic networking, and attend professional workshops," Thomas said. "Such interactions with peers will help keep me at the forefront of cutting-edge work in the microbial sciences."

Antony studies rice disease resistance genetics under the mentorship of Frank White, K-State professor of plant pathology. She will use the travel award to will attend the 2009 American Phytopathological Society meeting in Portland, Ore., and the Xanthomonas Genomic Conference in Pingree, Colo.

Deng studies genetic regulation of a bacterial secretion system critical to development of some plant diseases. His mentor is Xiaoyan Tang, a K-State geneticist and associate professor of plant pathology. He will use the travel award to attend the 2009 American Phytopathological Society meeting in Portland.

More information on the Sarachek awards and short biographies of the 2009 recipients are available online at

After completing his doctorate at K-State, Alvin Sarachek established the department of biology at Wichita State University with Val Woodward, a former K-State professor. He maintained an active research program studying the genetics of medically important yeasts. Sarachek retired in 1992 as a Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at Wichita State, and earned the university's Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Emory Lindquist Excellence in Honors Teaching Award. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

RosaLee Sarachek earned degrees in biology and medical technology from Wichita State and was on the staffs of St. Francis Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital and Rehabilitation Center. She served as the first chair of Wichita State's medical technology program, and was a member for many years of the Sarachek research group.

The Saracheks currently are actively involved with the work of the Hereditary Neurological Disease Centre Inc., Wichita, which specializes in Huntington's disease.