WVU Students Earn Honors for Research

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - Three West Virginia University School of Medicine student researchers received top honors and cash prizes at the annual the E.J. Van Liere Memorial Research Convocation.

During the convocation 11 M.D. and Ph.D. students, representative of their training programs in the schools of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and nursing are selected to give 15 minute-long, oral presentations before a committee of 13 faculty and research leaders. 


“Externally-sponsored biomedical research and contracts at WVU totaled $55 million in 2006,” Bob D’Alessandri, M.D., Health Sciences vice president said.  “Student participation is critical to ensuring the future of healthcare and continued funding.”

Heather O’Leary took home first place honors for her cancer cell biology presentation.   O’Leary, a native of Cranberry Township, Pa., studies how bone marrow protects leukemia cells from chemotherapy treatment

“We study why children receiving chemotherapy often still relapse,” O’Leary said.  “Our goal is to determine if decreasing specific protective signals in the bone marrow gives these kids a better chance of responding to chemotherapy and getting rid of the leukemia.”

 Heather O’Leary, WVU School of Medicine graduate student, took home 1st place honors for her leukemia research in a recent competition

The Clarion University alumna received $500 for placing first, as well as a $500 travel stipend to attend the 2008 American Cancer Research Meeting in California.

Second place winner Clayton Caswell of Waco, Texas, received $400 and a $500 travel stipend for his research presentation on streptococcus, the bacteria that causes infections like strep throat.

“Worldwide, strep still affects many people,” Caswell said.  “We’re trying to identify new targets on the cell surface that could be targeted by a vaccine.”  The Texas A&M University alumnus became interested in immunology and microbiology research because he wanted to “find ways to help people suffering from infections, like strep.”

 : Clayton Caswell conducts streptococcus research.  He was one of three WVU School of Medicine graduate students honored at a recent research competition.

Third place honors and $300 went to Amanda Jo (Bell) LeBlanc, an exercise physiology doctoral student from Clarksville, Ind.  LeBlanc presented on how aging and estrogen status affect coronary blood flow control.

“The goal of our research is to help the elderly population by determining how aging influences the coronary system in the absence of cardiovascular disease,” said LeBlanc, an Indiana University and University of Louisville alumna.

For more information on research and graduate studies at the HSC or for Van Liere Convocation photos visit www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/archive/2007/May/050807.asp
 WVU Exercise Physiology graduate student Amanda Jo (Bell) LeBlanc received 3rd place honors for research on coronary blood flow control.

- WVU -

For more information:
Cassie Waugh, HSC News Service, (304) 293-1425

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