WVU Ph.D. Candidate Receives NIH Grant
 Leor Zellner, a WVU pre-doctoral student, received the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The National Institutes of Health have awarded West Virginia University cellular and integrative physiology student Leor Zellner a pre-doctoral fellowship.

Zellner, who is entering her fifth-year at the School of Medicine, received the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award in January 2007.  The three-year grant provides a total of $69,000 to fund a research fellowship through 2009. 

To apply for the award, Zellner had to write a mini-grant requesting funding to study asthma and neurons. 

 “I’m looking at a specific group of neurons that send connections to the trachea,” Zellner explains.  “How do the numbers of neurons change as animals age?  Do irritants or ozone exposures change the numbers of those neurons?  These are questions I’d like to find the answers to.” 

The University of Tampa alumnus is no stranger to the grant writing process.  In fact, she credits her mentor Richard Dey, Ph.D., with helping to prepare her for the grant.  Dr. Dey is the director of WVU’s Center for Respiratory Biology and Lung Disease.

“While I was doing my lab rotation through the cellular and integrated physiology lab, the faculty members were in the process of writing a grant,” Zellner said.  “They allowed me to give input into the grant and things just sort of took off from there.”

“While receiving feedback from our researchers, Leor took the lead in developing the literature review and rationale for her project,” Dey said.  “We would discuss general directions for her experiments and define specific research questions. Leor designed the experiments following our discussions.”

Zellner hopes her research will be applicable to children as well. 

“This research could be a way of showing irritant exposures early in life could predispose children to getting asthma at younger ages,” she said.

“Our lab is on the competitive edge of scientific accomplishment and is actively engaged in nationally recognized and funded research,” Dey said.  “Leor's success brings recognition for other graduate students; it makes everyone aware that opportunities in science are achievable.”

For more information on WVU’s School of Medicine, visit www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/.

- WVU -

For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
cw: 07-16-07

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