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CEG Career Development Program 2014 NIS-NGBI awardees. Front row, from left: Ana Cheong, PhD, Ann Vuong, PhD, Vinothini Janakiram, PhD, Mei Ling Bermudez, MS, and Heidi Hsieh, MS. Back row, from left: Shouxiong Huang, PhD, Stephanie Donauer, MS, PhD, Hani Kushlaf, MD, Evan Frank, CEG Principal Investigator Shuk-Mei Ho, PhD, Daniel Giles, David Miller, Shuman Yang, PhD, Harish Chandra, PhD, and Xuegong Zhu, PhD.
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CEG Career Development Program 2014 NIS-NGBI awardees. Front row, from left: Ana Cheong, PhD, Ann Vuong, PhD, Vinothini Janakiram, PhD, Mei Ling Bermudez, MS, and Heidi Hsieh, MS. Back row, from left: Shouxiong Huang, PhD, Stephanie Donauer, MS, PhD, Hani Kushlaf, MD, Evan Frank, CEG Principal Investigator Shuk-Mei Ho, PhD, Daniel Giles, David Miller, Shuman Yang, PhD, Harish Chandra, PhD, and Xuegong Zhu, PhD.
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Publish Date: 07/07/14
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Center for Environmental Genetics Announces 2014 Career Development Awards

The Center for Environmental Genetics (CEG), funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and housed in the Department of Environmental Health, UC College of Medicine, has announced the recipients of its 2014 Career Development Awards. These men and women include 13 New Investigator Scholars and three Next Generation Biomedical Investigators, whose groundbreaking research in gene-environmental interactions is described below.

The CEG Career Development Program seeks to identify promising early stage investigators and assist in the development of their careers through interdisciplinary education, mentoring and research support. In so doing, the program aims to enhance the quality of, and appreciation for, advanced environmental health science at the University of Cincinnati and collaborating institutions. The Career Development Program actively seeks physician-scientists, basic scientists and translational researchers who can successfully traverse the interface between their respective clinical disciplines and basic research in environmental health science, in order to build fruitful, bi-directional applied research careers.

The CEG’s New Investigator Scholar awards are aimed at supporting graduate students and post-doctoral fellows with demonstrated interest in, and strong potential for, productive careers focused on gene-environment interactions and their implications for the development of human health and disease. The CEG grants its Next Generation Biomedical Investigator awards to promising full-time junior-level faculty members (research or tenure track) who demonstrate strong potential for building successful, high impact research and academic careers.

Each 2014 New Investigator Scholar and Next Generation Biomedical Investigator will receive funds to engage in thesis, postdoctoral and/or pilot research, as well as professional development activities aimed at increasing understanding of the linkages between environmental exposures and health effects at the molecular, genetic and epigenetic levels. 

The CEG’s 2014 New Investigator Scholars are 

  • April Batcheller, MD, a postdoctoral fellow in the UC Center for Reproductive Health, who is investigating DNA methylation marks for low dose bisphenol A exposure in the rat embryonic inner cell mass. 

  • Mei Ling Bermúdez, MS, a graduate student in the Division of Environmental Genetics and Molecular Toxicology. Bermudez’s funded work will focus on intra-nasally administered silver nanoparticles and proteins that affect their uptake and systemic distribution. Found in many consumer products, ranging from toothpaste to coated medical devices, silver nanoparticles are of interest because of their potential behavioral and inflammatory effects.  

  • Harish Chandra, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the UC Division of Environmental Genetics and Molecular Toxicology, Department of Environmental Health, whose work is of importance to machinists and other workers who may be exposed repeatedly to microbially contaminated metal-working fluid, placing them at risk of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP). Chandra is working to develop a T cell-based diagnostic for occupational HP, which is also known as Machine Operator’s Lung.

  • Ana Cheong, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow studying the effect of acute bisphenol S exposure and its associated microRNAs on embryo implantation in vitro. This research holds important implications for understanding female infertility and pregnancy loss. 

  • Stephanie Donauer, MS, PhD,  who is recognized by the National Institutes of Health as an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center Division of General and Community Pediatrics. Donauer is studying embryonic/fetal exposure to environmental toxicants during pregnancy and subsequent vaccination response in offspring. This work is important because, worldwide, more than half of all children who die before age 5 die as a result of infectious diseases. Understanding environmental factors that may adversely influence vaccine response mechanisms can contribute to improved vaccine efficacy and decreased morbidity and mortality.

  • Evan Frank, a doctoral student in the UC Department of Environmental Health. Frank is studying genetic susceptibility to pulmonary toxicity following exposure to carbon nanoparticles, an emerging and significant class of nanotoxicants. Carbon nanoparticales may be agitated into aerosols during industrial processes and thereby pose a human health risk as inhaled particulate matter.

  • Daniel Giles, a UC-Cincinnati Children's doctoral student (Division of Immunology) who is studying environmental regulation of transcriptional networks in inflammation and its role in the development of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, vascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Such work holds promise for novel preventive and therapeutic approaches to NAFLD. In May 2013, Giles’ work titled "Better mouse models of disease: Role of thermoneutrality in NAFLD development and progression” earned an award for Best Basic Science Poster at the May 20 meeting of the Cincinnati Diabetes and Obesity Center.

  • Heidi Hsieh, MS, a doctoral student in the UC Division of Environmental Genetics and Molecular Toxicology. Hsieh will continue to conduct studies of the mechanism of zinc toxicity in olfactory neurons. In 2013, a scientific poster by Hsieh on this subject earned a second-place prize for student work at the annual meeting of the American College of Toxicology. 

  • Vinothini Janakiram, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Environmental Health. She will use the CEG cores to study how in utero exposure to low-dose bisphenol A and a high fat diet reprograms the prepubertal mammary gland.  

  • David Miller, a PhD candidate in the Division of Environmental Genetics and Molecular Toxicology. Miller is studying the effects of statins on micro RNA (miRNA) expression in the rat brain. Statins, a class of drugs commonly prescribed to help lower blood cholesterol, have been associated with negative side effects on cognition and memory. Because statins also have been associated with certain neuroprotective effects, this research holds promise for improving understanding of statins’ impact on miRNA expression, which in turn may help to serve as a drug development screen to avoid or reduce adverse effects as new drugs are formulated.

  • Ann Vuong, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the UC Department of Environmental Health. Using cord blood mononuclear cells, Vuong is examining the effects of prenatal exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) on DNA methylation. Prenatal ETS exposure has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes and neurodevelopmental impairments, and Vuong’s project will be the first to examine DNA methylation in cord blood mononuclear cells using the Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadChip assay.

  • Shuman Yang, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UC Department of Environmental Health. Yang‘s New Investigator Scholar award will support his prospective study of global biomarkers of oxidative stress and hip fracture in postmenopausal women.  

  • Xuegong Zhu, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Environmental Health. Zhu is mapping global histone modifications in breast progenitor cells exposed to bisphenol A. Better understanding of histone modifications can lead to improved markers for BPA exposure diagnosis and, in turn, the enzymes that control histone modification may be better understood as therapy targets for BPA exposure treatment.

The CEG’s 2014 Next Generation Biomedical Investigators are

  • Scott Langevin, PhD, an early career molecular epidemiologist exploring the effects of viral, metal, alcohol and tobacco exposures on DNA methylation and gene expression. Langevin has already influenced the field of epigenetic epidemiology through his contributions to blood-based epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) methodology, allowing for adjustment for cellular heterogeneity in blood samples to account for confounding issues stemming from cell-type specific methylation patterns. This methodology is particularly relevant for chronic disease, aging and environmental research. 

  • Shouxiong Huang, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Environmental Genetics and Molecular Toxicology. Huang is exploring the interaction of potentially obesogenic, diabetogenic and immunotoxic chemicals (e.g., bisphenol A and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) with the gut biome and implications for maternal and perinatal immune systems.  

  • Hani Kushlaf, MD, an assistant professor of neurology and pathology at UC who is working to explore the function of normal and mutant chloride channels in immune-mediated neuropathies. Kushlaf will also be studying the effect of pregnancy hormones on the function of chloride channels. 
Since its inception in 2007, the CEG Career Development Program has supported 39 New Investigator Scholars and 15 Next Generation Biomedical Investigators. These men and women are proving to be prolific researchers, earning additional public and private research support (via federal R01, R21, K22, P30 and DOD mechanisms, private foundations, et al.) and producing more than 130 peer-reviewed publications to date.

The Center for Environmental Genetics is supported by NIEHS award P30-ES06096 and is directed by Shuk-Mei Ho, PhD, Jacob G. Schmidlapp Professor and Chair of Environmental Health and director of the Cincinnati Cancer Center. More information about the Center for Environmental Genetics can be found at http://www.eh.uc.edu/ceg/.



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