Gerald Abrams (M.D. 1955) received the Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges in November. Abrams, an active professor emeritus of pathology in the Medical School, has spent more than five decades participating in the design and modification of the curriculum and educating almost 10,000 students in pathology.
James Dowling, M.D., Ph.D., received the Philip R. Dodge Young Investigator Award from the Child Neurology Society. The annual award recognizes basic or clinical research by promising young investigators who are members of the society. An assistant professor of pediatric neurology who conducts research related to pediatric neuromuscular disease, Dowling also serves as co-director of the Pediatric Neuromuscular Clinic and as director of U-M’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy clinic.
Mariana Kaplan, M.D. (Fellowship 1998), associate professor of internal medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, was selected to give the 2011 Edmund L. Dubois Memorial Lecture at the American College of Rheumatology meeting. The lectureship award is presented to an outstanding young investigator in systemic lupus erythematosus. Nominees are selected based on the quality of abstracts submitted to the ACR Annual Scientific Meeting, as well their overall contributions to the field of lupus research.
Paul R. Kileny
Paul R. Kileny, Ph.D., received the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s highest accolade, Honors of the Association, at the organization’s convention in November. The award recognizes Kileny’s career accomplishments which focused on clinical neurophysiology, including research related to cochlear implants, hearing loss detection in newborns and infants, and intraoperative nerve monitoring. He is a professor of otolaryngology and director of the Audiology and Electrophysiology Program.
Alisa E. Koch
Alisa E. Koch, M.D., received the Arthritis Foundation’s 2011 Lee C. Howley Sr. Prize for Arthritis Research. The award recognizes researchers whose contributions during the previous five years have represented a significant advancement in the understanding, treatment or prevention of arthritis. Koch is the Frederick G.L. Huetwell and William D. Robinson, M.D., Professor of Rheumatology.
Jeffery Kutcher, M.D., associate professor of neurology, has been selected to direct the National Basketball Association’s newly instituted concussion program. The program is designed to safeguard the neurological health of NBA players through a comprehensive framework of education, clinical management, and data collection and analysis. Kutcher, who directs the Michigan NeuroSport Program, is a leading authority in the field of sports neurology.
Amnon Rosenthal, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist and professor emeritus of pediatrics, received the 2011 Esprit De Coeur Award for Distinguished Achievement from the American Heart Association. The award was given in recognition of his influence on the advancement of how heart disease is treated in pediatric patients, as well as his role in creating a prominent fellowship program in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases.
Beth A. Tarini
Beth A. Tarini, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases, has been selected to serve as the American Academy of Pediatrics representative on the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children. The committee advises the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the most appropriate application of universal newborn screening tests, technologies, policies, guidelines and standards.
Wendy Uhlmann (M.S. 1987), clinical assistant professor of internal medicine and human genetics, received the Natalie Weissberger Paul National Achievement Award from the National Society of Genetic Counselors. The award, which is the highest honor the society can bestow, is given to a member who has served with exemplary national achievements and volunteer activities on behalf of the society and the profession. Uhlmann also serves as a genetic counselor and clinic coordinator in the Medical Genetics Clinic. —MF
Eight Medical School faculty members have been elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Election as a fellow is seen as an important recognition by a scientist’s peers of his or her efforts to advance science or its applications.
Ruma Banerjee, Ph.D., the Vincent Massey Collegiate Professor of Biological Chemistry and associate chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry, was recognized for fundamental studies of catalysis by vitamin B12-dependent enzymes and of trafficking and assimilation of vitamin B12 in humans.
Sally Camper, Ph.D., the James V. Neel Collegiate Professor of Human Genetics, chair of the Department of Human Genetics, and professor of internal medicine, was recognized for research into the molecular mechanisms of pituitary action and outstanding contributions to academic administration and education of biomedical scientists.
Heather Carlson, Ph.D., professor of medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy, professor of chemistry in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and a faculty member in the Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, was recognized for contributions to computational chemistry, specifically incorporating protein flexibility into structure-based drug design and the development and mining of protein-ligand databases.
Christin Carter-Su, Ph.D., professor of molecular and integrative physiology and academic program director in the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center, was recognized for scientific and administrative contributions to the field of endocrinology, particularly for delineating the cellular actions of growth hormone.
Jun-Lin Guan, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and of cell and developmental biology, was recognized for contributions to the field of cancer biology and for services to professional societies to promote the careers of young scientists.
Michael Imperiale, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, was recognized for contributions to the field of virology, and to the discourse on responsible conduct of life science research.
Malcolm Low, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular and integrative physiology and of internal medicine, was recognized for contributions to the field of hypothalamic-pituitary disorders including pituitary adenomas and obesity, particularly using genetically modified mouse models.
Lois Weisman, Ph.D., professor of cell and developmental biology, was recognized for contributions to cell biology, especially for advancing knowledge of how molecular motors attach to cargoes, and the roles and regulation of phosphoinositide lipids. —MF
Sundeep Kalantry | Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography
“You as a being are not just a product of your genes but also your environment,” says Sundeep Kalantry, Ph.D., “and this is the interface.”
Kalantry, an assistant professor of human genetics, isn’t talking about the familiar “nature vs. nurture” formulation. He’s talking about epigenetics, the study of how genes express themselves due to environmental factors in ways that are long-lasting and heritable but also reversible. As he says, “We have a tangible hook on what it is that controls your genes and is susceptible to environmental influences.”
Briefly put, genes are like hardware and epigenetic mechanisms are like software. Dysregulation of those mechanisms is increasingly being recognized as a factor in human diseases such as cancer, and perhaps even in aging itself. Kalantry’s trailblazing work in studying X-chromosome inactivation to identify novel epigenetic factors recently earned him a National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award. It provides $1.5 million over five years, and is specifically designed to support scientists conducting innovative research that doesn’t fit the profile that wins conventional grants.
“This allows us to go in directions that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to go,” Kalantry says. “What we are proposing to do is to discover new ways by which epigenetic regulation works, using a technique that we’re also inventing as part of this grant. What this grant does is allow me to focus more on science than on grant-writing, which is a huge relief.”
So is the freedom to fail, an essential ingredient in creative research not always encouraged by the traditional process for awarding grants. “It’s more money than a standard NIH grant, it’s unconditional, and there’s no chance of renewal so you don’t have to show at the end what you’ve fulfilled in order to obtain more money,” says Kalantry. “If it fails, we still have the money to do something else with, and we’re pursuing a number of things that are quite different than what the field of epigenetics is doing.”
Born in India and raised in the New York City borough of Queens, Kalantry attended a magnet high school in Manhattan. “If we were interested in doing research,” he recalls, “we were encouraged to simply knock on doors of laboratories and see if somebody would take us on. That’s how I joined a laboratory at New York University that was doing research in fly genetics, which launched my interests in genetics and laboratory research.”
If the rest isn’t history quite yet, it seems well on its way to getting there. As an avid reader who finds historical scientific pieces “particularly interesting,” that might please Kalantry more than most.
“Reading older literature has greatly informed what we do in the lab,” he says. “The technology to do research was far less advanced than it is now, so to see these enlightening pieces based on meager observation is extraordinary. It sharpened your senses because you had to rely on them to extrapolate what you saw. That’s the inspiration I try to impart to students. I tell them that sometimes it’s better to ‘don’t just do something, stand there.’ It’s always easier to collect the data than to analyze and interpret it.”
Clearly, following the easier path isn’t what got Kalantry where he is today. —JEFF MORTIMER