HSC Office of Research & Graduate Education Internal Award Research Grants

Current Awardees

Darius Becker-Krai

Darius Becker-Krail, a first-year WVU postdoctoral researcher, was recently awarded the Postdoctoral Research Grant for his project titled “Effects of Light at Night on Fentanyl Opioid Reward-Sensitivity and Reward-Related Behaviors”. He recently completed his Ph.D. in Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh and now works in the lab of Dr. Randy J. Nelson in the Department of Neuroscience and the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. Broadly, Darius’ work investigates how disruption to our body’s internal biological rhythms, or circadian rhythms, may contribute to substance abuse and the development of substance use disorders. Specifically, his project will investigate how disruption to circadian rhythms through exposure to artificial light at night may alter the rewarding properties and subsequent abuse of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid prescribed to manage severe chronic pain but currently accounts for nearly 2/3 of deaths associated with the opioid overdose epidemic.

Past Awardees

Ezequiel Salido

Ezequiel Salido along with Dr. Visvanathan Ramamurthy, Chair of WVU Department of Biochemistry, show that the absence of interphotoreceptor matrix proteoglycan 2 can lead to subretinal lesion formation and vision loss. The full publication is available. 

William Walker, PhD

William was recently awarded the Postdoctoral Research Grant for his work in the Department of Neuroscience which focuses on understanding the effects of circadian rhythm disruption on neurological disease and cancer. His proposal specifically looks at improving survival rates among women diagnosed with breast cancer and addressing the incidence rates of brain metastases of breast cancer (BMBC). 

His approach proposes using the natural circadian variation in blood brain barrier permeability to improve chemotherapy treatment and the timing of cancer drug administration to improve outcomes for cancer patients. He is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Randy Nelson’s laboratory.

Dr. Elizabeth Bowdridge

Dr. Elizabeth Bowdridge a former postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Timothy Nurkiewicz’ s laboratory had her research published in the June issue of the Toxicological Sciences Journal, which is the Official Journal for the Society of Toxicology. Her publication provided key evidence that inhalation of engineered nanomaterials, such as nano-titanium dioxide during pregnancy can be detrimental to fetal health. The studies take a close look at how various nanomaterials affect health and life expectancy well into adulthood. The outcomes of inhalation exposure during gestation showed significant decreases in estrogen concentrations, and an augmented vasoconstrictor response to kisspeptin. In conjunction, these effects impair uterine blood flow and can lead to adverse outcomes in fetal birth size and overall health.

Dr. Bowdridge states that the research team continued “working towards identifying when and how these perturbations in fetal health occur during gestation, in order to better understand how this insult results in long-term health consequences.”

Watch an interview with Dr. Elizabeth Bowdridge: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zNOSuYX9T3r5hmMpgMp6vgIPOs7-1ClS/view

Dr. Jamie McCall

Jamie McCall, PhD, was the recipient of the inaugural Postdoctoral Researcher Grant. Dr. McCall is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Dr. John Barnett’s laboratory in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology. The title of her research grant was "Prenatal Cadmium Exposure and Obesity."

Dr. McCall’s research interests involve the development of a comprehensive understanding of signaling pathways that are dysregulated in human diseases. Currently,  the focus of her research is studying immunomodulation and molecular signaling after prenatal cadmium exposure on immune function of neonatal and adult offspring. 

Research Forrest