Congratulations to Three of Our Graduate Students

August 6, 2021 by Brian Murphy   |   Leave a Comment

(l-r) Róża Przanowska, PhD; Shambhavi Singh, PhD; and Ashley Bolte, PhD

At the recent Graduate Bioscience Society Symposium, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program recognized the achievements of three trainees. Ashley Bolte and Shambhavi Singh were named as the 2021 recipients of the Michael J. Peach Outstanding Graduate Student Award and the Jill E. Hungerford Prize in Biomedical Sciences, respectively, and Róża Przanowska was honored with the 2021 Graduate Biosciences Student Leadership Award.

Ashley Bolte, PhD
2021 Michael J. Peach Outstanding Graduate Student Award

Ashley Bolte

This award is given to an advanced student based on scientific merit and productivity, academic performance, and leadership. Ashley Bolte, a student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), recently graduated with a PhD in Microbiology after which she returned to complete the remainder of her medical school training.

Bolte completed her graduate work under the mentorship of John Lukens, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience. Her dissertation work was titled “Meningeal Lymphatic Dysfunction Exacerbates Traumatic Brain Injury Pathogenesis” and her research focused on the role of the recently discovered brain lymphatic system in the causes and consequences of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Through her work, she uncovered evidence that even minor TBI events lead to substantial and sustained defects in the function of the lymphatic system in the brain, and that these changes likely contribute to the devastating long-term symptoms suffered by patients. By exploring more deeply, Bolte was able to uncover mechanistic insights that were among the first to be established in the field.

Her work led to four first-author publications, including a primary research report in the highly prestigious journal, Nature Communications. The significance of Bolte’s TBI research was recognized beyond the scientific community, with feature articles in The Atlantic and Knowable magazines, as well as coverage by local media stations.

In her nomination for this award, Bolte’s mentor said, “Ashley is one of the most complete graduate students I have ever come across. She is self-driven, naturally inquisitive, technically well-rounded, and scientifically creative… Ashley is exceptional in every way and I was extremely lucky to be along for the ride.”

About the award: Michael J. Peach was a former School of Medicine faculty member. He earned masters and doctorate degrees in Pharmacology from West Virginia University and continued his training at The Cleveland Clinic. He came to UVA in 1968 and spent the next 24 years making major contributions to the understanding of the regulation of blood pressure and the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Peach authored more than 200 scientific papers, trained 17 graduate students, 25 postdocs, and mentored numerous faculty. His research is recognized throughout the world. At the time of his unexpected death in 1992, Peach was professor of pharmacology and Associate Dean for Research at the School of Medicine. This annual award is given to a graduate student who embodies the enthusiasm for research and principles of sharing and collaboration that were central to Peach’s approach to science.

Shambhavi Singh, PhD
2021 Jill E. Hungerford Prize in Biomedical Sciences

Shambhavi Singh

This prize goes to an advanced student based on scientific merit and productivity, academic performance, and leadership. Shambhavi Singh, a Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) student, recently graduated with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, after which she returned to complete the remainder of her medical school training.

Singh completed her PhD under the mentorship of Kevin Janes, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Her dissertation work, “In Situ Gene Expression Profiling of Heterogeneous Cancer Cell States In Breast and Lung Carcinomas,” led to several major advancements in the cell profiling technique established by the Janes’ lab. This technique was developed to allow a better understanding of the heterogeneity of cells within tumors using both in vitro cell culture and animal models. Singhpioneered the application of this technique to profile cells in human tumor tissues. Her work revealed significant discoveries about the programming of cells in very early-stage tumors.

Singh’s research work was published in three first-author and multiple contributing-author research papers in prestigious journals, including highly unusual back-to-back-to-back papers in the journal Cancer Research.

Singh is an active member of the graduate program community, as well as that of the medical school. She has served in leadership positions as Chair of the Junior Investigators Meeting of the NCI Cancer Systems Biology Consortium; was selected as a Forbes Scholar; served as a pre-med mentor for the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA); and has volunteered as a student representative for our Biomedical Sciences Diversity Day, the MSTP Admissions Committee, and a member of Graduate Recruitment Initiative Team (GRIT). In the nomination for this prize, her mentor referred to Singh as “one-of-a-kind.”

About the award: The Jill E. Hungerford Prize in Biomedical Sciences is awarded to a student who closely emulates Hungerford’s scholarship and vitality. Jill Hungerford, PhD, was a gifted young scientist with a passion for her work and for life. She was devoted to her research, but also to her husband, David Thomas, MD, to her family, and to her many extracurricular activities, including tennis, hiking, and gardening. Jill’s life was tragically cut short by cancer at the age of 34. The Jill E. Hungerford Prize in Biomedical Sciences, created by her parents, recognizes Jill’s commitment to medical science and seeks to nurture in others that same dedication. In addition to her scientific achievements, Jill also consciously worked to become a positive role model for other young women in science. This award recognizes her commitment, achievement, and passion for research aimed at broadening our scientific knowledge.

The Peach and Hungerford awardees are selected each year from the group of Outstanding Students awardees nominated by each of the degree-granting programs affiliated with BIMS. The 2021 Outstanding Students were: Róża Przanowska (Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics); Shambhavi Singh (Biomedical Engineering); Amanda Ward (Biophysics); Faith Karanja (Cell Biology); Pedro Costa-Pinheiro (Molecular and Cellular Basis of Disease/Experimental Pathology); Ashley Bolte (Microbiology); Eric Wengert (Neuroscience); and Adi Narahari (Pharmacology).

Róża Przanowska, PhD
2021 Graduate Biosciences Student Leadership Award

Roza Przanowska

Róża Przanowska received this student-nominated award which recognizes graduate students in the biosciences who have made outstanding and notable academic, professional, social, and/or service contributions for the University of Virginia and the local community. This includes leadership at the University-wide level, participation in student organizations, teaching experience, community service, research accomplishments, mentorship activities, and outreach to the University and greater Charlottesville areas.

As a PhD student in Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics (BMG), Przanowska was mentored by Anindya Dutta, MBBS, PhD. Her research focused on the role of non-coding RNAs in skeletal muscle differentiation and led to multiple publications, including two first-author publications in Molecular and Cellular Biology and FASEB Journal. She was awarded a predoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association and received a highly competitive F99/K00 fellowship from the National Cancer Institute. This prestigious fellowship funded the final years of her graduate work and will continue to support her through the first several years of her postdoctoral studies.

Przanowska served as the BMG and Green Labs representative for the Graduate Biosciences Society, a Women in Medical Sciences Academic Co-chair, and a part of our international student community. She also founded the local Buy Nothing group, which offers a free exchange of goods within the community. Przanowska was a was a Fulbright BioLab Scholar and participant in the Visiting Research Graduate Training Program (VRGTP) in the School of Medicine prior to starting her PhD studies. As a former member of the VRGTP, Przanowska has served as an invaluable resource for those who have followed in her footsteps. The VRGTP brings international research trainees from Eastern Europe and Brazil to UVA for year-long mentored research experiences in our laboratories. Przanowska has assisted students with all of the challenging logistics associated with participation in the program. In addition, she has served as a mentor and role model for the participants as well as a terrific ambassador and recruiter for our BIMS graduate programs.

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