Daniel Buchholz's first year at McMicken is highlighted by a Powe Award, his first grant as a member of the biology faculty.
Buchholz, who's wrapping up his first year at McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, is one of 30 winners of the 2008 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards. The grants provide seed money for research by junior faculty at Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) member institutions.
|Daniel Buchholz, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Allison Ng, a WISE program participant and sophomore biology major, are studying how tissues respond to thyroid hormone.|
The Powe Award – an honor intended to enrich research and professional growth and result in new funding opportunities – has double meaning for Buchholz, one of 107 applicants for this year's prizes.
"It was my first grant as faculty so it was very important," says Buchholz, who is probing how tissues respond to thyroid hormone, TH, and identifying potential gene targets for treatment of thyroid disorders. And, he adds, "It was personally rewarding to receive recognition for the importance of the project."
Thyroid diseases affect more than 25 million Americans and constitute the second most common group of metabolic disorders. Thyroid hormone (TH) is critical for growth, development, and metabolism, and works by binding TH receptors in the cell nucleus and changing gene expression. Importantly, Buchholz says, TH must translocate from the blood to the cell nucleus in order to bind TH receptors. The objective of the current project is to examine how one of the proteins in this translocation process, the L-type amino acid trans-porter LAT1, regulates TH-mediated gene expression in development.
"This research examines basic biology rather than addressing a specific disease," he says. "We study the role of a cell surface protein that transports thyroid hormone from outside the cell to the inside, and how this process affects thyroid hormone-dependent development. Our hypothesis is that cells expressing more of this transport protein will be more sensitive to thyroid hormone and give a more robust response to thyroid hormone compared to cells with less transport protein. Once we know how this protein affects development, we can use this information to control function of this protein to reduce or increase that cell's response to hormone which could be useful clinically."
|Daniel Buchholz and Allison Ng display Buchholz's recently announced Powe Award.|
The timing of the honor for the young professor is doubly fitting since this summer, Buchholz is mentoring sophomore biology major Allison Ng, a budding scientist chosen for the 2008 Women in Science and Engineering, WISE, program. WISE offers summer research fellowships for female undergraduates.
"It is very important for students who may have an interest in science and research to try it out to see if they like it," Buchholz says. "It is demanding in many ways but also very rewarding. I enjoy mentoring students, to help them decide if they like this kind of work."
In her first week and a half on the job, Ng set up two experiments and learned how to do polymerase chain reaction – PCR – perform gel electrophoresis and extract DNA from a gel. She will take the transgenesis construct and inject it into one-cell stage embryos. A percentage of the survivors will incorporate the foreign DNA into their genome. These transgenic animals will then be studied for the effect of the transgene on development.
For Ng, who hopes to go to medical school, it's "extremely exciting to be involved in work that could help others."
"I am especially excited since I hope to be a doctor one day, and the research that Professor Buchholz is doing on cytoplasmic proteins could give insight into treatments for various diseases," she says.
Ng also realizes the importance of promoting programs aimed at raising the numbers of women who hold science and engineering jobs.
"Though the percentage of women in science is growing, women are still underrepresented, especially in the physical sciences and engineering," she says. "Programs like WISE give women a chance to do undergraduate research and hopefully catch and hold their interest in science."