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VCU faculty members awarded KL2 scholarships

Scholar program managed by the Center for Clinical and Translational Research

The Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) welcomes seven faculty members to its KL2 Scholars program, which supports the career development of junior faculty building careers in clinical and translational research.

Providing an academically invigorating and supportive environment, the program provides participants with advice, support, mentorship and guidance from outstanding VCU faculty members who are successful clinical and translational researchers with vast expertise. The scholar positions provide substantial salary support and time to pursue clinical and translational research projects.

New Scholars

Benjamin Darter, Ph.D.
Benjamin Darter, Ph.D.

Benjamin Darter, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, has for his KL2 research focus the examination of gait adaptability in persons with lower extremity amputation. His research interests include rehabilitation following amputation and optimization of gait performance.

“I feel fortunate I was selected to receive one of the KL2 scholar awards,” said Darter. “The KL2 program offers a tremendous opportunity for me to develop as a new investigator. I believe the program will serve as a springboard toward achieving my goal of developing a robust research program at VCU.”

 

 

Anshu Gupta, M.D.
Anshu Gupta, M.D.

Anshu Gupta, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, will spend her KL2 scholarship researching cardiometabolic disease, which is an umbrella term for the risk relationship between cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“The KL2 scholar award provides me with a unique opportunity to train as a clinical translational researcher with a diverse team of mentors across multiple disciplines,” Gupta said. “The award truly reflects on the rich, transdisciplinary, collaborative environment that VCU provides to investigators at all levels of their careers, especially early stage investigators like me.”

 

 

April Kimmel, Ph.D.
April Kimmel, Ph.D.

April Kimmel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, will examine the geographic variation in HIV treatment and access to care in the United States. Her research interests include models of care delivery for HIV/AIDS, global health and population ethics.

“As a junior investigator, protected time in which to conduct research is critical to my professional development. The KL2 award supports this time and is allowing me to establish a new line of research,” said Kimmel. “This program has allowed me to formalize involvement with a diverse, committed mentoring team, and it provides ready access to institutional resources that will enhance my research skills.”

 

 

Margaret Park, Ph.D.
Margaret Park, Ph.D.

Margaret Park, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, will investigate the global RNA splicing changes that occur as a result of metastasis in breast cancer. The hope is to translate the findings into identifying prognostic indicators for metastatic cancer.

“The first step towards independence is an important event in the career of any research scientist. Being a recipient of the KL2 scholarship allows me both the freedom to pursue my own research interests, and the opportunity to receive mentoring and career-related guidance from an outstanding team of more experienced scientists,” said Park. “Overall, the KL2 scholars program is a wonderful opportunity to increase research independence for junior faculty.”

 

 

Nichole Rankins, M.D.
Nichole Rankins, M.D.

Nicole Rankins, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, will look at the contributory factors to gestational weight gain with a focus on overweight and obese pregnant women as her KL2 research project. Her overall research interests including improving maternal and fetal outcomes and utilizing pregnancy as a window of opportunity for improving long-term maternal and children’s health.

“The KL2 program is an exceptional opportunity for me as a junior investigator,” said Rankins. “It provides the time, resources, environment and mentoring that are necessary to facilitate my transition to an independently-funded physician-scientist.”

 

 

Sinem Esra Sahingur, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Sinem Esra Sahingur, D.D.S., Ph.D.

Sinem Esra Sahingur, D.D.S., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Periodontics, will study the identification of a genetic marker that will increase susceptibility to periodontal disease during her time as a KL2 scholar. Her research interests include the role of immune and inflammatory responses and host-pathogen interactions in the pathogenesis of periodontal disease and the interactions between periodontal disease and systemic health.

“It is an honor to be a KL2 scholar. The award will provide tremendous support for me to expand my research and obtain preliminary data that will lead to competitive and well-funded projects,” said Sahingur.

 

 

Carlos Villalba Galea, Ph.D.
Carlos Villalba Galea, Ph.D.

Carlos Villalba Galea, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, will spend his time as a KL2 scholar investigating the biophysical properties of the tumor-suppressing enzyme known as PTEN. Mutations of PTEN are a step in the development of many cancers, therefore understanding the effect of these mutations is critical for the development of therapies to treat PTEN related illnesses.

“Being a basic scientist, I am very excited and honored to be a KL2 scholar. This is a great opportunity that opens the door to the world of translational research,” said Villalba Galea. “I believe that being a KL2 scholars brings a once-in-a-lifetime chance to harness our experiences and knowledge and search ways to readily apply them to the everyday clinical practice, and therefore make accessible to the community what we have harvested from lab benches.” .


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