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Wake Forest Graduate Students Sweep Biotechnology Poster Competition

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Four students from Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences won the top four awards in the second annual UNC Charlotte Graduate Student Poster Competition held on Oct. 28, 2008, as part of the seventh annual Charlotte Biotechnology Conference. Two Wake Forest students also finished among the 12 finalists.

The student poster competition is open to all graduate students currently enrolled in one of 19 eligible universities in North Carolina and South Carolina. The posters demonstrate student research in biotechnology that has the potential for commercialization.

Lorna G. Moore, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School, praised the achievements of the six Wake Forest students. “Their accomplishments are a source of great pride for their faculty, graduate programs, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Wake Forest University and last but not least their families who support them in pursuing their graduate career,” said Moore.

“But they are truly the tip of the iceberg, illustrating not only the great strength of their accomplishments but those of their fellow students and our many, many excellent programs.”

First-place finisher was Paulina Siperinski of Toronto, from the Department of Molecular Medicine and the Translational Science Institute. Her research involved the extraction and reengineering of fibrous proteins from human hair fibers to accelerate nerve regeneration for patients with spinal cord injuries or nerve damage.

Second place went to Neelima Sukumar of Ernakulam, Kerala, India, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, for her research in the discovery of a protein that can be applied to a generation of new vaccines to prevent respiratory diseases.

Sriram Ramanan of Chennai, India, from the Department of Cancer Biology, and Catherine Ward of Rockfish, from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, were awarded the two runner-up places. Ramanan conducted research in the development of a drug to prevent dementia in patients exposed to brain radiation, and Ward worked on the creation of a tissue sponge capable of releasing oxygen to wounds for prevention of infections and promotion of healing.

Finishing in the top 12 was Jenna DuMond of Livingston Manor, N.Y., from the Chemistry Department, for exploring the use of novel blood substances that release nitric oxide, the potent blood vessel relaxant, in the treatment of cardiac disease. Also a finalist was Jie Liu of Yantai, Shandong Province, China, from Biomedical Engineering, who created a nanofibrous material that can be used in cardiovascular grafts during heart surgery.

Sierpinski was awarded $1,000, Sukumar won $500, and Ramanan and Ward received $250 each.

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Media Relations Contacts: Robin Brantley, rbrantle@wfubmc.edu, (336) 716-7334; Bonnie Davis, bdavis@wfubmc.edu, (336) 716-4977; or Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, (336) 716-4587

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