Bradley Walters, a doctoral candidate in the department of biological sciences
, has been awarded a pre-doctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association.
The award’s stipend will allow Walters to focus exclusively on his research in the integrative biology and neuroscience program for the next two years.
“The American Heart Association is one of the largest and most respected public health advocacy organizations in the world,” says Walters. “They have an incredible staff and network of researchers and volunteers working toward the common goals of improving public health and reducing the incidences of heart disease and stroke through research, education, and outreach. It really is quite an honor to be able to contribute to such a great cause and to be able to do so with the help and support of such a terrific organization.”
Walters, who is in his fourth year at Lehigh, works closely with associate professor of biological sciences Colin Saldanha
studying topics centered on the synthesis of estrogens in the brain.
Aromatase is the enzyme that converts androgens, such as testosterone, into estrogens, such as estradiol. Although first discovered in the ovaries, aromatase is also found in many tissues, including the brain, where locally constrained estrogen synthesis can have many consequences, from the sexual differentiation of brain and behavior, to the enhancement of learning and memory.
“My primary interest is in the ability of locally synthesized estrogens to prevent tissue death after brain injury, as well as their potential ability to promote brain repair,” says Walters. “Ultimately, we hope that a better understanding of these processes may lead to treatments for stroke and traumatic brain injuries which are currently among the leading causes of death and disability worldwide.”
Walters says his fellowship proposal involved not only looking at the effects of local estrogen provision in injury, but also investigating a protein called bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) which can be regulated by estradiol, and may promote the differentiation and survival of neural stem cells in the injured brain. Manipulating these stem cells may allow researchers to facilitate brain repair.
“Brad is a gifted, hardworking, and insightful student,” says Saldanha. “He has always set goals that are a careful balance of ambition and feasibility. This fellowship is a testament to his qualities as an excellent graduate student and will be a springboard towards a resilient career in science.”
The fellowship is the first pre-doctoral award earned by a biological sciences graduate student and reflects the caliber of research taking place at the graduate level.
“This is a stamp of approval of the graduate training provided by faculty of the program of integrative biology and neuroscience, the department of biological sciences, and the College of Arts and Sciences
,” says Saldanha. “I hope Brad's fellowship will set the standard for current and future graduate students at Lehigh University.”
Posted on Tuesday, July 07, 2009