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Dr. OngeriN.C. A&T’s Dr. Ongeri Awarded $1.42 Million NIH Grant to Study Kidney Disease
Associate Professor Dr. Elimelda Moige Ongeri in the Department of Biology, has been awarded a $1.42 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of General Medicine (NIGMS) to investigate acute kidney disease initiated by ischemia/reperfusion (reduced blood flow to the kidneys and subsequent oxygen deficiency).

Acute kidney disease costs tens-of-billions of dollars to treat each year, and is associated with extremely high mortality rates because there are no effective therapies. Dr. Ongeri’s work will focus on determining how meprin metalloproteases (meprins are enzymes, abundant in proximal kidney tubules) influence ischemia/reperfusion-induced kidney injury via modulation of inflammation and fibrosis.

Previous studies by Dr. Ongeri’s group and other N.C. A&T investigators utilizing meprin knockout mice have shown that meprins enhance kidney damage associated with ischemia/reperfusion, however, the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. This research will advance understanding of kidney disease and the development of effective therapies.

This individual research grant was awarded under the Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) Program. SCORE is a research capacity-building program that seeks to increase the research competitiveness of faculty at under-resourced institutions with limited NIH R01 funding that have explicitly stated historical missions or historical track records focused on training and graduating students from groups nationally underrepresented in biomedical research. Past SCORE grant recipients at N.C. A&T include Dr. Robert Newman, associate professor in the Department of Biology, and Dr. Yeo Heung Yun, associate professor in the Department of Chemical, Biological and Bioengineering.

SOLAR Program

N.C. A&T master’s student Amirah Burton hails her summer research experience at Chapel Hill as one of the greatest decisions she has ever made. Burton was chosen to represent A&T last summer in the UNC SOLAR program, which stands for Summer of Learning and Research. It’s a 10-week program for underrepresented college students from across the nation wanting to participate in biological and biomedical research, for which Chapel Hill is known.

Burton served under Dr. Jean Cook, a UNC-CH researcher and associate professor in the biochemistry and biophysics department. Dr. Cook is also the Associate Dean for Graduate Education at UNC-CH. Cook’s lab focuses on studying cell activities such as growth, duplication and division as they relate to cancer. “It was great being part of such important work,” explains Burton. “I benefitted from understanding the processes and techniques that occur daily in a lab setting. Dr. Cook’s lab was truly impressive and I got a very accurate idea of what a world-class research lab offers students. It was a great experience.” Burton, a native of Greenwood, South Carolina, wants to get her PhD in Nutrition; she is interested in studying how nutrition impacts the human body, including the role of various foods in the prevention or formation of disease.

In addition to enjoying the daily lab experience, program participants prepare for grad school entrance exams, present in a final poster forum, and enjoy weekly journal clubs and social interactions with other students from across the country. For N.C. A&T students who are interested in the UNC SOLAR program, she says, “Be ready to work, be confident in your academic strengths yet willing to learn and absorb from those around you, and network while you’re there because the weeks really fly by!”

Learn more about how to apply to the SOLAR Program.

N.C. A&T’s Clinical Immersion Experience

Five N.C. A&T students spent two summer weeks at UNC hospitals and clinics in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, shadowing doctors and clinicians as part of A&T’s first Clinical Immersion Experience. Kierra Fleming, Lauren Florence, Marlayna Jackson, Rina Mudanyi and Jerria Turner, all bioengineering or chemical engineering students at A&T, witnessed firsthand the clinical needs of physicians, rehabilitation professionals and nurses as they relate to bioengineering applications. Dr. Matt McCullough, associate professor in the Department of Chemical, Biological and Bioengineering founded the immersion program through a grant from VentureWell. The students will apply knowledge gained during the clinical experience in their upcoming year-long capstone course experience.

Jerria Turner, a senior biomedical engineering student from Chesterfield, Virginia, participated in the program. “I first learned about the clinical immersion experience from McCullough. As he told me more about it, my interest grew because I had always wondered about the clinical side of biomedical engineering applications, and I knew this experience would provide answers for me.”

Turner said it was time well spent. “This experience definitely reassured me that I am pursuing and studying exactly the right things. I am more confident than ever about my chosen path, because I know the topics that my peers and I are researching and studying in class are preparing us to be individuals that will change and improve the lives of many in the future. I definitely see myself working in the clinical field. I loved meeting and talking with the different patients. When you create something as an engineer you know it will help or improve someone's life or their daily functions, but when you're able to meet one of those people face to face, what you created means more. You believe in the positive impact of what you created or designed because you witness a human being benefiting from it.”