Success Stories

Serving as a Proposal Reviewer Helps Others, Yourself, and N.C. A&T!

Because N.C. A&T faculty have such significant expertise, they are widely-represented on review panels of multiple funding agencies. Below are comments from several N.C. A&T faculty who currently serve as proposal reviewers for different funding agencies. See what they have to say, and consider joining them! Details on how to explore this exciting and worthwhile role follow at the end of the article.

Dr. Mohd Anwar

Mohd Anwar“I enjoy serving on review panels so much,” says Dr. Mohd Anwar, assistant professor of computer science at N.C. A&T. “I feel humbled by the extraordinary research proposals I get to review. Participating in this way helps me to become an objective reviewer of science and to evaluate my own research. I would really encourage young N.C. A&T faculty members to seek opportunities to serve on a panel. There is so much to learn from the scientific review officer, other panel members, and the applications themselves. Having this experience will help an investigator better understand the review process and convincingly communicate his/her own research ideas.”

Dr. Anwar has reviewed proposal applications for NIH, NSF and USDA, and serves as the director of the Secure and Usable Social Media & Networks Lab. Dr. Anwar has experience and interest in designing usable secure, privacy-preserving, and trusted infrastructures, systems, and applications in different online contexts, specifically in Online Social Networks (OSN), e-Learning, and e-Health domains. Dr. Anwar’s research incorporates usability and human factor issues in the design and development of security and privacy solutions. His multidisciplinary research approach integrates computer science concepts with theories from social sciences. He serves as program chair in the IEEE International Workshop on Issues and Challenges in Social Computing and is an editorial board member of the Journal of Privacy & Health Information Management.

Dr. Perpetua Muganda

Muganda Dr. Muganda is a biology professor at N.C. A&T, and thusfar her grant application review activities have been directed towards NIH, the DOD and other agencies. She enjoys reviewing grant applications because she likes learning the latest novel scientific facts. “For me, the benefits of serving on grant review panels are improving one’s grant application critical thinking and preparation skills, networking with colleagues and grant program officers, initiating potential collaborations with colleagues in my field, scoring service at the national level, and receiving appreciation from colleagues and program officers for a job well done,” explains Muganda. “This last point is especially important because faculty members from predominantly teaching institutions like NCAT are well-versed in broader scientific knowledge, so we deliver a unique perspective, and can successfully review a wider variety of proposals as compared to colleagues from research extensive institutions.” She feels it is a great idea for younger faculty to get involved on review panels, since this experience ultimately makes them better grant application writers. “One of the best ways to learn how to prepare a competitive and fundable grant application is to serve on grant review panel; it teaches you the dos and don’ts of grant writing.”

Dr. Muganda has been studying toxicology, or the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms, for almost 18 years. Dr. Muganda has broad research expertise in tumor virology, molecular carcinogenesis, and molecular toxicology. Her current and future interests focus on deducting the role of viruses in human cancers. Towards this end, Dr. Muganda’s laboratory is currently working towards investigating the prevalence of specific viral sequences in control and breast cancer tumor specimens, using publicly available next generation sequencing data and tools.

When you agree to review proposals submitted by others, you do them a great service, but you also enhance your own proposal experience. N.C. A&T Faculty are encouraged to apply for appointment to a review panel as it affords them (1) valuable experience with understanding the scrutiny placed on grant applications, (2) professional exposure by participating with faculty experts from around the nation, (3) possible future research collaborations for the individual, and (4) increased outside knowledge and exposure to N.C. A&T’s institutional strengths and expertise. It’s important for our university and faculty to be represented in this important role among the various grant-funding agencies.

Opportunities Abound!

If you would like to register to become a grant reviewer, consider this opportunity with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health:

The NIH Center for Scientific Review also provides opportunities to become a reviewer:

Triple Negative Breast Cancer Research

Dr. Perpetua MugandaResearchers at N.C. A&T and UNC-Chapel Hill were awarded an NC TraCS Pilot Grant to investigate a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. The team worked to determine the role of viral factors in the virulent nature of triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer represents 15% to 20% of breast carcinomas. It is prevalent in younger women, African American women, and in women with BRCA1 gene mutations. This type of cancer is very aggressive, has a poor  prognosis, fails to respond to conventional therapy, and appears in many forms. The causes and molecular basis of this cancer are currently unknown, though multiple factors, including viruses, may be involved.

Specifically, this pilot study investigated the prevalence of three particular types of viral genetic material in triple negative breast tumors and determined what role these passenger virus genetic materials played in the cancer’s malignant properties and survival.

The study was led by Dr. Perpetua Muganda, professor of biology at N.C. A&T. The team included Dr. Scott Harrison, assistant professor of biology at A&T; Dr. Dukka KC, assistant professor of computational science and engineering at A&T; and Dr. Jan Prins, professor of computer science at UNC-CH.

The $50,000 in funding for the study came from the North Carolina Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (NC TraCS) and was matched by funds from the universities. It was part of the NC TraCS Translational Research Pilot Program, created to accelerate the transfer of research findings to clinical practice. The institute is funded by the National Institutes of Health through its Clinical and Translational Science Award program.

 From the proposal abstract: The objective of the project is to determine the role of viral factors in mediating the aggressive nature of the triple-negative breast cancer phenotype. The central hypothesis to be tested is that specific viral RN  (mRNA, lncRNA, and miRNAs) present preferentially in the aggressive triple-negative breast cancer phenotype modulate the malignant properties, survival, and chemo-resistance of these tumors.

Two specific aims were proposed:

(1) To determine the identity, expression profiles, prevalence, and sequence variation of viral RNAs present specifically in triple-negative breast carcinomas as compared to matched control samples and

(2) To determine the role and mode of action of specific candidate viral RNAs in mediating the malignant properties, survival, and chemo-resistance of triple-negative breast cancer cells.

The findings obtained contributed toward a better understanding of the molecular basis of triple-negative breast cancer. This, in turn, will exert a positive vertical impact toward the development of novel protocols for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of TNBC.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder Research

Dr. Jenora Waterman   Dr. Jenora Waterman has made one key discovery toward improving the
   treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among agricultural
   workers, and is wrapping up a prestigious, three-year career K Scholar
   development program which advanced her research.

   Dr. Waterman is an assistant professor of functional genomics in the
   Department of Animal Sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical
   State University. COPD is a major cause of death in the United States, most
   typically found among smokers. A less-studied aspect of the disease is the 7% of its U.S. victims who are agricultural workers. They can develop COPD as a result of long-term exposure to animal production facilities containing dust that contributes to respiratory   diseases.

  High-density swine production houses are one example of such facilities. Dr. Waterman’s first key finding came from comparing pigs raised indoors with those raised outdoors. Pigs aren’t as severely affected by the dust as humans are, but her work demonstrated that their respiratory systems are uniquely adapted to their housing type.

Her lab showed for the first time that pigs reared indoors and those raised outdoors exhibit structural and cellular differences in their respiratory systems. She then studied those differences to identify potential biomarkers that could serve as diagnostic or prognostic markers of agriculture-related COPD in humans.

Dr. Waterman is an NC TraCS K-Scholar, a professional development honor for junior faculty members funded through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program of the National Institutes of Health.

She received funding for her research and mentored training for three years. Two faculty members from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill served as mentors, Dr. Claire Doerschuk, a medical doctor and pathologist, and Dr. Lee Graves, a pharmacologist.

The scholars program is designed to train younger investigators in a dramatically new approach to research. It’s based on interdisciplinary teamwork, because the traditional single-discipline focus isn’t well suited to attacking complex biomedical problems or to putting new discoveries into practice as quickly as possible. And it’s translational – work that seeks to improve the health of the population by transforming discoveries from laboratory into clinical practice in community and health policy.

Dr. Waterman is the director of the Respiratory Biology and Toxicology Laboratory at A&T. Her interests include respiratory cell biology, environmental toxicology, and cellular pathology. Her research focuses on the extent of environmental and functional genomic/proteomic influences on the pathophysiology of agriculture-related respiratory diseases.

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