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November 29, 2018 - MCI researchers sweep junior investigator awards at UAB retreat

UAB Retreat winners 847.jpg

Winning awards at the 20th Annual UAB Research Retreat were Christopher Koczor, Ph.D.; Mohammad Aslam Khan, Ph.D.; Natalie Gassman, Ph.D.; and Jennifer Clark, Ph.D.

MOBILE, Alabama -- Four researchers from USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute were selected for awards during the 20th Annual UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Research Retreat held November 16, 2018, in Birmingham.

Three of the MCI researchers swept the Junior Investigator category of the John R. Durant Awards for Excellence in Cancer Research, winning first, second and third place.

“These awards demonstrate the quality of the research being conducted at all levels at MCI,” said Mitchell Cancer Institute Director Dr. Michael A. Finan.  “Our researchers brought home more than one-fourth of the 15 awards given, which is quite remarkable considering our size relative to UAB.”

Natalie Gassman, Ph.D., assistant professor of Oncologic Sciences at MCI, received first place for the development of an easy-to-use methodology for assessing levels of DNA damage in cells and tissues.

Christopher Koczor, Ph.D., instructor at MCI, won second place for research using confocal imaging and micro-irradiation to examine factors necessary for the recruitment of base excision repair proteins to sites of DNA damage.

Jennifer Clark, Ph.D., research associate at MCI, won third place for exploring how certain inhibitors can reduce DNA damage repair and improve the response to the chemo drug Etoposide.

In the Resident Trainee/Postdoctoral Fellow category, Mohammad Aslam Khan, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at MCI, placed third for a project that examined combination therapies to reduce chemoresistance in pancreatic cancer.

In addition, several other MCI researchers presented their work at the retreat. The goal of the annual event is to stimulate interdisciplinary research collaboration and development among cancer researchers.

Other awards and winners included:

John R. Durant Awards

Resident Trainee/Postdoctoral Fellow category

First place: Tejeshwar Rao, Ph.D., Department of Cell, Development and Integrative Biology

Second place: Tolulope Aweda, UAB Department of Radiology

Graduate Student category

Ashiya Buckels, UAB Department of Medicine/Endocrinology

Second place: Asmi Chakraborty, UAB Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology

Third place: Tyler McCaw, UAB Department of Medicine

William C. Bailey Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention and Control Research

First place: Soumya Niranjan, Ph.D., UAB School of Health Professions

Honorable mention: Jennifer Bail, Ph.D., R.N., UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences

Honorable Mention: Suguna Badiga, Ph.D., UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences

Tandra Chaudhuri Award for Excellence in Cancer Research

Michael Behring, UAB Department of Pathology

Seng-jaw Soong Award for Excellence in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Research

Aidan Gilbert, UAB Department of Medicine

Cancer Research Experiences for Students (CaRES Award)

Gannon Ray


About Mitchell Cancer Institute

As the region's only academic cancer center, USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute combines NIH-funded scientific research with comprehensive cancer care serving communities across southern Alabama, southeast Mississippi and portions of northwest Florida. With three locations, more than 50 clinical trials, and five support groups, the Mitchell Cancer Institute guides patients and their families from the moment of diagnosis through survivorship.

About USA Health

With more than 3,800 employees, USA Health is unlike any other health care organization on the Alabama Gulf Coast. It includes USA Health University Hospital, USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital, USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute, USA Health Physicians Group and USA Health College of Medicine. At least one-third of local physicians, some 2,500, received their training at University Hospital. More than 10,400 nurses and 5,600 allied health professionals received training at USA hospitals.


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