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Trainee Spotlight: Josh Butler

New T32 trainee Josh Butler is a third year Ph.D. student in Belen Cassera‘s laboratory. He is from Front Royal, Virginia and completed his B.S. in chemistry at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Butler decided to pursue his graduate degree at the University of Georgia because of the Integrate Life Sciences program which offers the opportunity to explore a range of research topics. The same interdisciplinary aspect is what he found appealing about the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and ultimately why he joined a lab within this department.

“There is no shortage of resources here, ranging from state of the art instrumentation and core facilities to people that are willing to mentor and train successful scientists,” said Butler. “Coming from a smaller institution, I had never really seen anything to this scale and I knew it was something I wanted to experience and become a part of.”

Research Focus

Broadly, Butler’s research is focused on antimalarial drug discovery. More specifically, he is using antimalarial natural products as tools to discover novel drug targets in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Nearly 220 million people have malaria, and it kills nearly half a million people each year. Plasmodium falciparum causes the most severe forms of malaria, such as cerebral malaria, which can lead to brain damage, coma, and death, and placental malaria, which can be life-threatening to both mother and fetus.

“I chose this research because not only does it contribute positively to the global campaign of malaria eradication, but from a training standpoint it would also provide a solid foundation for a career further researching and developing antimicrobial therapies in general.”

Capstone Experience

Each T32 trainee is provided with the opportunity to pursue a capstone experience. Butler hopes to do an internship with a pharmaceutical industry research group that is actively performing anti-parasitic research to experience how the type research he does as a graduate student can translate outside the realm of academia.

“Private-public collaboration in malaria research has really driven drug discovery research in a positive direction and  I would like the opportunity to experience that first hand and develop acumen to engage in that type of research in the next stage of my career.”

Future Career Goals

“I would like to continue working in a field of scientific research which can positively impact people’s lives, whether it be through a biomedical or biotechnical avenue.”

Advice for Aspiring Scientists

“Don’t be afraid to fail or be wrong. Learn from it and use it to keep pushing forward. Try to find positives in the negatives.”

Trainee Spotlight: Karla Márquez Nogueras

NIH T32 Trainee Karla M. Márquez Nogueras is in her 4th year of graduate training in Silvia Moreno‘s laboratory. Before entering the Ph.D. program at UGA, she taught for a semester at Turabo University in Puerto Rico, teaching undergraduate courses like Introduction to Microbiology and Human Anatomy. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Microbiology and a Master’s in Science where she focused on generating renewable energy systems using methane generated by anaerobic microbial communities.

Karla’s research focus

Karla’s project focuses on calcium signaling in Toxoplasma gondii. Calcium is a universal signal molecule and very little is known about calcium signaling in T. gondii, even considering that all steps of the parasite’s lytic cycle are regulated by calcium. Calcium is highly regulated by Toxoplasma, specially upon exit from host cells and the surrounding calcium changes from very low levels inside the host cell to the high concentration found in the extracellular environment. In order to shed light into the mechanisms involved and to discover the molecules involved they are studying two key aspects: the calcium channels that could be responsible for calcium entry into the cytosol and the calcium binding proteins that could regulate them.

“When I first entered grad school my research goals were different,” said Karla. “During my rotation in Dr. Moreno’s lab, I became fascinated by the biology of Toxoplasma and by how little is known about calcium signaling in T. gondii. As a scientist, I became very curious and interested in finding more about these signaling pathways and I decided to change my research focus.”

Trainee capstone experience

Each T32 trainee is provided with the opportunity to complete a capstone experience at the end of their fellowship. This experience allows for an extended visit to a collaborator’s laboratory or travel to a scientific meeting where they present their research and interact with colleagues.

“I was invited to the University of Puerto Rico to present my research project and discuss graduate and fellowship opportunities available at UGA. I would be presenting at an undergraduate event organized by the University.”

In addition, she would like to visit the laboratory of Dr. Ivana Kuo at Northwestern University to study the function of two TRP channels that Karla is characterizing. Dr. Kuo uses lipid layers and regular patch-clamp to characterize intracellular and plasma membrane channels. Using this system Karla hopes to understand the physiology of these channels that are important for calcium signaling in T. gondii.

T32 Fellowship helps trainees achieve their goals

“The fellowship will provide me with the necessary experience and opportunities for me to develop the skills to become a better scientist.”

Karla would like to go back to Puerto Rico and establish her own research lab. She would like to have the opportunity to train and give students the same opportunities that were given to her during her Ph.D. training.

“All the skills gained throughout this two years will prepare me for my ultimate goal which is to have my own research lab.”

Trainee Spotlight: Molly Bunkofse

Trainee Spotlight: Molly Bunkofse

NIH T32 trainee Molly Bunkofse, a Ph.D. student in Rick Tarleton‘s laboratory, is originally from Illinois and I obtained my BA in Biology from a small, liberal arts college called Augustana, which is located in Rock Island, IL.

Molly’s research focus

Molly’s project focuses on the host CD8+ T cell response that is generated against flagellar proteins from the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and exploring how these responses might be enhanced.

“I chose this research focus because I have always been interested in the host immune response to pathogens and especially pathogens that are able to escape the immune response and persist, such is the case in T. cruzi infection.”

Trainee capstone experience

Each T32 trainee is provided with the opportunity to complete a capstone experience at the end of their fellowship. This experience allows for an extended visit to a collaborator’s laboratory or travel to a scientific meeting where they present their research and interact with colleagues.

“For my capstone experience, I’d like to work in South America where Chagas disease is endemic, perhaps with one of our collaborators that works with human patients infected with T. cruzi.”

T32 fellowship helps trainees achieve their goals

“I think that the T32 fellowship will provide me with new opportunities to develop my research and skills as a scientist. The experiences and training will enable me to become a well-rounded scientist that can think critically and logically approach a question/problem.”

Molly hopes to continue her research in a government laboratory after graduation.

Trainee Spotlight: Ruby Harrison

NIH T32 trainee Ruby Harrison is a co-advised by Drs. Michael Strand and Mark Brown in the UGA Department of Entomology. She received a Bachelor’s of Science in Entomology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012 and lived in Madison an additional two years working with mosquitoes as a research assistant. Before coming to UGA to begin my doctoral studies, she spent a year in Gabon, Africa, working as a tropical ecology field technician.

Ruby’s research focus

Ruby studies mosquito-microbiome interactions. Currently, she is investigating the influence of the gut microbiome on mosquito reproductive processes. She also plans to begin exploring the role of the mosquito microbiome in deterring pathogen infection in the very near future.

“I chose this research focus because I was inspired by the research of a former graduate student of Dr. Strand’s, Dr. Kerri Coon. Kerri pioneered fascinating work on the influence of the microbiota on development in mosquitoes in the immature (larval) stage,” said Ruby. “I saw an opportunity to extend her work, to observe if the same bacterial signal essential to larval development is recapitulated in any way in the adult stage.”

More broadly, she sees insect-microbe interactions as a promising field which may offer new solutions for mosquito population control and reduction of pathogen transmission.

NIH T32 Fellowship helps trainees achieve their goals

Ultimately, Ruby hopes to build a career as a vector biologist. For the capstone experience provided by the NIH T32 Training Grant, she is interested in returning to francophone West or Central Africa to work with mosquitoes in the field.

“I am truly grateful to receive the T32 pre-doctoral training fellowship, which presents me the opportunity to interact more closely with the CTEGD, opens doors for possible collaboration, and will help me to pursue my research goals,” said Ruby.

Training Spotlight: Msano Mandalasi

Msano Mandalasi, a post-doctoral trainee in Chris West‘s laboratory, is originally from Malawi, (located in southeastern Africa) and obtained her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Malawi. After graduation, she worked briefly for the University of Malawi and then came to the US to obtain a Master’s degree in Chemistry. Later, she enrolled in a doctoral graduate program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore where she graduated in 2012. She spent two years teaching undergraduate Chemistry before deciding to get back into research. She joined Dr. West’s group while he was at the University of Oklahoma and moved with the lab to the University of Georgia.

Msano’s research focus

The focus of Msano’s project is on the role of prolyl hydroxylation and glycosylation of E3 Ubiquitin ligase on Toxoplasma growth.

With a research background mostly in chemistry and biochemistry, her graduate research introduced her to some aspect of parasitology working on Schistosome glycobiology. However, she did not have a strong background in molecular biology prior to joining the West lab. This current project merges glycobiology and molecular biology and also extends some parasitology studies, thus giving her the opportunity to learn molecular biology and parasitology to complement her chemistry background. A combination of this expert knowledge will benefit her to address the research objectives on her Toxoplasma project.

Capstone experience

Each T32 trainee is provided with the opportunity to complete a capstone experience at the end of their fellowship. This experience allows for an extended visit to a collaborator’s laboratory or travel to a scientific meeting where they present their research and interact with colleagues. Msano plans to use her capstone experience to give oral presentations at scientific meetings, to publish some of the studies conducted within this time period, and interact with other trainees in the program.

T32 fellowship helps trainees achieve their goals

“Through the funding provided by the T32 Training Grant, I will be able to address research questions that should lead to launching my own area of research,” said Msano.

Msano hopes to run her own independent research program in academia one day.

Trainee Spotlight: Evgeniy Potapenko

Evgeniy Potapenko, a post-doctoral trainee in Roberto Docampo‘s laboratory, is from Kyiv, Ukraine. He obtained his MD from Bogomolets National Medical University (Kyiv) in 1997. Then he proceeded to earn a Ph.D. from Bogomoletz Institute of Physiology (Kyiv) in 2004. Later he conducted postdoctoral training in Europe at the University of Goettingen and the University of Birmingham and also in the USA at Augusta University before coming to the University of Georgia. Evgeniy is a recipient of the Center’s NIH funded T32 Training Grant for Interdisciplinary Parasitology, Vector Biology, and Emerging Diseases.

Evgeniy’s research focus

Generally, Evgeniy is interested in mechanisms of transmembrane transport and their role in parasite homeostasis. His current project goal is to characterize how the IP3R function modulated within the Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes African Sleeping Sickness, acidocalcisomes where it resides and how deregulation of this process can contribute to cell death. This research topic addresses poorly studied mechanisms of parasite physiology and has the potential importance of discovering new methods of patient treatment.

Capstone Experience

Each T32 trainee is provided with the opportunity to complete a capstone experience at the end of their fellowship. This experience often involves an extended visit to a collaborator’s laboratory to learn new techniques or to an endemic country to see how their research connects to actions being taken in the field.

“I hope to expand my expertise in both electrophysiology and cellular biology approaches, which will allow me to conduct independent research,” said Evgeniy.

T32 fellowship helps trainee achieve goals

“T32 is a unique possibility to prepare me for an independent research career,” said Evgeniy. “It gives great tools to achieve this goal.”

Trainee Spotlight: Manuel Fierro

Manuel Fierro is a pre-doctoral trainee in Vasant Muralidharan’s Laboratory. He is originally from Ecuador. His family moved to the US when he was 9 years old, and he has lived in Georgia ever since. Manuel received his Bachelor of Science degree in Cellular Biology from the University of Georgia in 2014. He is a recipient of the Center’s NIH funded T32 Training Grant for Interdisciplinary Parasitology, Vector Biology, and Emerging Diseases.

Manuel’s research focus

Manuel’s project deals with understanding how calcium is regulated in the endoplasmic reticulum of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria.

“My undergraduate training was in Dr. Silvia Moreno’s lab studying calcium signaling in Toxoplasma gondii and I wanted to answer the same type of questions in Plasmodium,” said Manuel.

Capstone Experience

Each T32 trainee is provided with the opportunity to complete a capstone experience at the end of their fellowship.

“My home country of Ecuador is approaching elimination of malaria,” said Manuel, “and I would like to work with some of the researchers in the field there who track populations of infected mosquitoes as well as monitor cases of infection in humans.”

T32 Fellowship helps trainee achieve goals

“I truly enjoy working in a lab, but it is not the same as experiencing what diseases are like in the real world,” said Manuel. “This fellowship will help me expand my understanding of malaria by giving me the opportunity to see it in a different setting.”

Manuel is currently considering a career in industry, but he is open to staying in academia.

Trainee Spotlight: Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a Ph.D. trainee in Julie Moore’s laboratory. She is originally from Rochester, New York and received her B.S. from Haverford College in Pennsylvania before coming to the University of Georgia. Catherine is a second-year recipient of the Center’s NIH T32 Training Grant for Interdisciplinary Parasitology, Vector Biology, and Emerging Diseases.

Catherine’s research focus

Catherine is studying the role of syncytiotrophoblastic autophagy in the pathogenesis of placental malaria.

Placental malaria is a severe manifestation of Plasmodium falciparum infection that impacts pregnant women and causes poor birth outcomes, including pregnancy loss and low birth weight.

The placenta acts as the connection between a mother and her fetus. Within the placenta, a fetal tissue, the syncytiotrophoblast, acts as the interface between the maternal and fetal blood supplies. During maternal malaria infection, P. falciparum-infected red blood cells adhere to the syncytiotrophoblast.

“The response of the syncytiotrophoblast to maternal malaria infection is not completely understood,” said Catherine. “I hypothesize that the trophoblast performs autophagy, a self-eating mechanism that allows cells to recycle damaged proteins and organelles, to offset the stress caused by maternal malaria infection.”

While working to characterize the role of syncytiotrophoblastic autophagy in placental malaria pathogenesis, she observed that mice bred and reared in different facilities exhibited differences in susceptibility to malaria infection regardless of pregnancy status. This difference in susceptibility can be attributed to differences in the composition of the gut microbiota. The immunological mechanisms driving this difference in susceptibility have yet to be defined. The Moore Lab plans to explore the immunological mechanisms underlying this gut microbiota-dependent difference in susceptibility to malaria infection in pregnant and virgin mice.

Catherine chose to study placental malaria because she was interested in exploring host-pathogen interactions and the basic cellular biology of the placenta. In addition, she chose to join Dr. Moore’s laboratory because she was interested in contributing to a field of research with the potential to improve the lives of women and infants around the world.

Capstone Experience

Each T32 fellow is provided with the opportunity to complete a capstone experience. Catherine plans to travel to a collaborator’s laboratory in the United States where she will complete specialized experiments that cannot be performed at The University of Georgia.

T32 Fellowship helps trainee achieve goals

“The T32 fellowship has enhanced my training by allowing me to focus on my research,” said Catherine. “As part of my capstone experience, I plan to spend some time in a collaborator’s lab, which will allow me to form relationships with scientists at other institutions, learn new techniques, and perform experiments that will strengthen my research project.”

After completing her training, Catherine plans to pursue a career in parasitology research in either an academic or an industrial setting.

2015-2016 T32 trainees announced

CTEGD’s NIH T32 Training in Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases fellowships are awarded each year to outstanding graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. The training grant was recently renewed for another 5 years and included additional funding from UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR). Read more about it here.

The fellowships are open to any graduate student or post-doctoral fellow who is a U.S. citizen and associated with a CTEGD laboratory. Applications are accepted in March every year. View the guidelines for application submission as well as other funded research opportunities at CTEGD here.

This year, fellowships were awarded to 5 graduate students and 1 post-doctoral fellow to fund up to 2 years of research training and a capstone experience.

Phil Yao is a M.D./Ph.D. student working in Rick Tarleton‘s laboratory. He is currently working on a transmission-blocking vaccine for Trypansoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease. Approximately 18 million people in Latin America are infected with this parasite. Chagas disease is the leading cause of death of young to middle age adults in endemic areas of South America. It is also the most common cause of congestive heart failure and sudden death in the world. There are currently no vaccines for the prevention of T. cruzi infection.

“I choose to focus on vaccine development because of its high impact on global health, specifically in areas with limited resources. I was drawn to neglected tropical disease research because they are often chronic diseases that lack effective treatment or prevention,” said Phil. He hopes to do a capstone experience in South America in conjunction with a Fogarty Public Health Fellowship. After graduation, Phil will pursue a career in academia with the goal of being a professor at a medical institution.

Heather Bishop is a Ph.D. student in Vasant Muralidharan‘s laboratory.  She is currently studying the role of ER chaperones in the asexual and sexual development of the human malaria parasite, P. falciparum. She is passionate about contributing to the overall understanding of neglected tropical diseases. Heather chose malaria specifically because it is a difficult organism to study and felt it would really challenge her intellectually and thus make her an overall better scientist.  “For my capstone experience I hope to work in a malaria endemic area, Africa or South America, to get a greater understanding of the burden this infectious disease, and others, place on the world,” said Heather.

Heather’s career goal is to be a staff scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or a tenure-track position at a research university.

Whitney Bullard, a Ph.D. student in Robert Sabatini‘s laboratory, studies trypanosomatids, including the human pathogens Trypanosoma bruceiTrypanosoma cruzi, and Leishmania, which possess a unique DNA modification within their genomes known as base J.  Base J (ß-D-glucopyranosyloxymethyluracil) is a hyper-modified thymine residue that accounts for about 1% of thymines in the nuclear genome of these organisms.  Base J represents a novel chromatin mark involved in regulating Pol II transcription and gene expression.  Base J is synthesized in a two-step process in which particular thymidines are hydroxylated to form hydroxymethyluracil.  This intermediate is then glucosylated by a glucosyltransferase to form base J.  My project is specifically focused on the glucosyltransferase that catalyzes the second step of base J synthesis.  This enzyme has only recently been identified and my project has been aimed  at confirming its identity as the glucosyltransferase involved in base J synthesis, characterizing the enzyme, and determining how this enzyme makes base J throughout the trypanosomatid genome.

“Parasites are a very interesting group of organisms,” said Whitney.  “They have evolved unique mechanisms to survive within different host and vector organisms and they have molecular mechanisms that are quite different from other eukaryotic organisms, which makes them a little bit weird and fascinating.  It is interesting to me just how different they can be from other organisms and how they use unique molecular mechanisms to establish themselves within a host and cause disease.” 

Whitney plans on doing her capstone experience in a Chagas endemic region where she will collect field isolates of T. cruzi to determine the amount and distraction of base J throughout their genomes. Whitney’s career goal is to continue working at the bench as a research scientist investigating the molecular mechanisms of host-parasite interactions.

Tony Szempruch is a Ph.D. student in Steve Hajduk‘s laboratory where he focuses on the molecular biology of Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of human African sleeping sickness. He is investigating mitochondrial RNA biology, mechanisms of protein diversity and how these parasites alter host cells resulting in disease pathology. I have been interested in RNA biology since I was an undergraduate and many eukaryotic pathogens employ novel RNA processes for survival,” said Tony.

He would like to use his capstone experience to participate in field site collection and analysis of T. brucei isolates to work on more accurate and rapid methods of parasite detection.

My immediate career goals are to apply my interest in RNA biology into postdoctoral research on other unique parasite RNA processes. Ultimately, by combining my passion for RNA and interest in eukaryotic parasites, I hope to lead my own laboratory at a university or comparable institute.”

A. J. Stasic, a Ph.D. student in Silvia Moreno‘s laboratory, focuses  on the characterization of the Vacuolar H+-ATPase (V-H+-ATPase) and its role in the lytic cycle of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Our hypothesis is that the V-H+-ATPase functions in pH homeostasis of the cytosol of intracellular and extracellular parasites and is involved in the maturation of proteins relevant for invasion. We plan to test both hypotheses using a combination of biochemical and genetic approaches.

“I have always been fascinated with how pathogens are able to infect, hijack host resources, and, in extreme cases, kill their hosts,” said A. J. “My current research focus allows me to learn more about the T. gondii parasite while satisfying my interest in human pathogens.”

He is researching the V-H+-ATPase because this parasite is extremely prolific. “My research on how the V-H+-ATPase plays a role in the lytic cycle could lead to finding new methods to control the infection.  My research already suggests that the V-H+-ATPase is an essential component of the lytic cycle and continued research could lead to new advances in our understanding of the lytic cycle of this important human parasite.”

A. J. is considering a coupled of different options for his capstone experience. “One option is to enroll in the Woods Hole Biology of Parasitism course next summer.  However, I am also considering a short sabbatical to train in Anibal Vercesi’s laboratory in Brazil.  In his laboratory, I would learn parasite bioenergetics which would facilitate my study of the role of the V-H+-ATPase in Toxoplasma.”

Studying Toxoplasma gondii has demonstrated to A. J. the need for continued research into basic parasite biology. Therefore after graduation he plans to seek a post-doctoral position to increase his understanding of parasitology and further instruct him in the basic operation and management of a successful laboratory.   Ultimately, his career goal is a position in a government agency or academic institution that is directly involved with parasite biology research.

Mattie Pawlowic, a post-doctoral fellow in Boris Striepen‘s lab, studies Cryptosporidium, a eukaryotic pathogen that infects the gastrointestinal tract of many animals. People become infected when they drink water or eat food contaminated with C. parvum or C. hominis. Upon ingestion Cryptosporidium infect the small intestine and cause severe diarrhea, an especially serious problem for young children and immunocompromised adults. There is no vaccine and only one drug available to treat cryptosporidiosis. Also, providing safe drinking water is difficult because Cryptosporidium are resistant to common water treatment practices, namely chlorination. This is because when Cryptosporidium are in the environment they live inside a thick, protective shell, called the oocyst. The oocyst is made up of a complex combination of proteins, lipids, and sugars. The focus of her project is to describe the biochemical pathways utilized for oocyst synthesis, determine how different components contribute to environmental resiliency, and to pinpoint potential weak points in the oocyst structure.

“There is no system to continuously culture Cryptosporidium in the lab, making it very difficult to study this parasite,” explained Mattie. “Recently our lab has developed tools to genetically modify Cryptosporidium parasites and propagate the transgenic parasites in animals.” Now they are able to study how specific genes function in parasite-host interaction. This is groundbreaking because they can now manipulate genes (deleting, tagging, or insert foreign genes) and observe the consequences both in vivo and in vitro. “While these tools have been available for other parasites for many years, this is the first time we can do this for Cryptosporidium,” continued Mattie. “I chose to work with Cryptosporidium because of this exciting challenge to both develop tools and uncover new aspects of parasite biology and biochemistry in a organism where little is known.”

For her capstone experience, Mattie plans to conduct research at one of their collaborator’s laboratories.

After she finishes her post-doctoral training. she wants to continue to study host-parasite interactions of Cryptosporidium in her own research laboratory.

UGA receives $1.25 million for training of tropical, emerging global diseases researchers

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases was awarded $1.25 million by the National Institutes of Health to continue training graduate and postdoctoral students over the next five years who can help address the growing threats of parasitic diseases.

Every year, diseases caused by protozoan and helminth parasites are responsible for more than a million deaths and cause hundreds of millions more cases of severe or subtle morbidity due to chronic infections lasting years.

“The University of Georgia is uniquely positioned as a training ground for the next generation of parasitology and tropical diseases researchers,” said Silvia Moreno, a professor of cellular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and co-director of the center’s T32 trainee program.

The internationally recognized research center brings together the largest number of laboratories in the U.S. that collectively conduct research on the full gamut of parasite diseases. These diseases are highly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Asia. Often they are the consequence and cause of poverty. They also are increasingly emerging or re-emerging in the U.S. and other industrialized nations.

The CTEGD training program is currently in its 10th year. Past trainees have gone on to successful careers as staff scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as faculty, postdoctoral scholars or medical and veterinary scientists at leading universities and research institutes.

“The breadth and culture of our program instills trainees with the ability to not only translate basic scientific findings into tool development and the implementation of interventions, but also to identify and formulate fundamental research questions beyond the context of parasitic disease itself,” Moreno said.

“This program is very attractive to students,” said Boris Striepen, Distinguished Research Professor of Cellular Biology in the Franklin College and co-director of the training grant. “We have had many more strong candidates than training slots.”

To address this issue, the new NIH award will double the number of postdoctoral trainees from one to two each year, and matching funding from UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Research will support two predoctoral trainees in addition to the three graduate students supported by the training grant each year.
“This institutional matching support is tremendously important when competing for NIH training grants,” said Dan Colley, CTEGD director, who was the T32 training grant program director for its first 10 years.

Trainees in the program build upon their background in biomedical sciences through specialized courses and research mentored by one or more CTEGD faculty. The program is unique in that students can also broaden their perspective on the global aspects of parasitic diseases through a capstone experience, which typically takes students away from the UGA campus for four to eight weeks. Many of the previous trainees have conducted field studies in a disease-endemic country.

“My capstone experience in Kenya provided an exceptional opportunity to gain experience both working in the field and in a laboratory in a developing setting,” said Briana Flaherty, a doctoral student in the CTEGD and the department of infectious diseases. “This short time has had a profound impact on my future interests and career goals.”

The many international collaborations of the center’s faculty provide a wide variety of opportunities to the trainees. Over the last nine years, graduate students have worked in Haiti, Tanzania, Argentina, Thailand and Kenya. The Office of the Vice President for Research also has committed funds over the next five years to assist in the provision of these experiences on the T32 training grant.

“We in CTEGD are extremely pleased that NIH has seen fit to fund this T32 training grant for an additional five years,” Colley said. “It is an investment in our new program directors, Drs. Striepen and Moreno, and in CTEGD’s commitment to high-quality training of the next generation in this important area of parasitic disease-related research.”

The grant funding is provided under NIH award number 3T32AI060546.

UGA Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases
The University of Georgia Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases draws on a strong foundation of parasitology, immunology, cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics to develop medical and public health interventions. Established in 1998, the center promotes international biomedical research and educational programs at UGA and throughout Georgia to address the parasitic and other tropical diseases that continue to threaten the health of people throughout the world. For more information, see