Biomedical Scientist Wins Young Investigator Pilot Research Award

Declan F. McCole is an Associate Professor of biomedical sciences at the UCR School of Medicine.

Declan F. McCole, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the UCR School of Medicine, has received a $30,000 grant from the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) to conduct research aimed at improving the diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The one-year award, called the AGA-Pfizer Young Investigator Pilot Research Award in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, supports early career investigators in establishing their research careers or established investigators for projects representing new research directions.

“In this study, we will investigate how environmental changes alter specific bacterial and host intestinal factors to regulate how effectively an invasive bacterium can colonize the intestine and cause inflammation,” McCole said. “We hope these studies will allow us to better identify how genes and environment combine to alter susceptibility to chronic disease.”

IBD is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestine that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Primarily a “first-world” disease, it is not prevalent in developing countries. IBD has been used to support the “hygiene hypothesis,” which postulates that as a result of increased standards of hygiene, people in Western countries have lower levels of exposure to immune-modulating microbes/parasites but higher levels of autoimmune disease in comparison to developing nations.

“Changes in environment affect IBD susceptibility,” McCole said. “We know that when people move to Western societies they have increased risk of developing IBD and other chronic autoimmune conditions.”

McCole’s lab identified that mice lacking the IBD candidate gene PTPN2 exhibit dramatic alterations in the types of bacteria found in the gut microbiota featuring dramatically increased levels of an IBD-associated invasive bacterium.  However, when these mice were transferred from a “clean” specific pathogen free environment (modeling a “Western” environment) to a “dirty” or conventional environment (modeling an environment with increased exposure to a greater variety of microbes) the lab observed reduced levels of the invasive bacterium and reduced intestinal inflammation.

“This, therefore, represents a model to validate the hygiene hypothesis and has important implications for individuals who develop IBD after moving from less developed to more developed nations,” McCole said.

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Mechanical Engineering Professor Receives European Advanced Energy Materials Award in Stockholm, Sweden

Cengiz Ozkan specializes in in energy processing, materials properties & processing and bio-applications.

Cengiz Ozkan, professor at the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering, received the 2018 European Advanced Energy Award by the International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM) at a March 25-28 congress.

Last month, Ozkan was named the 2018 recipient of the John J. Guarrera Engineering Educator of the year Award by the Engineers’ Council, joining five other UCR faculty members in being honored at a national event recognizing distinguished engineers and engineering projects.

Ozkan has performed pioneering research in technologies for sustainability in energy storage, nanoelectronics, and two-dimensional materials, and served as the founding graduate advisor for the UCR Materials Science and Engineering program, directly mentoring scores of graduate and undergraduate students.

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UCR Creative Writing Professor Named 2018 National Book Awards Panel Chair

Laila Lalami, professor of creative writing, is one of five judges selected by the National Book Foundation to review eligible entries for fiction.

Laila Lalami, professor of creative writing, has been announced as chair for the fiction panel of judges for the 2018 National Book Awards, one of the country’s most prestigious literary accolades. Established in 1950, this year will mark the 69th National Book Awards Ceremony. The selection of 25 judges, including Lalami, was announced on March 14. She will be one of five judges reviewing all eligible entries for this year’s award in fiction.

Judges for the awards are selected by the National Book Foundation, with five serving in five award categories including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature. Judges have historically included published writers who have made significant contributions to their genre or field, but parameters have since extended to include other experts including literary critics, librarians, and booksellers.

“While the judges comprise a wide array of vocational and geographical backgrounds, all have displayed a powerful dedication to the written word and the literary world at large,” said David Steinberger, chairman of the board of directors of the National Book Foundation, in a press release announcing the judging selection.

Lalami’s most recent novel, “The Moor’s Account,” won the American Book Award, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction. She will serve on this year’s fiction panel with fellow renowned novelists Chris Bachelder, Min Jin Lee, Chinelo Okparanta, and Kirkus Reviews’ fiction editor Laurie Muchnick. Lalami joins a roster of acclaimed authors who have previously judged the award, including novelists Dave Eggers, Geraldine Brooks, and Junot Díaz.

Over the next few months, the panel will be charged with winnowing hundreds of submissions and selecting 10 longlist titles that will be announced in mid-September, five finalists announced Oct. 10, and the winning title announced at an awards ceremony on Nov. 14.

Jessica Weber


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