Nine minority physiology grad students each get $18,000 Porter Fellowship from APS

October 27, 2005

BETHESDA, Md. (October 27, 2005) -- Since 1966, the American Physiological Society (APS) has awarded its Porter Physiology Fellowship to historically underrepresented minorities in science to encourage diversity among students pursuing full-time studies toward a Ph.D. in the discipline of physiology. This year, nine outstanding students have been awarded the one-year fellowship that provides each winner with an $18,000 stipend. *Three of this year's winners are receiving a second-year fellowship. To date, the APS has provided more than 100 fellowships to minority pre- and postdoctoral students.

2005-2006 APS Porter Physiology Fellows:

Andrew J. Clark - University of California, Irvine

Hagfish lack jaws and use non-collagenous cartilages as supporting elements for a feeding apparatus very different from vertebrate jaws. Mr. Clark is investigating the kinematics and muscle activity patterns of the hagfish feeding apparatus and the material properties of hagfish cartilages. This research will determine the functional limitations of lacking jaws and provide some insight into the evolution of vertebrate jaws.

*Jessica Clark - University of Arizona

The focus of Ms. Clark's research is epidermal growth factor (EGF) and its role in protecting the intestine against a disease that affects premature babies, called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Her lab has shown that supplementing EGF into infant formula reduces the incidence and severity of NEC in neonatal rats. There is currently no preventative treatment for NEC, so by better understanding the mechanisms of how EGF protects the intestine, this research may provide the basis for future therapeutic strategies for the treatment of human NEC.

*Damon Jacobs - University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Secretion of enzymes and fluid is the primary function in many glands in the human body. Mr. Jacob's research is focused on the function of Myosin 5c, a molecular motor protein that is abundantly found in glandular tissues and is hypothesized to facilitate the process of secretion. His research may help to determine the molecular mechanisms that regulate secretion in various tissues, such as the pancreas, mammary gland, and the lacrimal gland.

Lymari López-Díaz - University of Michigan

Ms. López-Díaz studies intestinal stem cells and whether overexpression of the transcription factors Neurogenin 3 and NeuroD1 directs these cells to develop into intestinal endocrine cells. Endocrine cells in the intestine regulate many functions of the gastrointestinal tract, including digestion. This research will provide insight into how molecules regulate endocrine cell differentiation in the intestine.

Jeffrey Mason - University of California - Davis

Mr. Mason's research is focused on investigating the mechanisms behind abnormal fetal and placental development. He plans to target cells within the early embryo having abnormal developmental potential. His research may lead to the elucidation of the mechanisms responsible for control of fetal and placental growth. The mechanisms behind abnormal fetal and placental development appear to operate through factors common to tumor formation, aging and genetic disease.

*Walson Metzger - University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

Mr. Metzger's research is designed to investigate how the hepatitis B Virus (HBV) induces apoptosis (cell death) in liver cells. His lab suspects that protein kinase C-delta (PKC-delta) and PKC-beta play an integral role in apoptosis through their interaction with hepatitis B X (HBx), a viral transactivator expressed during HBV infection. They hypothesize that, during HBV infection, these two PKC variations are activated and alter mitochondrial calcium signaling which contributes to apoptosis.

Kristy M. Nicks - University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Ms. Nicks studies Inhibin, the gonadal hormone that stimulates the skeleton to increase bone mass and strength and protects the bone against loss associated with gonadectomy (removal of ovaries or testicles). Currently, she is determining which genes are turned on and off in response to Inhibin both early and later in the bone formation process. This work may provide new targets of Inhibin action to increase bone mass and prevent the bone loss associated with aging and menopause.

Adrienne L. Orr - Stanford University

Ms. Orr's research focuses on the role of different protein kinase C (PKC) isozymes in stroke. These enzymes are known to be involved in many diseases, including cancer, heart attack, and stroke. Inhibition of one PKC isozyme has been shown to decrease brain tissue injury in rats. In order to help identify how each individual PKC participates in a particular disease, her lab has developed small peptide drugs that inhibit or activate specific PKC enzymes. She is currently studying how brain injury affects different types of brain cells in the presence of certain PKC isozyme inhibitors.

Clintoria Latrice Williams - University of Alabama at Birmingham

Mrs. Williams studies zinc and its role in the development of diabetes mellitus at the level of the pancreatic ß-cell. High concentrations of zinc are essential for ß-cells to make and release insulin. Yet a common characteristic of all forms of diabetes mellitus is low zinc concentrations in the blood. This lack of zinc may be a factor leading to the development of these diseases. Mrs. Williams' lab looks at how zinc acts along with ATP regulates insulin release into the bloodstream.

"Since the 1960s, the APS Porter Fellowships have been targeted at making careers in physiology accessible to minority students, and they have been widely successful in that goal," said Dr. Martin Frank, executive director of the APS. "Former Porter fellows include a director of a NIH Institute, leaders within the National Science Foundation, and department and program heads in academic institutions. The Society is happy to have assisted in their success," he added.

* Second-year awardees this year are: Jessica Clark of the University of Arizona, Damon Jacobs of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Walson Metzger of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Porter stipend raised to $20,772; deadline Jan. 15, 2006

Dr. Frank said that the stipend for the 2006-2007 Porter Physiology Fellowships will be raised to $20,772 annually, which is comparable to NIH predoctoral fellowships.

The Porter fellowships are designed to increase the participation of underrepresented minority students in the physiological sciences and to encourage their recruitment to responsible positions in academic institutions throughout the United States. In May 2004, APS was honored to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Engineering Mentoring, which in part recognized APS for 40 years of extraordinary efforts to mentor underrepresented minorities in the physiological sciences.

The fellowship is open to underrepresented ethnic minority applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its territories (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Native Alaskans and Native Pacific Islanders). Fellows may apply for a second Porter Fellowship, which is also awarded competitively.

For more information on the Porter Physiology Fellowship and the other education programs APS administers, go to or email the APS Education office at

Deadline for the 2006-2007 Porter Physiology Fellowship is January 15, 2006.

The APS supports a variety of educational activities including programs and fellowships to encourage the development of young scientists at the undergraduate and graduate levels, with a particular focus on women and underrepresented minorities. In May 2004, APS received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM).
The American Physiological Society is a professional scientific membership organization devoted to fostering scientific research, education, and the dissemination of scientific information. Founded in 1887, the Society's membership includes more than 10,000 professionals in science and medicine.

American Physiological Society

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