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  9. October 2018 - NCTR Science Insights Newsletter
  1. NCTR Publications

October 2018 - NCTR Science Insights Newsletter

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NCTR Science Insights - October 2018

In this Issue:

Annual “Brain Awareness Week” Campaign in Central Arkansas Sponsored by NCTR and Arkansas Chapter of the Society of Neuroscience (ACSfN)  

The annual “Brain Awareness Week” event in central Arkansas, sponsored by NCTR’s Division of Neurotoxicology and ACSfN, was held in March 2018 at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. The event serves to increase public awareness — especially to children —about the progress and benefits of brain research, particularly that in Central Arkansas.


As expected, the event was successful with seven demonstrations and hands-on activities with volunteers from NCTR, Hendrix College, the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), FDA’s Arkansas Laboratory, and the Episcopal Collegiate School. Pencils, erasers shaped like the human brain, and activity booklets for the attendees were donated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. Attendees enjoyed 400 tamales and 200 neuron-shaped cookies generously donated by Dr. Elvis Cuevas, the current president of ACSfN. 

Arkansas Brain Bee and How It All Started with NCTR  

The Central Arkansas Brain Bee began in 2001 due to the creative efforts of Andrew Scallet, Ph.D. — who at that time was a scientist in NCTR’s Division of Neurotoxicology. Since then, this Bee has continued annually. According to the Society for Neuroscience website, “The Brain Bee, a neuroscience competition for secondary students, begins with local competitions that feed into the national and world competitions. The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) hosts the D.C. Chapter Brain Bee, supports U.S. National and World Brain Bees, and arranges scientific lab internships for the U.S. national and world winners.” 

Dr. Scallet enlisted other NCTR scientists in the Division of Neurotoxicology (Tucker Patterson, Ph.D. in 2002 and John Bowyer, Ph.D. in 2006) to assist with organizing and conducting the annual Central Arkansas Brain Bee, which is open to eligible high school students in Arkansas.  In 2016, Dr. Andrew James at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences assumed leadership of the Central Arkansas Brain Bee. The local winners travel to Baltimore, Maryland to compete in the U.S. National Brain Bee. Both the 2016 and 2017 National Brain Bee champions hail from Arkansas and represented the U.S. at the World Brain Bee Championships—with the 2017 National Champion, Sojas Wagle, winning the 18th World Brain Bee Championship. For more information on how to get involved in U.S. Regional and World Brain Bees, visit the SfN website. 

Arkansas Chapter of the Society of Neuroscience (ACSfN) Meeting 

The 2018 ACSfN meeting was held at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway, Arkansas. The annual ACSfN annual meeting allows participants to share advances in neuroscience research and to foster collaborations. The event was successful for the 28 attendees, 16 of whom presented scientific posters. Poster presentations were from NCTR, Hendrix College, UCA, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The plenary speaker was Dr. Sherry Ferguson, Acting Director, NCTR Division of Neurotoxicology.  Dr. Ferguson spoke on “Ethnicity Differences in Neurodegenerative Proteins in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Three poster categories were awarded:

  • Undergraduate Category: Emily Fagan, University of Central Arkansas 
  • Graduate Category: Catheryn Wilson, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
  • Postdoc Category:  Hector Rosas-Hernandez, Ph.D., NCTR

Promoting Brain Awareness Week in Africa 

Chinna Orish, MBBS, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Department of Anatomy, University of Port-Harcourt, Nigeria, coordinated and organized a two-day event to promote the 2018 Brain Awareness Week at the University of Port-Harcourt. Brain Awareness Week is a worldwide event that brings together scientists, families, schools, and communities to increase public awareness of brain research. The theme of the University’s program was “Brain and Nutrition” with a focus on nutrigenomics. Dr. Orish was the featured speaker who presented a lecture titled “Nutrigenomics in Brain Health.” Participation was strong with more than 300 attendees at the program that included university staff and students from the Faculties of Basic Medical Sciences, Clinical Sciences, and Pharmacy and Sciences. Dr. Orish was introduced to the area of epigenetics during her 18-month postdoctoral training at NCTR in 2016 and 2017. 

Inspiring Women To Seek Careers in Neuroscience 

More than 50 women comprising faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students from the College of Health Sciences and the College of Pharmacy at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria participated in the

Female scientists in a lab

first event for women in neuroscience in 2018 at the University. The coordinator and founder of the event, Dr. Chinna Orish, credits her experiences at NCTR as a postdoctoral fellow with the inspiration to arrange the conference.  Her experience at NCTR afforded her the opportunity to attend the American Society of Neurochemistry Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas in March 2017. Dr. Orish reflected on her experience at NCTR saying, “It has really added a lot to my knowledge and impetus to my career. The knowledge I gained cannot be quantified. I have continued to relish the all-round mentoring NCTR offered me.”

Appointment of Associate Director for Science and Policy 

NCTR is pleased to announce the appointment of Tucker Patterson, Ph.D., to the position of Associate Director for Science and Policy. Dr. Patterson was previously NCTR’s Associate Director, Regulatory Compliance and Risk Management. In his new position, Dr. Patterson serves as primary advisor to the NCTR Center Director about the general direction of the Center’s research programs and FDA initiatives. He also represents NCTR and FDA in extramural activities including research interactions with the State of Arkansas. Dr. Patterson brings scientific and management expertise to his new role and NCTR will benefit from Dr. Patterson’s scientific accomplishments and in-depth knowledge of NCTR and FDA research programs, policies, and procedures. 

Appointment of Associate Director, Office of Scientific Coordination (OSC) 

Bradley Schnackenberg, Ph.D., Director of OSC

 NCTR is pleased to announce the appointment of Bradley Schnackenberg, Ph.D. as Associate Director, OSC.  In his new position Dr. Schnackenberg provides supervision and leadership to achieve OSC’s mission to

support the conduct of in vivo toxicology studies at NCTR. In 2008, he was selected into the inaugural class of the FDA Commissioner’s Fellowship Program and was hired into the NCTR Office of Research in 2010 where he worked until assuming his current position. Dr. Schnackenberg’s oversight includes four distinct groups with diverse scientific expertise and research support missions — Toxicology Program, Veterinary Services, NCTR/ORA Nanotechnology Core Facility, and CTP/NCTR Inhalation Toxicology Core Facility. 

Jefferson Laboratories’ Inaugural Postdoctoral Research Day  

Jefferson Laboratories celebrated NCTR and ORA/Arkansas Laboratory (ARKL) postdoctoral research in March 2018 by giving our fellows the opportunity to present and discuss their research projects to an audience of fellow Jefferson Laboratories scientists. It was an inaugural full-day event that featured 11 oral presentations and 20 poster presentations. The keynote lecture on “Radiation Toxicology Research” was delivered by Dr. Martin Hauer-Jensen, Associate Dean of Research, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The event was created, organized, and planned by the Jefferson Fellows Advisory Committee to highlight important and exciting research at the Jefferson Laboratories. Our fellows are essential to the success of Jefferson Laboratories and we enjoyed celebrating their research accomplishments. 

FDA Scientific Achievement Award – Lifetime Achievement Award/PETER FU 

Dr. Peter Fu

Peter P. Fu, Ph.D., a senior research chemist in NCTR’s Division of Biochemical Toxicology was selected for the 2018 FDA Scientific Lifetime Achievement Award for “elucidating the biological effects and mechanisms of action of carcinogens and other toxic constituents of foods, drugs, and cosmetic products regulated by the FDA.” 

Dr. Fu began his career at NCTR almost 40 years ago after receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and working at Ben May Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Chicago. Recruited to NCTR in 1979, Dr. Fu has supported NCTR’s mission to provide research for the regulatory needs of FDA product centers; focusing on mechanistic studies of the genotoxicity and tumorigenicity of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, nanomaterials, and herbal dietary supplements. In addition to this most recent prestigious award, he has previously been awarded the FDA Commendable Service Award and the FDA Award of Merit, along with the Public Health Service Special Recognition Award. Recognized internationally as an expert in chemical carcinogenesis, Dr. Fu's 446 publications encompass seminal studies concerning polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitroaromatic compounds, and pyrrolizidine alkaloids. His studies have greatly impacted the public-health decisions made by FDA, NIEHS/National Toxicology Program, International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.

Dr. Fu believes his two most significant contributions to science through the years are: 

  1. establishing the newborn mouse assay in a regulatory setting, as a complementary or replacement assay for the standard two‐year rodent cancer bioassay, and
  2. results from his research on mechanistic determination on pyrrolizidine alkaloids that have been used by agencies worldwide to describe the risks associated with exposure to this class of chemicals.

Read more about Dr. Peter Fu.

First Annual NCTR Science Forum 

The highly successful First Annual NCTR Science Forum—attended by 120 NCTR staff and fellows—was designed to foster interaction; showcase and discuss science; enhance collaboration among NCTR scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting fellows; and find synergies among research groups. The Forum was held in April 2018 at the Heifer Village in Little Rock, Arkansas. Anil Patri, Ph.D., Director, NCTR/ORA Nanotechnology Core Facility delivered the welcoming remarks, followed by a brief “Historical Perspective of Toxicology and NCTR” provided by William Slikker, Jr., Ph.D., NCTR Center Director. Selected oral presentations by principal investigators from each of the research divisions and core facilities at NCTR where then presented on the following topics:

  • predictive drug toxicology
  • efficacy
  • physiologically based pharmacokinetic modeling 
  • modeling
  • organoid models
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • neurotoxicology
  • MALDI and MRI imaging
  • nanotechnology  

The afternoon poster session was highly interactive with 50 posters covering the breadth of state-of-the-art research at NCTR. The event adjourned with an award ceremony for oral and poster categories led by Daniel Acosta, Ph.D., NCTR Deputy Director of Research. 

Oral Presentation Awards:
Annie Lumen, Ph.D., Division of Biochemical Toxicology 
Minjun Chen, Ph.D., Division of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics 
Barbara L. Parsons, Ph.D., Division of Genetic and Molecular Toxicology 
Bijay K. Khajanchi, Ph.D., Division of Microbiology
Syed Z. Imam, Ph.D., Division of Neurotoxicology
Laura K. Schnackenberg, Ph.D., Division of Systems Biology
Nathan A. Koonce, Ph.D., Office of Scientific Coordination

Invited Presenters from NCTR Core Facilities:
Laura K. Schnackenberg, Ph.D., Mass Spectrometry Core Facility 
Serguei Liachenko, Ph.D., Magnetic Resonance Imaging Core Facility 
Anil Patri, Ph.D., NCTR/ORA Nanotechnology Core Facility 

Poster Presentations Awards: 
Zhen Ren, Ph.D., Division of Biochemical Toxicology
Joshua Xu, Ph.D., Division of Bioinformatic and Biostatistics
Qiang Shi, Ph.D., Division of Systems Biology

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