OHSU Research Week another big success

Highlights of second annual all-campus research event

May 28, 2013

Research Week

It was a sumptuous showcase for the diversity and excellence of OHSU research.

The campus came out in force during OHSU Research Week, May 20-24, to present their studies, meet others and learn about the breadth and depth of investigation at the university.

By almost all measures it was a successful event, the second time OHSU has held an all-campus week dedicated to research. (Read about the inaugural OHSU Research Week last year.)

"OHSU Research Week went very well," said Rachel Dresbeck, Ph.D., an event organizer and member of the Research Week Steering Committee. "Attendance and enthusiasm were high, and it was great to see researchers from all across OHSU sharing their work and connecting with others." 

Three keynotes to tickle the mind

Research WeekInvited speakers were a big draw. The concurrent 125th anniversary lecture on May 21, by Mace Rothenberg, M.D., Pfizer senior exec, drew a large audience to hear him discuss the translation of discoveries into new cancer therapies, the shortening interval from bench to bedside and the growing importance for industry collaborations with academic and government partners.

"The days of working as an isolated researcher in a lab are over," said Dr. Rothenberg. "Translational science will be the key to understanding and treating disease."

The keynote was sponsored by the School of Medicine Research Roadmap Task Force #6.

He added, "We are relying on our academic partners to ask us the right questions. Our strategy is to develop partnerships that acknowledge what each partner does best."

Later, Peter Byers, M.D., Beth Habecker, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology, was a lead investigator on the project, and recently the two co-authored a related paper in The Journal of Neuroscience.

In the same session, David Sanders, MS4, presented his poster entitled, "Electronic health record systems in ophthalmology: impact on clinical documentation."

"I participated because I wanted to share knowledge about electronic health records, which are very understudied," he said. "I also wanted an excuse to learn about other people's research. It's been very exciting to talk to others about their projects. Research is definitely in my future."

That presentation practice

Research WeekThe action at many of the oral presentations was lively, too. Attendees asked questions. Discussions ensued. Conversations continued at breaks and receptions. Business cards were exchanged. Invitations to meet later were extended.

At the Child Health and Health Promotion session on May 21, Andrea DeBarber, Ph.D., research assistant professor in physiology and pharmacology, presented, "Toward newborn screening for cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis."

And Allison Summers, O.D., FAAO, optometrist and assistant professor of ophthalmology, described a clinical study she led comparing two medical devices – the Tono-Pen and Goldmann Applanation Tonometers – that are used to measure intraocular pressure in children.

"As a participant in the Human Investigations Program, I enjoyed the change in perspective obtained by presenting to researchers outside my field," said Dr. Summers. "A question raised in the discussion has me thinking about a potential future study. And I was excited to hear about projects in other departments that may positively impact other aspects of my patients' care in the future."

She added, "Presenting at OHSU Research Week is an excellent opportunity for researchers early in their careers to share their findings with those outside their own department in a format similar to national research meetings. Practicing the logistics of a presentation in this familiar and comfortable setting helps make a presenter more polished before representing OHSU on the national or international stage. I was very impressed with the entire event, from program coordination to the poster displays and look forward to attending again next year."

On May 22, an enthusiastic crowd of more than 30 attended the Surgery session. David Hampton, M.D., a fourth-year surgery resident, presented, "Cryopreserved red blood cells are superior to standard liquid red blood cells." Dr. Hampton was one of four representatives at the session involved in the Trauma Research program in the Division of Trauma, Department of Surgery.

Three-minute countdown

Research WeekNew this year was the Three Minute Thesis Competition, a competition growing in popularity in which doctoral students compete to give the best "general audience" explanation of their thesis in three minutes or less.

Abby Rynko, in the Microbiology and Molecular Immunology Graduate Program, won first place for her talk entitled, "Viruses Infection and Asthma: They've got some nerve." She described the lung's response to viral infection as a 911 call for help. Usually this process works well, but if the lines get overused, as in a viral infection of asthmatics, the signal is lost, and help does not arrive. She is working to block some of the signals and untangle the call lines. She won $300.

Alison Stickles, in the Physiology and Pharmacology M.D./Ph.D. Program, was runner-up (and won a $100 cash prize) for her talk, "Quinolone antimalarials: Targeting, toxicity, and drug development." She described organic chemistry to a lay audience explaining how small changes in a chemical molecule changed an antimalarial drug from toxic to benign for patients, but lost activity against malaria. She is trying to find the sweet spot: an active drug without toxicity.

The audience voted Lilly Winfree, of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, as the People's Choice award winner (a $100 cash prize) for her talk, "Does your glia want a sandwich? What about falafel." She described glia cells that function to "eat" dead cells in the brain. If they don't function the brain becomes clogged 'like a hard drive' and slows down.She is studying how the falafel enzyme promotes the ability of glia to "eat" nerve cells.

"Many students came up to me afterwards and said that the competition was great. It forced them to think about what their science meant in a new way, and they enjoyed the challenge," said Allison Fryer, Ph.D., associate dean of graduate studies, who organized OHSU's competition.

At the awards ceremony on May 23, OHSU leaders honored researchers who stood out for their excellence, including SoM Postdoctoral Paper of the Year, Christine Ackerman, Ph.D., Resident Paper of the Year Allison Nauta, M.D., and Student Paper of the Year Isabelle Baconguis, Ph.D.

The final day of OHSU Research Week was devoted to the future generation of research: student-specific programming that included career development workshops, student-only presentations and a student reception.

Thanks to all who participated and to those who made it possible. We can't wait for next year!

Pictured above: (From top) Discussions at a poster session; Mace Rothenberg, M.D.;  Discussion at a poster session; Allison Summers, O.D.

Research Week

FAAO Participants in the Three-Minute Thesis Competition

Research Week

Allison Summers, O.D., FAAO.