February 2017 Newsletter: Early Career Investigator Awardees Honored in February

Early Career Investigator Award Winners Rachael French, left, and Miranda Worthen pose for a photograph at San Jose State University on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Early Career Investigator Award Winners Rachael French, left, and Miranda Worthen pose for a photograph at San Jose State University on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

Research into subjects as varied as how exposure to alcohol can affect the development of both humans and insects, as well as the impacts of trauma on vulnerable populations, will be recognized during San Jose State University’s annual Celebration of Research.

Receiving the 2017 Early Career Investigator Awards during the Feb. 16 ceremony at the Diaz Compean Student Union ballroom will be Rachael French, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Miranda Worthen, assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Recreation.

French has generated more than $1.2 million in external funding to support her work examining how the development of the common fruit fly is affected by laying its eggs in the alcohol-rich environment of newly rotting fruit. Financial backing for her studies, which began when she was doing post-doctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco, comes from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She has three graduate students and six undergraduate students assisting her work.

“We wanted to see if we could detect the detrimental impacts alcohol could have on development of the flies,” said French, who earned a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Washington in 2003. “They can cope with exposure to higher levels of alcohol, but we wanted to see if fewer survived and if growth was slower in those that do. We found some of the impacts are similar to mammals.”

French hopes her research could lead to treatments for babies suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. That would likely occur “way down the line,” she said.

Worthen came to San Jose State in 2012 after earning a doctoral degree in epidemiology from UC Berkeley, a MPhil in international development from Oxford University and a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University. She described her research as wide-ranging, focusing on social justice and public health, specializing in the areas of gender and violence. She has raised “more than $100,000” for her projects, including from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and The Thoracic Foundation.

Her interest in these issues was sparked at an early age. Her mother, Kaethe Weingarten, with whom Worthen has co-authored academic papers, is a retired associate clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

“My mother always impressed on me that your own personal experience can have an important impact on your research and the questions you ask,” Worthen said, who has published articles about her experience with trauma.

Worthen and French were selected by members of the Early Career Investigator subcommittee, comprised of Research Foundation board members and faculty. One award goes to a College of Science or Engineering faculty member, the other to a faculty member in another college. Each winner receives a cash award of $1,000.

Cheruzel Research Lab Connects Students to Skills

Dr. Lionel Cheruzel, an associate professor of chemistry in the College of Science, has been working on light-driven biocatalysts work with students in his research lab since joining San Jose State in 2009.

“We are making good progress, thanks to a great team of research students over the years,” he said, on a Friday afternoon in his Duncan Hall office.

Cheruzel will be sharing his research on Oct. 19, at noon, in MLK 255/257, as part of the fall 2016 University Scholars Series. His research is currently funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and he strives to offer opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds in his lab.

Most semesters he has 15 to 20 students working with him on biocatalysts that may someday create green and sustainable synthesis pathways for pharmaceuticals, fragrances and fine chemicals. He and his students have published 10 articles since 2010. He focuses on recruiting undergraduate students, but also hosts high school interns during the summer and supports graduate-level researchers.

“I like recruiting lower division students because they can stay in the lab longer – for three or four years,” he said. “I get to see them grow as a researcher.”

Cheruzel recruits his students from chemistry, biology and engineering classes. For the last three years, Mallory Kato, ’09 Chemistry, ’13 MS Chemistry, has helped with the experiments and managing the lab.

Like Cheruzel, Kato enjoys working with students in the lab, and she sees the benefit of lab work to understanding the curriculum from her own experience as a student.

Chemistry master’s student Caroline Harmon and Evelynn Henry, ’16 Biochemistry, said one of the greatest things they learned from Cheruzel is how to conduct research with limited resources.

“The way Dr. C uses things in an original way – making it work for what he needs – is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned,” Harmon said. “Sometimes I can see how the wheels are churning.”

Henry placed as a finalist in the 2016 SJSU Student Research Competition for her project with Cheruzel as her faculty mentor.

“We are getting to apply things we learned,” she said. “It is very different. I learned a lot on site, and it made me appreciate my education.”

While Cheruzel said he enjoys teaching, his true passion is working with students in the lab.

 

“Research makes me happy,” he said.

Faculty Are Invited to Apply for University Grants Academy

Members of the University Grants Academy meet for a work session as a deadline approaches in their grant process. The inaugural academy provided support to two cohorts of faculty members.

Members of the University Grants Academy meet for a work session as a deadline approaches in their grant process. The inaugural academy provided support to two cohorts of faculty members.

Professors Amy D’Andrade and John Lee will again be leading the San Jose State University Grants Academy (UGA) program, with two informational sessions planned for September for tenured/tenure track faculty members who are interested in applying to participate this year.

Of the 2015-16 participants, 20 participants had completed a full proposal by the end of the program and as of the end of July, ten UGA participants had submitted proposals to the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and other private funders for a combined total of nearly $4 million. Others have upcoming submission deadlines for proposals.

“In addition to these concrete outcomes, each of the UGA participants learned how to access the campus units and partners who will support them through the process of grant writing and grant submission, and made connections with successful SJSU grant writers who served as mentors,” D’Andrade said.

Two Informational Sessions: Thursday, Sept. 8, from noon to 1 p.m. via WebEx (email amy.dandrade@sjsu.edu for an invitation) and Friday, Sept. 9, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., in IRC 210

Contact Info: Professor Amy D’Andrade, UGA Director, amy.dandrade@sjsu.edu

Website Link: http://www.sjsu.edu/research/grant-support/

“Participants became more adept at all the major steps involved with writing an external grant proposal,” said D’Andrade, a social work professor and associate dean for research in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. “After the UGA, participants reported feeling much more capable of locating a funder, drafting a budget and writing a strong proposal narrative for an external grant.”

The UGA launched in fall 2015 as an opportunity for faculty members to gain advice and insight on applying for external grants to support their research. Candidates who were selected had a viable project and were ready to apply for external funding. In addition to assigned time of 0.2, the program included informational sessions held in the fall, with representatives from the Office of Research, Research Foundation, University Advancement and the Center for Faculty Development. In addition, the 24 faculty participants received mentoring from SJSU faculty members who successfully received external grant funding, and received multiple reviews of their proposal drafts from UGA peers, campus experts, mentors and senior scholars from outside the university.

“The inaugural participants contributed several constructive ideas on how the program can be made even better,” said Lee, a professor of mechanical engineering in the Charles. W. Davidson College of Engineering. “They had suggestions on modifying the structure, sizing and sequencing of activities so that feedback could be used more interactively and constructively. I really look forward to benefitting from their suggestions in the next go-around.

First-year participant Child and Adolescent Development Associate Professor Nadia Sorkhabi, from the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, had a strong publication record and had largely been conducting research using intramural grants, which she believed provided her with an empirical basis to apply for external funding.

“By attending the talks and workshops, and consulting individually with Dr. Amy D’Andrade, Dr. Gilles Muller, Dr. Pamela Stacks and others, the most daunting aspects of grant writing – such as budget – were made manageable and even simple,” Sorkhabi said. “We also received invaluable emotional and motivational support, and encouragement, which I believe is among the most important impediments in undertaking grant writing.”

Professor Cay Horstmann, who teaches computer science in the College of Science, said he applied to participate in the UGA to get support in applying for external funding. While he has been at SJSU for many years during which he has been actively involved in publishing books and conducting research with graduate students, he had been unaware that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is now providing significant funding to universities whose primary mission is teaching

“I didn’t know that, and there is definitely money available for computer science education,” he said.

One of the key things Horstmann appreciated about the UGA was the opportunity to learn about other research interests on campus.

“It puts us together with other people – otherwise you are a lone player,” he said, noting that he met a colleague who is working with an NSF grant on math education and that they may be able to collaborate in the future.

D’Andrade said she appreciated the chance to get to know other faculty on campus, but also to see their work come together.

“In addition to having the opportunity to become acquainted with a great group of creative and determined faculty, it was wonderful to see all the proposals come together over the semester, piece by piece, and to see the list of all proposal titles at our final celebration,” D’Andrade said.