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Investigator Spotlights

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Dartmouth researchers were awarded $8.2 million during January, including $5.2 million in new and competing awards. Here, VOX spotlights some of the investigators and their work.

Ambrose Cheung, professor of microbiology and immunology, DMS cheung

National Institutes of Health
Defining the Bacterial Factors that Modulate Sensitivity to B-lactam in CA-MRSA

Why: Chances are you've heard mentions in the news about the increased incidence of Staph infections, potentially deadly bacterial infections that can be difficult to treat with antibiotics. This project investigates the mechanism behind antibiotic resistance in the culprit, community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA).

Promising discovery: "Our lab has discovered that a set of Staph genes is responsible for resistance to methicillin [a synthetic form of penicillin] in CA-MRSA strains," explains Cheung. "The goal of this project is to identify the specific genes so that we can inhibit them, reducing the bacterium's resistance to antibiotics.

Applied science: New, effective treatments for infections may be on the horizon. "We are in the process of identifying these genes and have narrowed them down to only a few," says Cheung. "This project may yield a novel approach to reducing antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus, an important human pathogen."

Collaborators: "This is a new line of inquiry, based on the work of Guido Memmi, research assistant professor of microbiology." Joseph Schwartzman, M.D., of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, supplied the clinical isolates for the study.

Click here to read more about Cheung and Memmi's research.

Michael Dorsey, assistant professor of environmental studies

dorseyFord Foundation
Climate Justice Research Group

Why: "When not properly managed, market-based environmental programs-carbon trading, for example-can have adverse consequences on the quality of life in poor and marginalized communities. The Climate Justice Research Project will study this phenomenon and work to identify policy options that address the needs and concerns of underrepresented populations in relation to climate change, energy policy, and the economy."

Equity: "We are working to develop the means of analysis to ensure that carbon reduction strategies don't harm public health. We will build connections between scientists, policy makers, and the people whose health and livelihoods are affected by those strategies. All stakeholders need to be part of the debate and the solutions if climate change mitigation is going to occur in an equitable and just manner, inclusive of marginalized, low-income communities, and communities of color."

Teamwork: Dorsey's project team includes undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. The team will also collaborate with established climate change advocacy groups, from the local level to the international.

Click here for more on Dorsey's Ford Foundation grant.

Brian Pogue, professor of engineering

pogueRadiation Monitoring Devices, Inc.
Cancer Detection Using Diffuse Luminescence Imaging

Why: "We're testing a new way to detect light within the magnetic resonance scanner, which would allow magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI) at the same time as we do optical spectroscopy. This combined system is being developed to study cancer tumors and measure molecular features of the tumor. Molecular imaging of cancer is thought to be a better approach to finding out more specific information about the tissue change, and for predicting better ways to treat individual cancers."

Building blocks: "Thanks to a program grant already in place, we're developing an optimal way to image cancers within the MR scanner, but most of our imaging instrumentation has to be well outside the high magnetic field of the scanner. This new detector will allow us to create less costly instrumentation which can all fit within the MR field."

Tools: "The project uses a new breast imaging coil that was custom developed for the study by Philips Medical Research in Hamburg, Germany."

Teamwork: "The work stems from a collaboration that includes program project funding directed by Professor Keith Paulsen of Thayer School. A team of our researchers who work in optical spectroscopy of tissue and researchers at the funding company, Radiation Monitoring Devices Inc., are also involved."

Adina Roskies, assistant professor of  philosophy

roskiesJohns Hopkins University
Free Will and Responsibility: Implications of Advances in Neuroscience

Why: "The grant explores the impact that neuroscience research can have on our understanding of free will and moral responsibility. Do scientific advances in understanding self-regulation, decision-making, and character traits affect or challenge philosophical views of free will and moral responsibility? And if so, how?"

Tough question: "I think neuroscience will impact the free will debate. Trying to determine what relevance neuroscience has for our conception of free will is a challenging and fascinating question."

Collaborators: "This is a continuation of a philosophical project I was already pursuing on my own; it was fortuitous that the researchers at Johns Hopkins were interested in the same issues and invited me to collaborate. The group includes Hilary Bok and Debra Mathews at Johns Hopkins University, and Alisa Carse at Georgetown."

(All photos by Joseph Mehling '69)

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 2/28/09