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Investigator Spotlights

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Dartmouth researchers were awarded $9.9 million during May, including $2.9 million in new and competing awards. Click here to view the complete list of awards, as reported by the Office of Sponsored Projects. Here, Vox spotlights three investigators and their work.

Robert Fesen, professor of physics and astronomy

National Science Foundation
Cassiopeia A: A Detailed Study of a Core-Collapse Supernova


Robert Fesen (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Why: The study seeks to "understand the dynamics of how a star blows up in a supernova outburst," says Fesen. "In 1680, around the time of Isaac Newton, a star exploded in the constellation of Cassiopeia, the remains of which is now called Cassiopeia A. The star fragments are still moving at high speeds from around 3,000 to 10,000 miles per second. We can see them using large telescopes from the ground and with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope."

Asymmetric: "The basic question we're trying to answer involves just how asymmetric was the stellar explosion," explains Fesen. "Complex computer models suggest that stellar explosions, like Cassiopeia A, are inherently asymmetric. We will test this through a detailed mapping of the 3D structure of the star's debris."

Collaborators: Physics and astronomy Ph.D. candidate Dan Milisavljevic, as well as astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard.

Edgar Alfonso Romero-Sandoval and Joyce DeLeo, instructor of anesthesiology (principal investigator) and professor of anesthesiology and of pharmacology and toxicology, respectively

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Cannabinoids and Neuroimmune Interactions


Edgar Alfonso Romero-Sandoval (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Why: "Inadequate pain relief remains a major issue for those suffering from chronic pain. Our aim is to find effective pain-relieving drugs without undesirable side effects," says Romero-Sandoval. "Cannabinoid agonists-substances that act similarly to the active ingredient of marijuana-have shown great promise in both animal and human studies, but exactly how they function isn't clearly understood."

Promise: "Drugs classified as Cannabinoid receptor 1 agonists (CBR1) have neurological effects, such as those produced by marijuana, that limit their clinical use," explains Romero-Sandoval. "Our previous studies have identified CBR2 agonists-which don't produce the classic cannabinoid psychotropic effects-as promising targets to treat acute and chronic pain." The study seeks to uncover the mechanisms of these drugs by identifying and describing a novel molecular signaling pathway related to pain processing. The results could lead to the development of "safer and more effective analgesics."


Joyce DeLeo (photo by Mark Washburn)

Connections: "Matt Alkaitis '09 was a Presidential Scholar in our lab and then did his senior thesis with us. He's returning in August to complete a study on the role of endocannabinoids (cannabinoids naturally produced by our body) in the resolution of postoperative pain and submit a manuscript for publication," says Romero-Sandoval.


Last Updated: 1/11/10