Biology professor receives prestigious grant for Alzheimer's research
Dr. Gary Isaacs, assistant professor of biology in Liberty University’s Department of Biology & Chemistry was recently named a recipient of the 2013-14 Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases Research Award Fund (ARDRAF), receiving $40,000 to further his research. This brings Isaacs’ research total to $90,000 since coming to Liberty in 2009.
The ARDRAF was established in 1982 by the Virginia General Assembly to stimulate investigations into Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders along a variety of avenues, such as the causes, epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of the disorder; public policy and the financing of care; and the social and psychological impacts of the disease upon the individual, family, and community. The competition is administered by the Virginia Center on Aging at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“This funding gives Liberty prestige while also enabling undergraduate students to work on things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Gary Isaacs said.
The grant will enable six of his undergraduate research assistants to continue studying the brain before and after the disease, using mice, specifically looking at the DNA.
“Our students are able to work with faculty on major research projects to understand the molecular basis of disease,” said Dr. David DeWitt, chair of the Department of Biology & Chemistry. “The receipt of this grant demonstrates that the quality of our faculty and the research conducted here is on par with other major institutions.”
For the second year in a row, Isaacs’ undergraduate students won a first-place award for their presentation on Alzheimer’s research at the Virginia Academy of Science Annual Meeting in May, competing against both undergraduate and graduate students. Seniors Rebecca Haraf and Deanna Harrison, co-authors, received the award for best poster presentation, which was in collaboration with Isaacs, senior Matthew Baker, and alumnus Noor Taher (’13). Taher is now a graduate student at Dartmouth University.
Several of Isaacs’ students have gone on to prestigious research institutions for graduate or medical school, including the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Dartmouth. Many continue to perform outstanding research and receive praise for their work. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease accepted a paper submitted by Isaacs and his students in July.
Isaacs recently received this feedback from a professor at another Virginia university:
“Each year, I am amazed at the quality of work that is presented by (Liberty) students at the VAS meeting. … It is clear that (Liberty) uses research to teach, and it is no surprise that many students have gone on to successful graduate research careers themselves.”
At this year’s VAS meeting, two other Liberty students received awards for their work. Senior Cassandra Black, a research assistant to Dr. Andrew Fabich, assistant professor of microbiology, received honorable mention for her poster, “The Gut Reaction: How the Intestinal Microbiota Respond to Colonization of Citrobacter rodentium.” Alumnus Michael Canfarotta (’13) received the best oral presentation award for his team’s work on “Characterization of Citrobacter rodentium Transmissible Colonic Hyperplasia and Immune Responses in Streptomycin-treated and Conventional Mouse Models.” He joined alumnus Matthew VanTil (’12), Dr. Timothy Snider (Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University), Fabich, and Dr. David DeWitt, chair of the Department of Biology & Chemistry. Canfarotta is now a medical student at the University of Connecticut.