2004-2005 Academic Year

National Institutes of Health Grants Support Genetic Research at Pitzer College

CLAREMONT, Calif. (Jan. 5, 2005) – Two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) substantially advance Pitzer College’s role in genetic research aimed at deciphering the mechanisms of cell life. Professors Gretchen Edwalds-Gilbert and Zhaohua Irene Tang, faculty members in Pitzer’s Joint Science program with Claremont McKenna and Scripps College, received Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) grants from NIH.

Edwalds-Gilbert’s project entails research on gene expression, which encompasses a series of processes by which the information in a gene is converted into proteins, the working machinery of the cell, she said. Edwalds-Gilbert is an assistant professor of biology.

“Specifically, I study the role of yeast splicing proteins in pre-messenger RNA splicing,” she explained. “Understanding the details of the splicing process will give important insights into the way information is coded in the genome and mechanisms underlying some genetic diseases.”

Tang, an assistant professor of biology, researches the cell-cycle regulation of Dsk1, which regulates nuclear division of cells, and Kic1, which influences cell separation in fission yeast. Both are important enzymes in the regulation of cell growth, death, and the differentiation during development.

Deregulated cell growth, which is the defined feature of all neoplasm [tumor growth], occurs as a result of perturbed signal transductions that alter cellular function or behavior, Tang explained. Dsk1 and Kic1 are “important targets for deciphering the fundamental mechanisms of cell life and death,” she said.

Edwalds-Gilbert and Tang’s highly competitive three-year AREA grants each total $150,000 plus overhead expenses. The AREA program supports new and continuing health-related research projects proposed by faculty members of eligible schools and components of domestic institutions. The AREA grants benefit the principal investigator through the opportunity to conduct independent research; the host institution through a strengthened research environment; and students through exposure to and participation in research in the health sciences.