Research honors

UD biological sciences grad student honored at eye research conference

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11:22 a.m., June 10, 2014--Soma Dash, a second year doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware, has won the Members-In-Training Outstanding Poster Award at the 2014 annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) held in May in Orlando, Florida.

Dash works in the laboratory of Salil Lachke, assistant professor of biological sciences.

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Dash’s research focuses on characterization of new genes that are associated with the prevalent eye disease cataract, which is a coulding of the eye lens. 

Cataract is common in aged individuals but at lower incidence can also be found in children as a result of genetic perturbation. It is one of the major causes of blindness affecting millions of individuals worldwide and cataract surgery is among the highest costing expense in the U.S. Medicare budget.

Dash studied a new gene, Caprin2, and identified eye defects in mouse mutants wherein this gene is specifically deleted in lens tissue. To characterize the effect of other related genes whose deficiency may contribute to these defects, she then used transgenic mice that express green fluorescent protein specifically in the lens to establish a novel lens tissue culture gene-knockdown system.

The ARVO annual meeting is the largest international conference in the field of eye and vision research and is attended by over 10,000 scientists and clinicians from over the world.

To be considered for this award, Dash faced a challenging competition. ARVO receives over 6,000 abstracts from researchers across the world and her research had to be reviewed first by the Lens Scientific Section Committee and placed within the top five abstracts within the section that were considered eligible for an on-site judging session.

This year, UD had three students who placed among the top five in the Lens Section, the other two students being Smriti Agrawal, a graduate student from Lachke’s laboratory, and Yichen Wang, a graduate student from the laboratory of Melinda Duncan, professor, also in the Department of Biological Sciences. 

Based on Dash’s outstanding research and presentation, an international panel of three judges placed her firstin the entire Lens Section, winning her the MIT Outstanding Poster Award that comes with a certificate and cash prize.  

Research in Lachke’s laboratory at UD is funded by the National Institutes of Health, The Pew Charitable Trusts Scholars Program in Biomedical Sciences, and the Knights Templar Eye Foundation. 

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