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News  From UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences  


A group of five professors were recently awarded a $10.7 million Center for Excellence in Host-Pathogen Interactions grant

Each one is delving into a specific part of how infections work with an emphasis on the predispositions of the host.

Catherine Brissette's work deals with Lyme disease, Bibhuti Mishra is studying parasites, Jyotika Sharma is looking at how to prevent sepsis pneumonia-causing bacteria, Min Wu is studying a self-consuming bacteria and Xuesong Chen is looking at HIV.

Sharma said the project will look at how diseases communicate with cells and then how the cell responds.

"The pathway I identify, it could be important for her infection as well," she said, referencing Brissette's area of study. "We don't know because they're looking at an entirely different aspect of this. What she finds in the brain could be relative to my research as well because I'm not looking at the brain."

Professor Malak Kotb, an infectious disease expert also working on the project, said the humane treatment of animals in research is emphasized, with staff checking them 24 hours a day and putting down rats that exhibit signs of pain.

She said the research is unique in that the condition of the host is being taken into account.

"The same pathogen can cause diseases of very different severity depending on the host," Kotb said. "It's not just like 'this pathogen is going to cause this every time.' No. It depends on the makeup of the host and host response that will either clear it up quickly or make it worse, and not many people are incorporating this into their studies."

The five-year grant is renewable for up to 15 years. The labor required for the research builds infrastructure for others in the school to use the materials or assist in research preparation.

"They provide resources to the rest of the school as well as the entire state," Brissette said.

Professor Brij Singh, another researcher, said he hopes the work will solve bigger problems.

"Even though we all work in our own labs and do our own things, when we come together as a group we can do better in terms of treatment, diagnosis or whatever we think of," he said. "That's the bottom line."



School of Medicine’s Brij Singh and Philosophy professor Jack Russell Weinstein named newest recipients of UND’s highest academic honor at surprise announcements

University of North Dakota faculty members Brij Singh and Jack Russell Weinstein are the newest recipients of the highest honor the University can bestow upon its faculty — Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorships.

The news came as a surprise to the two professors, who hadn’t been told in advance that they would be receiving the recognition.

“I was speechless,” said Singh, a professor at UND’s  School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “It was the biggest surprise. I wished that someone would have told me so I could be a bit prepared.”

Singh has been at the SMHS since 2003, where he has helped build an internationally-recognized program studying molecular mechanisms of particular types of calcium channels in normal and pathological conditions. The well-known nature of his research has garnered Singh strong and consistent funding for his research, including grants and awards from the National Institutes of Health.

“I know this is the biggest honor that is bestowed on a UND faculty member and I am very humbled that I was nominated as well as selected for the honor,” Singh said. “It is a big achievement for me to be recognized and I sincerely hope that I am able to maintain its reputation by working twice as hard.”

Weinstein is a professor in UND’s  Department of Philosophy & Religion, and serves as the director of the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life. He also hosts the public radio show “Why? Philosophical discussions about everyday life.”

In addition, Weinstein has authored three books —  On Adam Smith, On MacIntyre  and  Adam Smith’s Pluralism: Rationality, Education and the Moral Sentiments. These books, and in particular the latter, have earned Weinstein national recognition, including reviews and a symposium on the subject.

About the award:

The Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorship was established with an endowment gift from the late UND benefactor Chester Fritz, 1892-1983. Revenue from the endowment provides for cash stipends to one or more full-time UND faculty member(s), who, thereafter, may use the title "Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor."

Weinstein and Singh join the more than 70 other UND faculty members, who, over the years, have received the Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorship Award. The provost appoints a selection committee to make recommendations for the professorship award based on specific selection criteria.

They will officially receive their Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorship awards at UND’s General Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 14 at the Alerus Center.

 About Chester Fritz:

Chester Fritz attended UND from 1908-1910. He became an international trader in precious metals and lived most of his life in China and Europe. In establishing the endowment for his namesake professorships ― just one of his many gifts to UND ― he said it would be an “investment in the future of my Alma Mater and of the people who make the future what it shall be.” He added, “I am especially indebted to the fine teachers, who, in the end, have determined in large measure how will I was able to learn and to use the knowledge that UND could provide.”