If headlines about a shortage of women in science are to be believed, a visitor to the NC Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis would expect to see very few ladies on campus. At the NCRC, women lead institutes, direct research and are part of the next generation of scientists in training on campus.
Senior Research Scientist Mary Grace, PhD, with the NC State Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI), recently unveiled a new method to study the phytochemical content of walnuts.
“There are undiscovered natural components in walnuts that are likely to contribute to human health protection,” said Grace. “Developing an efficient way to isolate compounds will enable researchers to study how they work and then connect the dots back to the health benefits of consuming walnuts.”
Mary Ann Lila, PhD, PHHI director, published scientific findings showing that cranberry polyphenols trigger desensitization to peanut allergies in animal models, and that blueberry anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins reduce the loss of nerve cell function in the brain caused by Parkinson’s disease.
“The things about plants is that they have such a complex mélange of chemicals,” Lila explained, “they have the ability to attack multiple disease targets whether it be allergies, Parkinson’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or even cancer.”
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is another disease being studied on campus. Sabrina Cote, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at the David H. Murdock Research Institute (DHMRI), works under the direction of Simon Gregory, PhD, DHMRI genomics laboratory director and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Duke University, to examine biological samples from the MURDOCK Study MS Study. She is identifying biomarkers that could be used for diagnosis and to predict progression of MS.
Brooklyn Phillips, who has a bachelor ’s degree in biology and is earning an applied science degree in biotechnology from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, finished a summer internship with the NCRC’s
Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP) in August 2014. Taking part in P2EP, a hands-on, training and research program for undergraduate and graduate students, Phillips helped map the broccoli genome in the laboratory of Allan Brown, PhD, an assistant professor and applied molecular geneticist with PHHI. She is now working part-time in Brown’s lab and as an intern with DHMRI supporting the Crown BioSciences’ team.
“I think it is important to note that women are leaders at the NC Research Campus,” said Lynne Scott Safrit, PhD, president of Castle & Cooke, Inc., North Carolina and the NCRC. “Whether they are principal investigators or still earning their degree, they are making a difference in the future of human health and nutrition. We hope more ladies will be encouraged to follow in their footsteps and make their own mark on science at the NCRC.”
As written for Cabarrus Magazine.