Nikolas Stasulli wins Sharp Graduate Innovator Award

Congratulations to Nik Stasulli, winner of the 2015 D. Gordon Sharp Graduate Innovator Award. As part of his dissertation work in Bill Goldman’s lab, Nik has focused on neutrophil involvement in the process of inflammatory lesion development during pneumonic plague. This work involved fully virulent strains of Yersinia pestis and respiratory infections of mice in a BSL3 facility. The most novel aspect of his research has been his use of laser capture microdissection (LCM) to study microenvironments within the infected lung. This technique has only rarely been used to study infectious disease processes, but Nik saw LCM as an opportunity to distinguish neutrophils inside the inflammatory foci from those that were more peripheral to this “battlefield.” After developing new methods to extract sufficient RNA from these tiny samples, Nik was able to do transcriptional profiling by RNAseq and is currently doing experiments with neutrophils to test ideas that emerged from that large dataset.

The award honors the memory of Dr. D. Gordon Sharp, a former Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UNC. During his career, Dr. Sharp was widely recognized for his innovation, his curiosity and the breadth of his thinking. He was a pioneer in both electron microscopy and high-speed centrifugation that he used to elucidate the nature of viruses. He was generous with his time and trained many graduate students, letting them discover the joy of discovery. The awards committee selects among nominees who have exhibited exceptional creativity, perseverance, ability to see and ask big picture questions, and the independent drive to seek out (or develop) the best technologies/models to answer these questions. In addition to an emphasis on innovation and scholarship, the nominees have a commitment to sharing knowledge and mentoring.

Our thanks to M&I alumnus J. David Gangemi (PhD 1973) for his donations to establish and maintain this annual graduate student award. If you like the idea of the Sharp Graduate Innovator Award and wish to support its continuation, follow these instructions for donating online: 

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