University of Vermont

University Communications

Graduate Students Welcomed by College of Medicine Community

Release Date: 10-27-2008

Author: Jennifer Nachbur
Phone: 802/656-7875 Fax: 802-656-3961

Students, faculty, and staff of the University of Vermont College of Medicine gathered in the Robert H. and Cytnhia K. Hoehl Gallery at the school on Friday, October 24 for a welcome breakfast in honor of the College's graduate students. Members of the medical school community heard remarks by Dean Frederick C. Morin III, M.D., and other speakers, including Mark Allegretta, Ph.D.'90, president and chief scientific officer of BioMosaics, a local biotech company, and Associate Professor of Neurology and Pharmacology Marilyn Cipolla, Ph.D.'97. There are currently 70 graduate students at the College of Medicine, as well as 38 post-doctoral associates, 26 post-doctoral fellows or trainees, and 30 pre-doctoral fellows or trainees.

Speakers at the event stressed the importance of the mentor relationship in graduate studies. One example of such a relationship can be found in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Medicine Mercedes Rincon, Ph.D. Rincon studies the molecular mechanisms that control the thymus gland's development, activation, differentiation and survival of infection-fighting cells known as T-cells. Many of her discoveries, including a 2008 publication in the journal Science, have opened up potential new pathways for pharmaceutical development. A member of the immunobiology division since 1996, Rincon has mentored a number of graduate students. Currently in her lab are Ketki Hatle, a doctoral student in the Cell and Molecular Biology graduate program, and Wendy Neveu, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Cell and Molecular Biology graduate program. In an effort to better understand the development of multidrug resistance in breast cancer treatment, Hatle is investigating the role of Methylation controlled J protein (MCJ) in maintaining chemo-responsiveness of breast cancer cells. Scientists know that absence of MCJ correlates with multi-drug resistance in tumors, so MCJ has potential diagnostic value in identifying chemo-sensitive breast cancer patients. Neveu's research is focused on elucidating how the interaction of inhaled allergens with epithelial cells in the lung triggers the secretion of a secreted factor called IL-6 and how it contributes to the type of immune response that leads to asthma.