Skip to main content

Pengda Liu, PhD, and Janelle Arthur, PhD, earned Jefferson-Pilot Fellowships in Academic Medicine from the UNC School of Medicine for their respective work on understanding the dysregulation of signaling pathways in human diseases and investigating the capabilities and features of gut microbes.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Pengda Liu, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Janelle Arthur, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, both members of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, were named recipients of the 2021-2022 Jefferson-Pilot Fellowships in Academic Medicine. Liu and Arthur will present their research at the 2021-2022 Jefferson-Pilot Fellowships in Academic Medicine and James W. Woods Junior Faculty Award Seminar that will take place on Wednesday, November 10 from 3pm-4pm during UNC Research Week.

“The Jefferson-Pilot Fellowships in Academic Medicine are bestowed to talented junior faculty in the School of Medicine,” said Blossom Damania, PhD, UNC School of Medicine Vice Dean for Research. “Drs. Liu and Arthur are exceptional faculty members and we are most fortunate to have such superb researchers in the UNC School of Medicine.”

Liu joined the UNC Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in 2016. He received his BS degree from Hefei University of Technology in China and his PhD from East Carolina University before working in medical research labs at Duke University and Harvard Medical School. Liu has a longstanding interest in cancer signaling, metabolism, and epigenetics for development of targeted cancer therapies. Since joining the faculty at UNC, Liu has developed a highly successful independent research program. His progress at UNC has been extraordinary and includes 13 peer-reviewed research manuscripts in high-profile journals. Liu’s lab focuses on identification of novel regulations and function of mTOR/Akt signaling to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“Dr. Liu’s accomplishments to date mark him as someone who will be a major contributor to this crucial research area. I am confident that his overall potential and approach to science will result in high impact findings,” said Shelton Earp, III, MD, Director of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, in his nomination letter for Liu.

Arthur joined the UNC Department of Microbiology and Immunology in 2016. She received her BS degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and her PhD from UNC. For her post-doctoral studies, she joined the UNC Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease and was later an American Cancer Society Fellow. Arthur has developed a unique and innovative research program at UNC that is nationally and internationally recognized. Her laboratory investigates how the functional capabilities and molecular features of resident microbes impact mucosal colonization, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), and inflammation-associated pathologies, including fibrosis and tumorigenesis. The goal of her research is to define mechanistic connections between microbial genes/pathways and human gastrointestinal disease. This information will facilitate development of therapeutic tools to manipulate the intestinal microbiota and alleviate human digestive disease.

Dr. Arthur’s work is both transformative and collaborative and her contributions to academic medicine are exemplary,” said Craig Cameron, PhD, professor and chair of the UNC Department of Microbiology and Immunology, in his nomination letter for Arthur.

Through the generosity of the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation, Jefferson-Pilot Fellows are selected each year and gifted a monetary award that allows recipients to explore new ideas, new ways of teaching students, treating patients, or investigating biological problems that may not be available from other granting agencies.

Contact: Carleigh Gabryel,