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Keerthi S. Anand, Emily Fennell, and Brittany Rickard represented UNC’s School of Medicine with their award-winning research on ischemic strokes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.

The Graduate School’s Impact Awards are designed to recognize the significance of graduate student research and their contributions to North Carolina in areas of education, economic, physical, social or cultural well-being. All of the eleven awardees, whose research interests range from tidal creek accretion to pediatric obesity, are emblematic of graduate students and their dedication to improving the lives of North Carolinians.

Graduate students and recent graduate alumni apply for the annual awards and are nominated by their academic departments. The Impact Awards are generously supported by The Graduate School’s Graduate Education Advancement Board (GEAB).This year, students from more than 15 programs applied for the awards. Three of this year’s awardees are from the UNC School of Medicine:

Keerthi S. Anand, PhD candidate in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University won an impact award for his project “High Framerate Carotid Plaque Imaging with Concurrent Assessment of Blood Flow and Wall Shear Stress to Predict Stroke Risk.”

Anand’s research focuses on ischemic strokes, which affect close to 300,000 North Carolinians annually. He is developing a rapid, real-time realizable, and non-invasive method of ultrasound plaque imaging. Ultimately, this research hopes to better predict stroke risk and to reduce the number of unneeded surgeries.

Emily Fennell, PhD student in the Department of Pharmacology in the UNC School of Medicine, won an impact award for her projectMulti-omic Analysis of Pharmacological ClpP Activation in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells.”

Fennell’s research focuses on breast cancer—which is the leading cause of new cancer diagnoses in women. Triple-negative breast cancer is considered the most aggressive breast cancer subtype and is in need of more effective treatments. A drug, ONC201, has been identified in a chemical screen as a promising new anticancer therapeutic. Fennell’s research could be used to develop co-treatment regimens to enhance overall therapeutic effects.

Brittany Rickard, PhD candidate in the Curriculum in Toxicology and Environmental Medicine in the UNC School of Medicine won an impact award for her projectUnderstanding Mechanisms by Which Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Contribute to Platinum Resistance in Ovarian Cancer.”

Rickard’s research focuses on patients with ovarian cancer who suffer high levels of mortality because of resistance to chemotherapy. Environmental contaminants called Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pollute drinking water across North Carolina. Her research found that PFAS can increase ovarian cancer cell proliferation and induce resistance to chemotherapy. Findings from this work support PFAS testing in people with ovarian cancer to identify those likely to become resistant to chemotherapy and to identify better treatment options.

The complete list of this year’s Impact Award winners is available here.