Prior to 3/5/2008 the newsclips are available in a PDF archive.
News Clips 12/10/2012
STAFF COLUMN: FAMU makes strides in science research
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, 12/7/12
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By Byron Dobson
The findings from an audit conducted last year by the prestigious National Institutes of Health uncovered some disturbing news about the agency’s success in awarding research grants to black scientists, based on the acceptance rate of applications.
Results of the study, as reported in the New York Times and Washington Post, found that between 2000 and 2006, only 16 percent of applications from black scientists were accepted, compared with 29 percent of those from white scientists. Granted, these applications are extremely competitive. Another factor, which adds context, is that fewer than 2 percent of the applications came from black scientists.
Nevertheless, agency officials expressed alarm over the findings and have made an earnest commitment to focusing on the study and examining the way the application processes are structured with a goal of improving the diversity among those receiving grants.
Donna K. Ginther, director of the University of Kansas Center of Science, Technology and Economic Policy, and leader of the study, told the Washington Post, “We have a very serious issue. ... Science needs to reflect the diversity and power and potential of the population.”
I was prompted to pull out those clips after reading a news feature in the Democrat last week about a professor from Florida A&M University getting a patent for research he’s conducted that could have a major impact on health care down the road.
I’m referring to Marlon Thomas. Thomas, a bio-engineer by training and professor in FAMU’s College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, has spent the past six years researching a process that quickly identifies bacteria by using chemical dyes, according to the story. His work has earned him a patent from the United States government. His research is focused on identifying food bacteria and ultimately leading to more effective diagnosis in treating patients suffering bacterial infections.
This level of research is critical to the medical community and the treatment of patients in what could be life-threatening circumstances.
In a release posted by the university, Thomas says, “The goal in any health-care emergency, such as food poisoning and contamination, is to quickly identify the root of the problem at hand in order to diagnose the best remedy. The patent holds the potential to provide the means to better manage chronic diseases for physicians and health-care professionals.”
Back in July, the Democrat also reported on research conducted by Seth Ablordeppey, of the university’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Ablordeppey received his second patent for developing a synthetic drug that could be used to replace current prescription drugs in treating immune system complications, such as with AIDS/HIV.
Earning a patent is only first step, but it’s an important bonus for the gifted professors at Florida A&M and at Florida State universities who conduct studies that could lead to breakthroughs in the field of medicine, science and technology.
The works of Thomas and Ablordeppey also are critically important to the reputations of universities nationwide, but particularly to historically black colleges and universities.
As state funding continues to decline, researchers bank on advancing their research, and therefore the research conducted by universities, through federal grants such as those awarded by the National Institutes of Health.
Earlier this year, FAMU recognized other faculty members for their accomplishments in research. They included:
• Bidham Saha, who teaches physics. His research involves X-ray transmissions from comets and astrological objects and how that could lead to a process of monitoring weather from inside the solar system.
• Violetka Colova, a professor of viticulture and development biology. She has conducted research on the health benefits of American native grapes using agricultural and medical biotechnology with molecular farming.
In addition, FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science currently has more than $21 million in contracts and research grants, Dean Michael Thompson wrote in an e-mail to me last week. The college has 11 patents secured by professors.
In June, the college was awarded a $5.6 million grant for cancer and health disparities by the NIH.
Thompson now is working toward the creation of the Center of Health Disparities on campus, with the goal of expanding the research and clinical capabilities of faculty to solve problems related to health disparities.
“It is important for our students to see professors not only as teachers, but as analytical problem-solvers and advocates for change in this ever-changing field of health care,” he wrote.
This kind of focus keeps FAMU ahead in the competition for coveted research dollars, as universities across the country — including other HBCUs — go after a piece of the federal research money pie.