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Two Upstate students honored for their research are among SUNY GREAT award winners

Two Upstate Medical University students are among the 27 SUNY students selected for the 2024 SUNY Graduate Research Empowering and Accelerating Talent (GREAT) award. Each winner receives $5,000 in flexible funding for research expenses, professional development, and stipend supplements.

Upstate students receiving the GREAT awards are Nicholas Brennan, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Victoria Zoccoli-Rodriguez, Microbiology and Immunology.

Brennan said his research “may help develop new therapies for treating muscle wasting in mitochondrial disease and potentially in aging.”

Brennan continued, “Although the relationship between mitochondrial dysfunction and muscle atrophy has been well-established, previous studies have mainly been focused on defects in oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) as the cause of muscle atrophy. My research uses a unique mouse model of mitochondrial dysfunction to investigate an OXPHOS-independent mechanism of muscle loss.”

Zoccoli-Rodriguez said her research is aimed at “understanding factors that contribute to plasma cell longevity.”

“We have demonstrated that a proteobacteria-rich microbiome induces a protective systemic IgA response, but the underlying mechanisms that dictate the dissemination of IgA plasma cells to systemic tissues are relatively unknown,” she said. “My project focuses on identifying a role for B cell intrinsic T-bet expression in regulating systemic IgA. Ultimately, understanding these mechanisms provides targeted approaches to regulate plasma cell responses and will advance strategies in vaccine design and development,” she said.

In announcing the winners, SUNY Chancellor John King said: "Undertaking groundbreaking research requires long hours of dedication and patience to discover or innovate something that will bring about positive changes to people's lives. At SUNY, we are continuously making efforts to double down on our research.

“From Artificial Intelligence to self-cleaning solar panels, and a better understanding about the aging process to help people grow older with a better quality of life, all are being done right here in New York. I congratulate each of the 27 awardees for their dedication to improving the human condition."

Upstate Medical University President Mantosh Dewan applauded the winners: "Congratulations to these SUNY students and to SUNY for bestowing such recognition on these outstanding young scientists. Research plays a major focus in Upstate’s mission to improve the health of our communities. Nicholas and Victoria and the other students honored prove that the future of scientific discovery is bright."

Other students honored are from the University at Albany, Binghamton University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Stony Brook University

Caption: Nicholas Brennan and Victoria Zoccoli-Rodriguez have been selected as SUNY GREAT award student winners.