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NDINBRE Supported By
Institutional Development Award (IDeA)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
National Institutes of Health
Building biomedical research capacity in North Dakota
by serving public universities and tribal colleges within the state
North Dakota IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence
University of North Dakota - School of Medicine & Health Sciences
1301 N. Columbia Road, Stop 9037 - Grand Forks, ND 58202-9037
Telephone: (701) 777-6376 - Fax: (701) 777-6372




The ND INBRE has been fortunate to develop a cadre of mentors to support student and faculty development, research, and capacity building in the PUI's and TCU's in ND.  Each mentor is highly engaged in the support of undergraduate research, promoting diversity, and in providing technical and professional advice to faculty providing undergraduate research laboratories.  Each mentor has substantial undergraduate research experience and each has a unique research and technical expertise.  Each mentor is also involved in the UND SMHS summer undergraduate research program and supervises the training of 8 - 10 undergraduate researchers.  In addition, all the Directors of the ND INBRE Core Facilities are available as mentors for the partners of the ND INBRE.

Scott Garrett, Ph.D.: Dr. Garrett is an expert in metal toxicology and the regulation of gene expression by metals.  He has spent over 15 years performing metal-related toxicological projects, many of them on metallothionein, but also on other metallo-regulatory proteins such as zinc transporters.  In the last several years, he has been involved in transcriptional regulatory mechanism related to metallothionein, changes in global gene expression patterns induced by metals, and the effects of cadmium on renal proximal tubule cells.  As a mentor on both the ND INBRE and the NIEHS STEER programs, he has participated actively in overseeing the laboratory experiences of over 50 undergraduate student researchers.  He has also supervised numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. 

Seema Somji, Ph.D.: Dr. Somji possesses a broad background in heavy metal toxicology and metal-induced carcinogenesis, working within a multi-disciplinary environment of investigators.  This team was the first to demonstrate that the malignant transformation of human urothelial cells by arsenic and cadmium gives rise to tumors characteristic of human urothelial carcinoma. Since then, Dr. Somji has further expanded this research, and as a co-Investigator on NIH funded grants, isolated multiple isolates of arsenite- and cadmium-transformed cell lines to study the phenotypic as well as genotypic differences between the multiple isolates.  Dr. Somji has published peer reviewed papers that detail the characteristics of the transformed cell lines and the histological characteristics of the tumor heterotransplants.  Dr. Somji has also served as a mentor on both the ND INBRE and NIEHS STEER programs.  Dr. Somji has also supervised the laboratory experiences of over 50 undergraduate student researchers.  She has also supervised numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. 
Jane Dunlevy, Ph.D.: Dr. Jane Dunlevy is an expert on the molecular and cellular biology of the extracellular matrix.  She is also the course director for graduate and medical histology.  Her current research is to determine the role of SPARC expression in heavy metal transformation of human bladder cells to a metastatic phenotype.  Dr. Dunlevy's graduate student (Dr. Jenna Larson) was the first to publish that the extracellular matrix protein SPARC is significantly repressed in human bladder cells malignantly transformed by the heavy metals cadmium or arsenite, that SPARC is repressed in tumor heterotransplants in immunocompromised mice and in human bladder cancer itself, while concurrently showing that the surrounding stroma substantially increases in SPARC expression.  Dr. Dunlevy is also extensively involved with training undergratudates and, to date, she has trained over 20 undergraduates in basic medical science research, most of which have participated in either the ND INBRE, STEER or REFUNDU programs.  This past year one of her undergraduates received a Pfizer Travel Award to attend the Society of Toxicology Meeting.   

Van Doze, Ph.D.: Dr. Doze is the PI of the NSF REU in Neuroscience and Director of Undergraduate Research for the ND INBRE.  His research is focused on characterizing the role of the noradrenergic system in regulating neurogenesis with the intent to modulate this system to promote regeneration and neuroprotection. His research employs rodent models, utilizing both in vitro and in vivo methods, to evaluate whether chronic alpha adrenergic receptor stimulation improves learning and memory, synaptic plasticity, depression, and longevity.  The lab is also assessing whether an adrenergic based therapeutic strategy can be used to effectively counteract the decline in cognitive function and mood associated with aging and many neurodegenerative disorders such Alzheimer's disease as well as epilepsy.  Dr. Doze has mentored over 75 undergraduate students and several graduate students. 

Kurt Zhang, Ph.D.: Dr. Zhang is the Director of the ND INBRE Bioinformatics Core.  He provides bioinformatic and biostatistical supports such as experiment design, data management, programming and analysis, and methodology development for genomic data including microarray, DNA methylation and next-generation sequencing data to faculty partners.  He is also the linkage for students to become familiar with the field of bioinformatics.  Dr. Zhang developed a novel clustering algorithm to stratify cancer patients based on their genomic signatures, and has discovered a number of tumor biomarkers including aberrant genomic regions, drug-responsive oncogenes, and imaging biomarkers.  These studies have resulted in 6 patents.  Dr. Zhang routinely employs year round, 4 undergraduate students and 2 graduate students to support the Bioinformatics Core.  In addition, he hosts between 3 and 6 undergraduates each summer depending on student demand for research in bioinformatics.

Kumi Nagamoto-Combs,Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology and the Director of the Behavioral Research Core Facility at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY) and post-doctoral training at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH). Her prior work focused on injury-associated phenotypic transformations of microglia, which are commonly known as the immune cells of the nervous system that become activated to produce proinflammatory responses after an insult or infection. With emerging evidence for the involvement of microglia in learning, development and cognition, her research interests now include exploring the potential role of microglial activation in behavior changes, particularly after peripheral inflammation. Using a food allergy mouse model reported to exhibit behavioral abnormalities, she and her collaborators are currently investigating whether allergen challenge in sensitized mice induces neuroinflammation possibly instigated by activated microglia.


The mentors are also familiar with other areas of existing expertise at UND and investigators are encouraged to contact one of the above mentors or the ND INBRE Principal Investigator for areas not served by the above individuals
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