Kidney disease research leads to fellowship for Upstate student

SUNY Upstate PhD Cell Developmental Biology

Jing Bi Karchin, a doctoral student in Cell & Developmental Biology at Upstate, has received a two-year fellowship from the American Heart Association for her research into a protein's role in kidney disease and its potential link to cardiovascular disease. Jing is a student in the lab of Principal Investigator Mira Krendel, PhD.

Jing Bi Karchin’s persistence has paid off.

Jing, a PhD student in Cell & Developmental Biology at Upstate, has been awarded a two-year fellowship from the American Heart Association for her research into the role of a protein in kidney disease and in blood vessels’ permeability.

The AHA sent Jing’s grant application back to her last year with some questions about her proposal’s relevance to heart disease. Jing did further experiments and was able to show that the proteins she is investigating were involved not only in kidney disease but also in regulating blood vessel integrity. She resubmitted the grant, which was approved.

The award is worth $23,000 per year, and will fund Jing’s work in the lab of her Principal Investigator, assistant professor Mira Krendel, PhD.

SUNY Upstate Krendel lab

Jing Bi Karchin, above, won an AHA fellowship for her myosin 1e research. The immunofluorescence image shows myosin 1e localizes to the cell-cell junctions in cultured podocytes (green lines).

“She can always make things work,” Dr. Krendel said of Jing, who will soon begin her fourth year in the lab. “It really was her hard work and persistence that allowed her to succeed in getting this funding.”

Jing’s research has clinical relevance, since the pediatric patients affected by the disease she’s investigating — Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) – eventually undergo dialysis.

The common feature of FSGS is abnormal protein excretion in the urine caused by a leaky filtration barrier in the kidney.

Jing’s research looks at how a protein (myosin 1e) regulates the stability of cell-cell junctions in kidney cells. Mutations in the myosin 1e gene are associated with FSGS and kidney failure. A similar pathway involving myosin activity may also regulate blood vessel permeability.

A better understanding of how reduced myosin 1e activity and gene mutations lead to junctional instability will help identify novel genetic risk factors for kidney and heart disease.

Jing is confident in her project’s eventual success.

Jing was born in China and came to the U.S. in 2006. She attended SUNY Potsdam, graduating in three years, then worked for about a year in New York City as a medical assistant in a clinic.

In 2010 she enrolled at Upstate, and last year was first author of an article published in the American Journal of Physiology.

With financial help from the College of Graduate Studies and the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology, Jing has traveled to conferences in New Orleans (where she gave an oral presentation) and San Francisco. She is headed to Philadelphia for another conference this year with Dr. Krendel.

Upstate also is where Jing met her husband, Joshua Karchin, a Biochemistry PhD student in the lab of Stewart Loh, PhD.

They were married earlier this year.

Posted in Cell & Developmental Biology, College of Graduate Studies, Research, scholarship, scientific journal, SUNY | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Upstate graduates share the stage for the third time

SUNY Upstate commencement 2014

Lifelong friends Caroline Foisy and Alex Ashley, center, with their parents at Upstate's College of Health Professions 2014 Commencement. The ceremony marked the third time Caroline and Alex shared a stage in caps and gowns. They graduated together from kindergarten and sixth grade in Potsdam, NY.

When Alex Ashley and Caroline Foisy walked across the stage during Upstate Medical University’s College of Health Professions Commencement last month, they continued a tradition that began almost 20 years ago.

This was the third time Alex and Caroline shared a stage in caps and gowns. They graduated together from kindergarten and sixth grade at St. Mary’s in Potsdam, N.Y., and have been close friends all along.

SUNY Upstate Potsdam

Kindergarten graduation, St. Mary's School, Potsdam, NY, June 1995. Caroline Foisy is second from left in the cream-colored dress; Alex Ashley is far right, in the white vest.

“We were in a class that never exceeded probably 12 students, so we were more than just classmates, we were practically siblings,” said Alex, who received his Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in Radiation Therapy.

“We spent every day together, we did fund-raisers, raised class pets, and attended a youth group together. Our team (instructed by Caroline’s father) even went to a state competition for Odyssey of the Mind,” Alex added. “Caroline is one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve ever had the privilege of calling a friend.”

Caroline, who earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree last month, has many fond memories of those years.

“Alex and I spent a lot of time together in elementary school in the typical North Country fashion,” Caroline said. “Go-carting around farms, jumping on hay bales, swimming/boating/tubing around the lake in Norwood & Alexandria Bay, singing our little hearts out at our youth club … the list could go on and on.”

Caroline and Alex weren’t troublemakers in school, “but somehow we both were sent to the time-out chair that first year of school,” Caroline said. “We were both innocent.”

The pair first met in pre-kindergarten, when they were 4 years old, and can’t remember a time when they weren’t friends.

SUNY Upstate Commencement Health Professions

Alex Ashley and Caroline Foisy at Upstate Commencement, May 18, 2014. When they finally found each other after the ceremony, Caroline said, their conversation went something like this: "We did it!!! Congratulations - I can't believe we're at this point in our lives now."

Alex and Caroline went to different middle schools and high schools, but stayed close. When they came to Upstate and realized they would be receiving their degrees at the same time (Alex’s program is two years, Caroline’s three years), they began to look forward to yet another graduation photo together.

Each has pleasant memories of Upstate as well, including classmates, faculty and staff, and administrators.

“I was able to meet many students from other programs, and it was fun to see familiar faces during the day — especially on those days when it felt like the library had become my new home,” Caroline said. “It was especially refreshing to see Alex during the day because he has been such an awesome supporter of mine since … forever! He is the best when it comes to providing words of encouragement!”

Alex’s appreciation for Upstate goes back to his very first week on campus. “Being new to a school and meeting so many different people, I never felt overwhelmed,” he said. “In fact, I immediately felt embraced by each staff member’s kindness and compassion. I am not embellishing when I say it felt like a home away from home.”

Alex also recalls a night in April when he and six classmates in Radiation Therapy went out to dinner, and another patron paid their entire dinner bill – and left before the students had a chance to thank him.

“Whatever his reason, our hearts were touched,” Alex said. “We were inspired, more than ever, to go out and spread kindness. All night we spoke about how we could return the favor in the future.”

Alex is now working at Canton-Potsdam Hospital in Potsdam as a per diem radiation therapist and radiologic technologist; Caroline is applying for Physical Therapist positions in New York and studying for her boards in July.

Posted in College of Health Professions, Doctor of Physical Therapy program, Radiation Therapy program, SUNY | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Upstate graduate gives ‘best commencement performance’

Graduating Upstate medical student Dan Harris certainly didn’t disappoint with his address at the College of Medicine Commencement Sunday.

As the chosen student speaker for the Class of 2014, Dan — Dr. Harris — thanked one and all, discussed love and joy, and quoted poet Ogden Nash on happiness.

And then he broke out his trusty ukelele for a med school adaptation of Don McLean’s “American Pie” that, as you’ll see from the video above, will bring a smile to your face, a bounce to your step . . . and a tear to your eye.

Dr. Harris “delivered the best commencement performance I have witnessed,” said David Duggan, MD, Dean of the College of Medicine. “I highly recommend it to you, and be sure to watch it to the end.” (The musical portion begins at the 3:20 mark, but all 7:38 are worth watching.)

As a bonus, here is a link to a pair of 2011 performances by Dan Harris when he was a second-year medical student. In one, he plays the ukelele (with Upstate medical student Ken Angelino on fiddle); in the other he performs an a cappella number with fellow Class of 2014 members Justine Harris and Auyon Ghosh, and 2013 graduates Rhonda Diescher, Chas Hannum and Tony Rossettie.

Upstate’s four colleges held separate commencement exercises Sunday in the Onondaga County Civic Center, with a total of 541 degrees awarded. ”It was a very happy day,” Dr. Duggan said. “I want to thank all faculty for their contributions to our students’ success. We have a lot to be proud of.”

Posted in College of Medicine, doctoral program, medical student, SUNY, Upstate Vocal Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off