2007 News Articles-Department of Biological Sciences - Carnegie Mellon University

Ph.D. Student Ken Hovis Wins a National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health

Ph.D. Student Ken Hovis Wins a National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of HealthKen Hovis, a third year graduate student who is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Biological Sciences, received a National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institutes of Health. The NRSA will provide a stipend, travel allowances and tuition for Hovis, who is a member of Associate Professor Nathan Urban’s laboratory, during the next three years as he studies how cells communicate within the olfactory bulb in the brain.

Hovis hopes to determine what type of input nerve cells in the accessory olfactory bulb are receiving using anatomical and electrophysiological techniques. By labeling neurons with differently colored fluorescent dyes, Hovis will trace the cellular connectivity to determine if labeled neurons synapse with other sensory neurons expressing green fluorescent protein. His findings can assist future researchers in understanding how cells process incoming sensory information in other sensory systems such as the hearing or the visual systems. “Identifying how this simple circuitry of cells works in the olfactory bulb can help us to understand the more complex mechanisms other sensory systems in the brain use to process information,” explained Hovis.

“Ken is a remarkable student and highly deserving of this fellowship,” said Nathan Urban, who received a NRSA as a postdoctoral fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Medical Research in Germany.  “Ken's dedication and focus have resulted in his career as a graduate student getting off to a very fast start—he published an excellent paper as co-first author in his second year—and this award will pave the way for future successes.”

Hovis credits the success of his application for the NRSA to a mock NIH study section organized by Assistant Professor Alison Barth. Consisting of Hovis’s peers from the Department’s three neuroscience labs and members of Professor Jonathan Minden’s lab, the mock session reviewed, discussed and scored Hovis’s proposal, much like an actual NIH review committee would. “Without the input of the mock NIH session,” said Hovis, “I’m not sure if my application was strong enough to win a NRSA. I’m very appreciative for this assistance from my peers.”