May 29, 2001
Neish, Sathian take research prize
By Michael Terrazas firstname.lastname@example.org
The University Research Committee (URC) awarded this years Albert E. Levy Scientific Research Awards to Andrew Neish, assistant professor of pathology, and Krish Sathian, associate professor of neurology. Neish took the junior faculty award, while Sathian received the distinction for a senior faculty member.
Neish won for a paper published in the Sept. 1, 2000, issue of Science
that described a mechanism by which certain bacteria in the human gastrointestinal
(GI) tract interact with the bodys immune system to subdue intestinal
inflammation that otherwise would destroy them.
Neish said certain bacteria have been found to have a beneficial effect
in humans; bacteria in yogurt, for example, colonize in the
GI tract and aid in digestion. But the process by which these organisms
avoid activating the bodys autoimmune response was unknown.
People had assumed these strains of nonpathogenic bacteria were
inert or just passengers [in the GI tract], Neish said.
We think certain bacteria may have found a way to essentially negotiate
with the GI tract to shut down the responses that would normally kick
Neish said the finding could alter scientists understanding of
inflammatory bowel diseases. The next step, he said, is to determine whether
the negotiation process is unique to the strains of bacteria
in the study or whether other bacteria can have similar effects.
Sathians award-winning paper first appeared in Science in
1999 and detailed a study in which he and his colleagues proved that the
brains visual cortex plays an active role in human tactile perception.
The findings are relevant to understanding not only how the brain
normally processes sensory information but also how such processing is
altered in conditions such as blindness, deafness or numbness, and ultimately
to improving methods of communication for individuals afflicted with these
disorders, Sathian said.
He added that, since the study appeared in Science, he has completed
a followup investigation that concluded the visual cortex is more involved
in tactile perception of large-scale featurestrying to assess the
size and shape of an object, for examplethan perception of small-scale
attributes such as texture. He presently is putting these findings together
in another paper.
Ken Minneman, who chaired the URC biological and health sciences subcommittee
for the award, endorsed both studies for the Levy Award.
These are both tremendously strong papers that reflect highly on
the quality of scientific research at Emory, said Minneman, who
noted that the papers appeared in the more mainstream Science and Nature
magazines rather than specialized journals. While it is difficult
to compare these to journals in the social sciences, the impact factor
of these journals is undoubtedly higher than that of the journals in which
the social science papers were published.
URC chair Josiah Wilcox said, due to the difficulty in comparing hard science disciplines with research in social sciences and the humanities, the committee has recommended adding another component to the Levy Award that would recognize research in the latter, but no decisions have been finalized.