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Research Staff Awards honor those who help drive science forward

Mar. 9, 2022, 2:56 PM

Lawrence Marnett, PhD, left, and Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, right, presented 2021 Research Staff Awards to Kimberly Newsom, second from left, Tracie Baker, CCRP, and Pavlo Gilchuk, PhD.
Lawrence Marnett, PhD, left, and Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, right, presented 2021 Research Staff Awards to Kimberly Newsom, second from left, Tracie Baker, CCRP, and Pavlo Gilchuk, PhD. (photo by Donn Jones)

by Bill Snyder

Laboratory and administrative personnel at Vanderbilt University Medical Center were honored March 4 for research excellence during the 18th annual Research Staff Awards Ceremony at the Aertson Hotel in Nashville.

Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and VUMC’s Executive Vice President for Research, and Lawrence Marnett, PhD, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Dean of Basic Sciences, Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research, University Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry and professor of Pharmacology, presented the awards.

The 2021 Research Staff Awardees are:

  • Tracie Baker, CCRP, Clinical Translational Research Coordinator IV in the Department of Anesthesiology, who received the Vivien A. Thomas Award for Excellence in Clinical Research;
  • Pavlo Gilchuk, PhD, Senior Staff Scientist in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, who received the Award for Excellence in Research Contributing to Multi-Investigator Teams; and
  • Kimberly Newsom, Senior Research Specialist in Pietenpol’s laboratory, Department of Biochemistry and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, received the Edward E. Price Jr. Award for Excellence in Basic Research.

Baker, a Certified Clinical Research Professional, is a key member of the Perioperative Clinical Research Institute team in the Department of Anesthesiology, according to the faculty members who nominated her.

Her efforts have contributed to the success of numerous clinical research programs and have advanced the research careers of many VUMC faculty members, wrote Edward Sherwood, MD, PhD, the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Anesthesiology, and Pratik Pandharipande, MD, MSc, holder of the James Tayloe Gwathmey Directorship in Anesthesiology.

“She is superb at identifying, screening and recruiting patients for human subjects research,” added Frederic (Josh) Billings IV, MD, MSc, associate professor of Anesthesiology and Medicine. “She is a-problem solver. When Ms. Baker is working on the task at hand, I know the task will be accomplished.”

Baker’s award is named for the late Vivien A. Thomas, the pioneering surgical technician who began his career at Vanderbilt in the 1930s.

Gilchuk “was the lead scientist in developing the techniques we deployed for isolating human monoclonal antibodies in a very rapid fashion for COVID-19,” wrote James Crowe, Jr., MD, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, Ann Scott Carell Professor and professor of Pediatrics and Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology.

The author or co-author of more than 60 scientific publications, Gilchuk also received high praise from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston National Laboratory with whom he has collaborated on studies of Ebola, Zika and other viruses.

His expertise was a crucial part of a VUMC-led national trial that tested whether “convalescent plasma,” the antibody-bearing, liquid part of blood collected from COVID-19 survivors, could improve outcomes for patients hospitalized with the viral illness.

“He is responsible for huge leaps in our understanding of the immune response to this disease,” wrote Jill Pulley, MBA, executive director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Clinical and Translational Research and research professor of Medicine.

Newsom, senior research specialist in Pietenpol’s lab since 2003, was nominated for her expertise, creativity, dedication and caring spirit, all of which have enabled key discoveries in the areas of triple-negative breast cancer, and the role of p53 signaling in tumorigenesis.

“Without Kim’s contributions, dozens of manuscripts and grants would never have been submitted,” wrote Pietenpol, the Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology. “Kim can be counted on to do whatever it takes to advance a research project or program in the Cancer Center.”

She contributes to the research projects of numerous other investigators by training students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members in tissue collection, primary cell culture, laser capture microdissection and other research techniques, by sharing tissues, cell lines and protocols, and by maintaining shared equipment in the VICC.

She is “the glue that holds the lab together,” wrote Pietenpol’s colleague, Brian Lehmann, PhD, research associate professor of Medicine.

Newsom’s award is named for the late Edward E. Price Jr., an internationally known research assistant in the Department of Biochemistry and in the Cardiovascular Physiology Core.

Each honoree received an award check and crystal trophy.

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