May 9, 1997

VUMC’s Piston snares prestigious award for biological research

VUMC's Piston snares prestigious award for biological research

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David Piston, Ph.D.

David W. Piston, Ph.D., assistant professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, was recently honored with the Young Fluorescence Investigator Award by the Biophysical Society.

The award honors an investigator who has applied fluorescence microscopy to biological research in a novel way.

Fluorescence microscopy is the process looking at the intrinsic fluorescence of molecules in cells. Instead of staining a cell with a fluorescent dye, which kills the cell, Piston's method allows him to see what is going on in live cells. Much like using a light amplifying scope to see at night, fluorescence microscopy uses the fluorescence of cells to record their movements in real time.

"We are trying to elucidate basic mechanisms in the cellular response to glucose induced insulin secretion," Piston said. "We are looking through the entire pathway and we have several markers that we can look at under the microscope in real time."

Piston is the third member of his department to win accolades for research this year. Two other members of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics have won awards this year, giving the department an award at every academic rank.

Alan Cherrington, Ph.D., Charles H. Best professor of Diabetic Research, will receive the distinguished Fredrick Banting Award of the American Diabetes Association at their annual meeting in June.

The award, which honors a body of work rather than one particular project, is being given to Cherrington for his role in defining the way hormones regulate energy metabolism and how the body responds to various foodstuffs.

Previous Banting Award winners from VUMC include Nobel Laureate Dr. Earl Sutherland Jr., for his work on cyclic AMP, and Dr. Charles R. Park, for his work on insulin action in glucose transport.

David H. Wasserman, Ph.D., associate professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, will received the Henry Pickering Bowditch Award by the American Physiological Society and gave a major address at the society's spring meeting.

The Bowditch Award recognizes an outstanding physiologist under the age of 40 who shows promise future research endeavors.

Wasserman won the award for his studies into the way the body stores and uses energy and what affect exercise has on that relationship.

"These awards are an indication that we are recruiting the kind of people that we are going to need to keep our research momentum going," said Dr. Daryl K. Granner, professor and chairman of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. "These awards reflect the fact that we are choosing carefully and nurturing properly."