CAMDEN – Two Rutgers–Camden students, both enrolled in the region’s only computational and integrative biology doctoral program, have been awarded the prestigious Rutgers Presidential Fellowship. Each year, only 10 candidates in PhD programs throughout the university receive the award, which provides a $35,000 stipend, plus tuition and fee reimbursement.
Sweta Sharma of Hamden, Conn. and Ammar Naqvi of Dix Hills, NY, received the fellowship to support their first year in the innovative program that launched in 2010 as the first doctoral program in the sciences or mathematics ever offered at Rutgers–Camden. The graduate program is supported through the Rutgers–Camden Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, which seeks to answer biological problems through traditional lab settings as well as computational modeling.
Sharma’s previous research on genetic factors associated with liver disease was published in the journal Hepatology. Her strong research background includes studying at Yale University’s Center for Bioinformatics and at the W.M. Keck Facility-Biophysics Resource, as well as in Kenneth Buetow’s Lab of Population Genetics at the National Cancer Institute. Her most recent research project conducted at the University of Connecticut utilized Virtual Cell software to model a signaling network that’s important in synaptic plasticity.
At Rutgers–Camden, Sharma plans on studying disease and cellular mechanisms through a systems biology perspective. “I’m eager to learn what tools there are and how I can apply them,” says the George Washington University and University of New Haven graduate.
Naqvi, who recently was enrolled in the doctoral biology program at the University of Pennsylvania, applied to Rutgers–Camden for its unique, integrated approach.
“Science is heading into an interdisciplinary realm; I wanted exposure to that kind of environment,” says Naqvi, who earned an undergraduate degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a master’s degree from George Mason University. “I am looking forward to studying in a more intimate setting and working more directly with faculty, even those who are not directly in my field,” Naqvi adds.
His extensive research has led to five publications in journals including PLoS: Pathogens, Current Biology, and Genome Research. He held internships at the University of California at San Diego, the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences, also in San Diego, and the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York. His more recent research at Penn led to a discovery of a novel step involved in microRNA processing and biogenesis.
Since its inception three years ago, the Rutgers–Camden Center for Computational and Integrative Biology has produced robust scholarly activity with more than $3 million awarded in grants; 142 publications in peer-reviewed journals; and 175 presentations to international and national professional societies and universities.
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Media Contact: Cathy K. Donovan