NIH Grant to Support DNA Research and Undergraduate Investigators

AUGUST 3, 2018 - A new grant from the National Institutes of Health, totaling approximately $465,000, will support the work of geneticist Jan LaRocque, PhD, associate professor of human science at the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

LaRocque received the three-year award (1R15GM129628-01) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

“Our genomes experience a large amount of DNA damage,” LaRocque says. “The ability of the cell to recognize and repair DNA damage is essential for maintenance of genomic integrity. Failures in DNA repair can lead to mutations, cell death, premature aging, and cancer. This work aims to analyze repair of a highly deleterious type of DNA damage, a DNA double-strand break, and to determine the mechanism by which this type of DNA damage is repaired.”

Undergraduate Research

The principal investigator adds that she is particularly excited that the R15 grant award helps foster the culture of undergraduate research opportunities she has built in her laboratory.

“This project will give undergraduate researchers hands-on experience in a wide variety of molecular and genetic techniques and hypothesis-driven training, which will provide a valuable skill set for future biomedical research and health-related careers,” she says.

In her time at Georgetown, LaRocque has co-authored peer-reviewed articles with her undergraduate students, encouraged them to present their research findings at conferences, and co-directed the school’s annual and regionally focused Undergraduate Research Conference.

‘Strong Example’

“I am excited for the opportunity to continue to understand how the cell responds to and repairs DNA damage,” she says. “The R15 AREA award mechanism is ideal for our work as it fosters the development of rigorous research by undergraduate students.”

LaRocque has previously received a $350,000 R15 award from the NIH, as well as funding from the American Federation for Aging Research.

“I congratulate Dr. LaRocque on her new grant award,” says Patricia Cloonan, PhD, RN, dean of the School of Nursing & Health Studies. “We are deeply committed to supporting the scholarly aspirations of our undergraduate students through the mentorship and research activity of our faculty. Dr. LaRocque’s work is a strong example of this dynamic research-teaching interaction.”