Category Archives: Research

Geyer recognized by Society for the Study of Reproduction

Dr. Christopher Geyer received this year’s New Investigator Award at the 50th annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Dr. Christopher Geyer received this year’s New Investigator Award at the 50th annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

East Carolina University’s Dr. Christopher Geyer was named the recipient of the 2017 New Investigator Award by the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) for his contributions to the field of reproductive sciences.

The award recognizes outstanding research contributions by an SSR member within 12 years of the completion of their Ph.D.

Geyer, an associate professor in the Brody School of Medicine Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, is working to explain the earliest stages of reproduction by investigating the mechanisms through which spermatogenic stem cells become differentiated and begin the process of becoming sperm cells.

His lab was recently awarded a five-year, $1.45 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the response of stem cells to retinoic acid.

“This is a highly competitive award, and the list of past winners is virtually a who’s who of top scientists in the field,” said Dr. Rebecca Krisher, chair of the SSR Awards Committee. “Dr. Geyer was chosen for this honor based upon the originality of his research, his scientific productivity and the significance of his contributions to the field of spermatogonial and testicular biology.”

Geyer said he has been a member of SSR since joining as a new graduate student in 2002. “Receiving the award was overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve never had to get up and speak in front of so many people.”

Geyer’s lab is working to pinpoint the mechanisms that control the earliest stages of reproduction.

Geyer’s lab is working to pinpoint the mechanisms that control the earliest stages of reproduction.

The award was presented during the opening ceremony of SSR’s 50th anniversary meeting in Washington, D.C. As the New Investigator Award recipient, Geyer gave a 30-minute presentation before more than 900 attendees of the conference.

“This was one of the goals I set for myself when I first started here in 2010, because I have several friends who’ve won this award and I’ve always admired their work and wanted to follow in their footsteps, so to speak,” Geyer said. “I have tried to emulate what they’ve done in their careers, but I never actually expected it to happen.”

Nick Serra and Ellen Velte, doctoral students in Geyer’s lab, also attended the conference and presented their work in poster format.

Geyer was nominated by his mentors, Dr. John McCarrey and Dr. Mitch Eddy, and more than a dozen professors from the United States and abroad wrote letters of support. He has been invited to speak at the annual meetings of SSR’s sister societies — the Society for Reproduction and Fertility, which will meet in Liverpool, United Kingdom in January; and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which will meet in San Antonio, Texas in November.


-by Jules Norwood

Brody School of Medicine names associate dean for research and graduate studies

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has named one of its first PhD graduates as its new associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Brody School of Medicine.

The appointment of Dr. Russ Price was made following a rigorous national search. Price, who also will serve as professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, will begin his role on Aug. 16.

Dr. Russ Price. (contributed photo)

Dr. Russ Price. (contributed photo)

As associate dean for research and graduate studies, Price will provide leadership for Brody’s extensive research enterprise. He joins ECU at a time when the university is looking to strengthen its research efforts. Chancellor Cecil Staton has stated that increasing extramural research funding is one of his priority goals for the institution.

Since 2012 Price has served as associate vice chair for research in the department of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. He has been professor of medicine and physiology at Emory since 1991.

“I am really delighted to welcome Russ Price back to the Brody community,” said Dr. Nicholas Benson, the school of medicine’s interim dean. “He has had a very successful career as a scientist with continuing extramural funding and as an administrator for research programs at Emory University. He will bring a new level of expertise in bench research to us that will greatly enrich the science our faculty do here at Brody and across ECU.”

Price said that he is thrilled to be selected for the position, which represents a homecoming for him.

“During the interview process, I was drawn back to ECU by the palpable renewed commitment to research and the desire of the faculty and leadership to build on the current strong foundation at BSOM,” he said. “I am excited about the partnership between BSOM and Vidant Health and the combined efforts to provide communities throughout eastern North Carolina with access to the most up-to-date clinical trials and health care.”

Having authored more than 100 publications and book chapters, Price is a recognized leader in his field. His research is directed towards explaining the mechanisms that cause muscle atrophy in chronic conditions such as end-stage kidney disease and diabetes. He serves on editorial boards for the Journal of Biological Chemistry and American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology. He has previously served on the editorial boards of Kidney International and the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. In addition, Price is on the Executive Council for the International Society of Renal Nutrition and Metabolism.

Price will lead Brody School of Medicine's extensive research enterprise. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Price will lead Brody School of Medicine’s extensive research enterprise. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Before earning his PhD in biochemistry at ECU, Price completed a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Cellular Metabolism at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Benson thanked Dr. Jeff Smith for his service as interim associate dean for research and graduate studies since March 2016. Smith is professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology at Brody.

Price’s appointment follows Tuesday’s announcement that the Brody School of Medicine has named Dr. Mark Stacy as its new dean. Stacy begins his role on Sept. 1.



-by Angela Todd, University Communication




ECU professor to chair national NIH study section

Dr. Joseph Houmard, the LeRoy T. Walker Distinguished Professor in kinesiology at East Carolina University, will serve as chairperson of the Clinical and Integrative Diabetes and Obesity study section for the Center for Scientific Review.

The Center for Scientific Review is the central point for all research and training grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency. The center helps to ensure that NIH grant applications receive fair, independent, expert and timely reviews that are free from inappropriate influences to provide funding for the most promising research, according to the website.

The Clinical and Integrative Diabetes and Obesity study section primarily reviews clinical or patient-oriented research applications related to the prevention, development and treatment of diabetes and/or obesity. Interventions could include diet, exercise, lifestyle, surgery or medications.

Dr. Joseph Houmard. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Dr. Joseph Houmard. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Houmard’s two-year term begins July 1 and will end on June 30, 2019.

Members are selected based on demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline including research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals and other activities and honors. Service requires the ability to work effectively in a group as well as mature judgment and objectivity, according to the center.

Houmard is the director of the ECU Human Performance Lab in the College of Health and Human Performance and his areas of expertise include exercise and obesity. He is helping lead a groundbreaking national, six-year study to better understand the body’s response to exercise in conjunction with scientists at Duke University and Wake Forest University.



-by Crystal Baity

ECU physician appointed to state environmental commission

An East Carolina University physician was recently appointed to the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission.

Gov. Roy Cooper named Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, to the only seat designated for a licensed medical doctor on the 15-member commission.

The commission is responsible for overseeing and adopting rules for the protection, preservation and enhancement of the state’s air and water resources. The group’s regulations are administered by several divisions within the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that are aimed at protecting environmental quality and public health. The DEQ also offers technical assistance to businesses, farmers, local governments and the public and encourages responsible behavior with respect to the environment through education programs.

Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)

Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)

“My goal in serving in this role is to help assure that health needs and public health priorities are considered and prioritized as the commission addresses issues in our state,” Lazorick said. “My experience at ECU will be very important regarding applying principles of community engagement and also incorporating the needs of the rural areas of the state. Since most of North Carolina is rural, it is critical that the EMC recognizes the needs of the many communities that are in rural areas.”

Lazorick’s clinical work takes place at the ECU Pediatric Healthy Weight Research and Treatment Center, a tertiary care clinic for obese children. She works with several statewide efforts for obesity prevention and has served on multiple committees for the N.C. Division of Public Health.

She has partnered with a former teacher from rural eastern North Carolina to study a middle school-based obesity intervention and since 2008 has been funded by several foundations and the N.C. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) to study the effectiveness of the intervention, which will be implemented in 51 schools in the fall of 2017.

After earning an undergraduate degree from Duke University, Lazorick completed her medical degree and a master’s in public health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she remained for residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics. She practiced primary care for several years at a rural health center before returning to UNC for fellowship training in primary care research and preventive medicine.

Lazorick will serve a four-year term on the commission.



-by Amy Ellis, University Communication 



O’Halloran presents results for Washington Boutique Hotel study

The Hotel Louise in downtown Washington, North Carolina. (Contributed photos)

The Hotel Louise in downtown Washington, North Carolina. (Contributed photos)

Dr. Bob O’Halloran, chair of the College of Business’ School of Hospitality Leadership, presented composite results of a preliminary feasibility study, which included a summary of possible concepts that could bring the Hotel Louise back to life in downtown Washington, North Carolina. The presentation was made during a recent public event held at the Arts of the Pamlico’s (AOP) historic Turnage Theatre.

As part of course requirements, School students created concepts that would turn the historic building into a 60-room, boutique hotel. According to an article in the Washington Daily News, O’Halloran said that a hotel of this nature would generate revenue and growth for the downtown area and would give customers the opportunity to both visit Washington and stay in the heart of the city.

Aided by the AOP, 64 students and 11 community groups worked on the project, which culminated with the students, as part of a final exam, making a presentation to members of the Washington (North Carolina) Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Tourism Development Authority, and Beaufort County Economic Development.

“This type of engaged learning shows our students are playing an integral part in the sustainability of Eastern North Carolina,” said O’Halloran. “I’m excited for the potential, positive impact these recommendations could have in downtown Washington.”

Dr. Bob O’Halloran presents feasibility study findings on Hotel Louise in Washington, North Carolina.

Dr. Bob O’Halloran presents feasibility study findings on Hotel Louise in Washington, North Carolina.


-by Michael Rudd, University Communication

ECU Colleges of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences open joint research hub

The process of finding new ways to help patients live healthier lives may have just become a little easier for faculty in East Carolina University’s College of Allied Health Sciences and College of Nursing.

The two colleges have been working together on research for years, but a new collaborative research hub promises to make the grant application and administration process more efficient, leaving faculty members more time to focus on improving patient outcomes and overall health and wellness.

The CON-CAHS Research Administration Hub, located on the university’s West Campus in the Health Sciences Building, aims to maximize support for faculty members by providing the administrative components involved in pursuing grants and conducting the research funded by them? It is the first collaborative research hub on the university’s health sciences campus.

Associate Deans for Research and Scholarship Dr. Patricia Crane, from nursing, and Dr. Heather Harris Wright, from allied health, will oversee the hub along with an administrative board that includes the colleges’ associate deans for research and Interim Health Sciences Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Kathy Verbanac.

From left, Susan Howard, Jessica Miller and Latoya Sahadeo will staff the new CON-CAHS Research Administration Hub. (Photo by Alyssa De Santis Figiel)

From left, Susan Howard, Jessica Miller and Latoya Sahadeo will staff the new CON-CAHS Research Administration Hub.
(Photo by Alyssa De Santis Figiel)

“The point of it is to capitalize on resources,” Crane said at the hub’s open house on May 18. “Traditionally, in each college we’ve had one person that did pre- and post-award (grant management),” Crane said. “If that person was out sick or we had more than one grant, or we had multiple grants or someone was on vacation, we were just lost. We’d have to go find someone else. It was a struggle.”

Creating a central hub to help faculty with administrative grant work was a perfect solution given that the two colleges have been collaborating on research efforts for years. Nursing’s three-year, $2.5 million Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program grant involves the CAHS’s Physician Assistant Studies program, and the three-year, $2.1 million grant from the Versant Center for the Advancement of Nursing involves the CAHS Department of Health Sciences & Information Management.

The hub will have one pre-award grant manager and two post-award grant managers. Jessica Miller, the pre-award grant manager, will provide budget support and preparation, seek out funding opportunities and help faculty with grant application development. Post-award managers Latoya Sahadeo and Susan Howard specialize in different types of grant management and will aid faculty members once a grant has been awarded.

“All the funding agencies, while there are some commonalities, they’re so vastly different in expectations and how they’re administered, and the rules and regulations associated with them,” Crane said. “This allows us to designate people that that’s their area of expertise. Instead of being a generalist in everything, now we have two experts in that for post-award.”

Wright agreed that the additional resource provided to faculty by the hub would be helpful as they pursue new research.

“As the funding portfolio for College of Allied Health Sciences continues to diversify and more faculty are seeking external funding to support their programmatic lines of research, increased support for pre- and post-award grant activities is needed,” she said. “The Hub will greatly benefit faculty across both colleges. We will be able to provide more support for the faculty and allow them to focus their time and energy on their science by providing them support in identifying funding opportunities, helping with proposal development, and administrative support.”



-by Natalie Sayewich 


ECU faculty receive national funding to work with veterans and their families

Three East Carolina University faculty members have been awarded almost $98,000 in grant funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities to work with veterans and their families.

Dr. Jennifer McKinnon, associate professor of history in the Maritime Studies Program and project director, Dr. Anna Foula, associate professor of film studies in the Department of English, and Dr. Anne Ticknor, associate professor of literacy studies in the College of Education, comprise the interdisciplinary research team.

The faculty members will work with Saipanese veterans of contemporary wars, surviving civilian participants of World War II and families of military service personnel to learn more about war’s universal impact on humanity.

McKinnon has collaborated with the Saipan community for nearly 10 years on heritage sites on land and under water. Froula has published widely on the representations of war and service personnel in popular culture as well as advises student veterans at ECU. Ticknor, a literacy educator for 20 years, researches identities.

Two ECU proposals were among 15 projects to receive funding through the NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War grant program. Part of NEH’s Standing Together initiative, the grants provide opportunities for veterans, through the study and discussion of important humanities sources, to think more deeply about issues raised by war and military service.

The funding will allow ECU faculty to travel to Saipan for two weeks in July to prepare community members with interest in humanities, history, and veteran affairs to become discussion leaders.

The researchers will lead discussion groups with local, primarily Chamorro and Carolinian, veterans to develop an understanding of war as a shared human experience and the associated cultural heritage of war on Saipan. Discussion will center on the Spanish-Chamorro Wars of the 17th century and the World War II Battle of Saipan as bookends to the history of resistance and aggressions in the islands. These wars were chosen because they represent the complexities of all of the participants of war, combatant and non-combatant, in a colonial and post-colonial context.

Participants will gain an understanding of the meaning of war from different perspectives through the exploration of terrestrial and underwater cultural heritage, film, history, memoirs, children’s historical fiction, poetry, paintings and graphic novels.

“Underwater cultural heritage, just one of many humanities sources used in this project, is not typically thought of as an entry or gateway into discussing large societal issues like identity, conflict or even the potential for healing,” McKinnon said. “This is why I’m so excited to explore this possibility with my colleagues and the community.”

McKinnon, Froula and Ticknor anticipate that the personal interactions with the physical remains of heritage sites as well as humanities texts and films will provide a new or renewed sense of cultural value for both the veterans’ experiences and the local conflict heritage.

NEH panel reviewers commented that the project was distinct from other proposals with significant potential for intergenerational impact. Since launching the initiative in 2014, the NEH has awarded more than $7.7 million for humanities projects that serve veterans or chronicle their experiences.

For more information about maritime studies at ECU, visit

For more information about the English department, visit

For more information about literacy studies, visit



-by Crystal Baity 

College of Allied Health Sciences hosts first college-wide Research Day

The College of Allied Health Sciences recently held its first college-wide Research Day. The event, meant to foster inter-departmental collaboration, featured oral presentations and poster sessions from undergraduates, master’s students, Doctor of Physical Therapy students and Ph.D. candidates from the nine programs within the college.

Awards for posters and presentations were voted on by the CAHS research committee. Three People’s Choice award winners were chosen as well.

“Our first Research Day was an overwhelming success,” said Dr. Robert Orlikoff, dean of the college. “It showcased the fact that students in the College of Allied Health Sciences are not only developing the knowledge and skills to become effective evidence-based practitioners and health care workers, but are also acquiring strong skills in both basic and clinical research. I congratulate the students as well as our accomplished faculty research mentors.”

The ECU College of Allied Health Sciences recently held its first college-wide Research Day. Students from the college’s nine departments gave poster and oral presentations during morning and afternoon sessions. (Photos by Alyssa De Santis Figiel)

The ECU College of Allied Health Sciences recently held its first college-wide Research Day. Students from the college’s nine departments gave poster and oral presentations during morning and afternoon sessions. (Photos by Alyssa De Santis Figiel)

The event, held on the university’s Reading Day on April 26, was organized by Dr. Richard Willy, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, and Dr. Heather Harris Wright, professor and associate dean for research, who organized the presentations based on their subjects and theme, rather than by department.

“Every department in our college has typically done their own research day,” Willy said. “They’ve always kind of occurred in somewhat of a vacuum. So now that we’re pushing interprofessional communication, it made sense to hold them all on the same day.

“We might have someone from physical therapy standing next to someone from occupational therapy standing next to someone from clinical lab science,” Willy continued. “By seeing what our students are working on, essentially, by proxy we’re seeing what our faculty are working on. So we’re hopeful that maybe in the next couple years this Research Day might encourage more collaboration across the college.”

Students from the Department of Physical Therapy discuss their work during Research Day on April 26.

Students from the Department of Physical Therapy discuss their work during Research Day on April 26.

Peter Eischens, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Addictions & Rehabilitation Studies, won the best oral presentation award with his presentation “Developing queer competency in rehabilitation addictions, and clinical counseling graduate programs.”

Other winners chosen by the committee include Patrick Briley and Kori Engler from the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, as well as Morgan Haskins, the team of Jeffrey Harrington and Kate Foy, and Eric Kosco from the Department of Physical Therapy.

People’s Choice award winners were Eshan Pua of CSDI and Cynthia Edsall and Alyssa Kerls from the Department of Clinical Laboratory Science. Winners each received a $100 Amazon gift card.

The college plans to make its Research Day an annual event.



-by Natalie Sayewich, University Communication

ECU Libraries awarded funding to partner with research faculty on open science

East Carolina University’s 2017-2018 Interdisciplinary Research Awards (IRA) recipients include a collaboration between Joyner and Laupus libraries and the College of Allied Health Sciences.

Interdisciplinary Research Awards (IRA) are seed grants to support interdisciplinary research projects leading to competitive applications for extramural funding.

The project, “Transitioning to Open Science in Research Labs: a partnership between librarians and research faculty,” will explore open science tools for faculty and students to use in the lab, with the ultimate goal of developing an institutional infrastructure to facilitate open science now and in the future at ECU.

Open science is a movement towards making research more accessible to researchers and the public. (contributed photo)

Open science is a movement towards making research more accessible to researchers and the public. (contributed photo)

Open science is a movement towards making research more accessible to researchers and the public. Open science can encompass all aspects of the research process, including open data, open access articles, and even open lab notebooks. Additionally, open science tools can make it easier for researchers to adhere to public access policies required by federal funders.

Scholarly Communication Librarian for Joyner Library Jeanne Hoover and Dr. John Willson from the Department of Physical Therapy in the College of Allied Health Sciences will serve as primary investigators. The one-year pilot project will be based in the Human Movement Analysis Laboratory at ECU.

“I am looking forward to working with Dr. Willson and colleagues from Laupus Library on exploring ways to use Open Science Framework to help make research more accessible and reproducible,” Hoover said.

Research labs are a key component of teaching and scholarship at academic institutions. Proponents of the open science movement believe that establishing a culture of open science within research labs will drastically improve the exchange of information with the scientific community and general public and as a result, address questions of transparency and research reproducibility.

Co-investigators on the grant include Ting Fu, Laupus liaison to the College of Allied Health Sciences; Roger Russell, assistant director of user services for Laupus Library; and Joseph Thomas, assistant director for collections and scholarly communication for Joyner Library.

“I am very excited about this award, which brings opportunity for exploring Open Science at ECU,” said Fu. “There hasn’t been a project like this before on campus. We hope ours serves as an ice-breaker that will bring change and inspiration to all researchers in the future.”



-by Kelly Rogers Dilda, University Communication

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