2019 HSIE Scholarship Awardees

Samir Jenkins, Ph.D.

Mentor: Robert Griffin, Ph.D., Professor, Radiation Oncology
Interests: Nanomaterials and stem cell differentiation
Samir jenkins Samir Jenkins is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Radiation Oncology at UAMS under the mentorship of Profs. Robert Griffin and Ruud Dings. His primary research areas focus on optimizing new therapeutics to more effectively treat primary and recurrent disease. This has included active targeting and treatment of cancers using a variety of gold, carbon, and liposomal nanomaterials. He has investigated new targets within the tumor itself and the associated vasculature, and has used nanomaterials to delivery drugs, thermal therapy, and enhanced radiotherapy to these regions. He has further investigated the use of heat, radiation, and immunotherapy in combination to enhance cancer treatment. His work has also involved the generation of new treatment resistant cancer and endothelial cell lines that can be used to uncover the mechanisms that make recurrent disease so intransigent. Additionally, his research is investigating the role of the gut microbiome in enabling and enhancing tumorigenesis in sites away from the gut itself. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry at University of Arkansas under the mentorship of Prof. Jingyi Chen. The focus of his doctoral work was the synthesis, characterization, and application of novel nanomaterials to deal with biomedical issues. He developed several novel drug delivery systems, including one targeting resistant bacterial infections, and established new methods for characterization of nanomaterials in an in vivo setting. He also developed new laboratory modules to introduce undergraduates to nanomaterials synthesis and characterization.

Astha Malhorta, Ph.D.

Mentor: Jay Mehta, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Internal Medicine – Cardiology
Interests: 3-D printing and tissue regeneration
Astha MalhortaAstha Malhotra, Ph. D. is a postdoctoral fellow in the College of Medicine. The HSIE Training Program will support her project that involves designing vascular models mimicking the natural architecture to study hypertension, thrombosis, and other vascular disorders.

There is an increasing global trend of hypertension and thrombosis, and one in four people is affected by either or both. These vascular disorders affect other major organs including the heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys. Drug development is challenging since the complete mechanistic studies are still elusive with lots of factors coming into play. Moreover, there is a lack of in vitro or controlled systems to study vascular disorders. This project will focus on designing a vascular model mimicking the natural architecture as an alternative to animal models to study these disorders. Other than the mechanistic studies, these models can be applied to evaluate cytotoxicity or for drug studies for new therapeutic targets.

Malhotra joined UAMS College of Medicine in 2019. Prior to this, Malhotra was a postdoctoral bioengineer in the Head and Neck Regeneration Center at Mayo Clinic. Malhotra completed her doctoral dissertation at University of Central Florida in Chemistry and worked on materials and polymer processing.

Melody Penning, Ph.D.

Mentor: Fred Prior, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Biomedical Informatics
Interests: Algorithms to predict adverse events
Melody Penning Melody Penning, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the College of Medicine. The HSIE Training Program will support her research in the detection and prevention of adverse events.
There are approximately 1 billion outpatient visits and 35 million hospitalizations in the U.S. each year. Harms or adverse events (AE) caused during these healthcare encounters are pervasive, have a significant impact on patient wellbeing, and occur at a staggering rate. One of every ten hospitalized patients develops a healthcare acquired condition, and twelve million outpatients experience a diagnostic error, which may result in harm, every year.
These events are typically tracked and quantified using incident reporting or retrospective surveillance with medical record review or claims data, although other methods are also available. None, however, captures all AEs. To ensure as many are detected as possible while at the same time, not overloading healthcare staff, automation has been introduced. Detecting AEs using rule-based algorithms makes automation possible, but this automation is only as good as the combination of the rules and the data they consume. Additionally, not all AE will be detectable using rules. Active errors occur at the point of contact between the patient and the healthcare system and are typically observable, whereas latent errors are process errors, where no single event is the source of the problem. AEs arising from active errors are more detectable than those arising from latent causes which are difficult to predict and therefore difficult to identify. Direct process observation or data mining are the best solutions to finding these types of situations. This research will develop improved adverse event detection methodologies for events arising from both active and latent errors.
Melody Penning joined the College of Medicine faculty in the Department of Biomedical Informatics in 2017. She received her doctorate in Integrated Computing with an Information Quality focus from the University of Arkansas at LR. This program is the result of a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the only one in the US. She is also certified in the Epic EHR data model. Prior to joining UAMS, Dr. Penning worked as a data scientist at an Arkansas startup technology company on record linkage for very large datasets.

Aaron Storey, Ph.D.

Mentor: Ricky Edmondson, PhD., Associate Professor of Myeloma Research
Interests: Mass spectrometry to identify bacteria in synovial fluid
Aaron storeyAaron Storey, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UAMS. The HSIE Training Program will support his research in using mass spectrometry to help identify pathogenic bacteria from pediatric septic arthritis clinical samples.
Pediatric septic arthritis is a rapid-onset bacterial infection of joint fluid in infants which can lead to irreversible joint destruction, organ failure, or death. Diagnosis and treatment of these cases must occur quickly and accurately to avoid long-term consequences from the infection. Because of the increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a reliable bacterial identification is needed to guide antibiotic selection. However, traditional culturing methods fail to identify the pathogenic species of pediatric septic arthritis in 20-50% of cases. This lack of growth delays treatment and increases the risk of long-term complications. These poor diagnostic markers, coupled with the narrow window of effective therapeutic intervention for septic arthritis, highlight the urgent need for the development of rapid, sensitive, and accurate techniques for bacterial identification of clinical samples. Aaron’s project will use targeted mass spectrometry to detect bacteria from infected synovial fluid without the need to culture the samples for bacterial growth. If successful, this technology will lead to improved bacterial detection rates for pediatric septic arthritis cases.
Aaron earned his bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Evansville in 2010, and completed his Ph.D. dissertation in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UAMS under the mentorship of Dr. Wahls in 2017.