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University of Wisconsin-Madison

Winston-McPherson named 2015 UNCF-Merck Graduate Science Research Fellow

Gabrielle Winston-McPherson, SciMed GRS Fellow and Research Assistant in the lab of Weiping Tang, Pharmaceutical Sciences Division, has been selected to participate in the United Negro College Fund, Inc. (UNCF) and the Merck Company Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

The United Negro College Fund/Merck Science Initiative (UMSI) brings together UNCF, The Merck Company Foundation and Merck Global Diversity Inclusion to offer 37 annual awards to outstanding African American students and postdoctoral researchers. In addition to funds for tuition, room and board and fees, there’s also institutional support through grants to the science departments of award recipients and research grants.

Recipients enhance their career with hands-on research training, mentoring relationships, networking and career advancement through the Association of UNCF/Merck Fellows. African Americans hold less than three percent of PhDs in biology, chemistry and engineering today. Opportunities created by UMSI aim to increase the numbers of minority students in sciences and engineering. To date more than 650 students and scholars have found support, knowledge, careers and advancement.

Winston-McPherson’s lab has identified that some of our original compounds can inhibit the secretion of Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin 9 (PCSK9). It has been established that when PCSK9 secretion is blocked the result is reduced LDL-Cholesterol levels. Winston-McPherson is interested in identifying how exactly these compounds work as well as improving their activity. Her research involves making novel small molecules employing synthetic methods developed in my laboratory. Once the compounds are created, she can:

  1. Study the structure activity relationship (SAR) of these compounds to determine the effects of specific modifications on the molecule’s potency, specificity, stability etc.
  2. Attempt to discover the mode of action of these compounds utilizing chemical genomics and biochemical assays.

Winston-McPherson will attend the UMSI Program Orientation in mid-June. Award recipients at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels will have an opportunity to meet and will be formally recognized for their achievements. All Fellows will attend a Fall Symposium.