January 30, 2022

Professors Rupal Gupta and Shana Elbaum-Garfinkle (Photo credit for Elbaum-Garfinkle image: Rachel Ramirez)

By Lida Tunesi

Out of four total recipients, two Graduate Center professors were chosen to receive CUNY Junior Faculty Research Awards in Science and Engineering for 2021. Professors Rupal Gupta (GC/College of Staten Island, Biochemistry) and Shana Elbaum-Garfinkle (Biochemistry), who is also a member of the Structural Biology Initiative at the Advanced Science Research Center at the Graduate Center, will each receive $50,000 to advance their research on infection and inflammation, and on phase separation of biomolecules.

The awards aim to enhance professors’ research programs and accelerate their ability to attract external support by doing so.

The funding will support graduate students in both Gupta’s and Elbaum-Garfinkle’s labs, and both professors are seeking new, ambitious students and staff to join their groups.

Gupta studies the way the human body fights infection and initiates inflammation. Using both laboratory and computational methods, she looks at the biology and chemistry of what pathogens do and how cells respond. While Gupta’s research does not involve therapeutics, her insights on how different parts of the immune system work together could inform future drug development.

“We’ve been working on this project for three years,” Gupta said. “Our recent results have identified several previously unknown properties of human antimicrobial proteins but we do not have a complete mechanistic understanding of our bodies’ responses during infection. We are working towards this goal.”

Elbaum-Garfinkle’s award will support her research on liquid phase separation, the process by which molecules assemble into granules or condensates with liquid-like properties. The study of phase separation is transforming the field of cell biology, Elbaum-Garfinkle said, and condensates have been implicated in several diseases, including cancer, COVID-19, and Alzheimer’s disease. Her lab has been studying phase separation since opening in 2017, and they plan to continue the work in relation to disease as well as the engineering of novel bio-inspired liquid materials.

“Our next goal is to leverage these approaches,” Elbaum-Garfinkle said, “to identify novel therapeutic targets and intervention strategies for Alzheimer’s and related neurodegenerative diseases.”

Delve Deeper

Learn more about Elbaum Garfinkle’s research and its potential impact on Alzheimer’s disease. Also, check out her CUNY credentials. 

Published by the Office of Communications and Marketing.