Two LSU Alumni Selected to NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program

05/06/2016

Stewart Humble

Stewart Humble

BATON ROUGE – Two recent LSU graduates – Stewart Humble, a native of Egan, La., and Zachary Fitzpatrick, a native of Holden, La. – have been selected to the National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program. Humble and Fitzpatrick are the first from LSU to be selected for this prestigious international research program.

“We are extremely proud of Stewart and Zachary for being selected as LSU’s first NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars,” LSU President F. King Alexander said. “This prestigious award is a testament to their hard work, dedication, and talent, as well as the exceptional undergraduate research opportunities LSU offers. We look forward to watching their careers going forward and know that their work will lead the way to game-changing discoveries.”

The NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program is an accelerated, individualized doctoral training program for outstanding science students committed to biomedical research careers. The program is based on the British system, in which students perform doctoral research without required formal courses other than those, which students choose to take, in relationship to their own interests.

“I’m delighted that Stewart and Zach will continue the path-breaking research they began at LSU through the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars program. This international recognition is a huge honor for them, and for the Ogden Honors College,” said Ogden Honors College Dean Jonathan Earle.

Since 2001, more than 200 individuals pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical research have taken advantage of the unique opportunities provided by the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program. This program offers access to mentors and resources from three collaborating institutions: the National Institutes of Health, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. The requirement of having at least two mentors from two of these institutions has allowed students to develop the skills needed to build virtual research teams and leverage collaborative technologies in the pursuit of bold new ideas and solutions. Efforts to differentiate from traditional biomedical training programs have allowed the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars to enjoy intellectual freedom and flexibility, which has led to increased innovation and collaboration.

Zachary Fitzpatrick

Zachary Fitzpatrick

“I am very proud that our graduates are the first from LSU to be selected for this prominent international research program. Stewart and Zachary have amassed an impressive body of research work and are positioned to make important contributions to biomedicine. I look forward to seeing what other trails they will blaze in the future,” said LSU College of Science Dean Cynthia Peterson.

Humble graduated from the College of Science in May 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a minor in chemistry and earned a university medal, the university’s highest academic honor. A member of the Ogden Honors College, he graduated summa cum laude with College Honors, Upper Division Honors Distinction, and was recognized as a Distinguished Communicator. Humble, a Rhodes Scholarship finalist in fall 2012, is currently attending medical school at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans.

“I’m so proud to be a graduate of Louisiana State University, and plan to take my place in the NIH OxCam program with the ‘Tiger Inside,’ so-to-speak, that I had during my time in Baton Rouge and New Orleans,” Humble said. “I’m hoping to pursue new and interesting investigations at the NIH and the University of Oxford in fields of sensory biology and neuroscience that can combine some of my past experience with my current interests in molecular biology, gene therapy, drug delivery, surgery and neurobiology.”

As a senior at LSU, Humble was selected to the LSU Tiger Twelve, one of 12 seniors who contributed positively to the life of the campus and surrounding community, for his service work at LSU and abroad in South Africa through the Honors College. He also received the Leo and Insa Abraham Award, granted to two outstanding Honors College seniors each year. He was named Honors College Outstanding freshman, sophomore, junior and senior during each of his four years at LSU.

Humble’s undergraduate work at LSU attempted to combat cancer by analyzing specific porphyrin molecules that naturally accumulate within malignant tissues. His Upper Division Honors thesis explored the development of novel photosensitizers for applications in photodynamic therapy, or PDT cancer treatments. PDT is a method for cancer treatment that uses a photosensitizer and visible light to produce reactive oxygen species that will destroy malignant cells. The technique is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, and may also be repeated or used with other therapies, such as radiation or chemotherapy.

After graduating from LSU, Humble joined the Minatec Summer Program, which represents a partnership between LSU and Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble and Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France. The purpose of this exchange was to work exclusively with Grenoble INP’s International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, or iGEM, team, where teams from around the world compete to design, develop and test novel devices and new research in the field of synthetic biology.

Following his iGEM experience, he pursued a second internship in Grenoble with the Néel Institiute, Laboratoire de Génie Electrique de Grenoble and Laboratoire des Matériaux et du Génie Physique. The main goal of his project there was to utilize micro-magnetic flux sources for protein capture and detection. The production of micro-flux sources provides novel approaches to biological assays by simplifying and optimizing existing methodologies. By combining biological and material sciences research with immunological methods and physical processes, researchers expect to streamline the current approach to clinically relevant applications such as viral recognition, disease detection or other medical diagnoses. 

These experiences, along with his work at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, made Humble realize that pursuing a path that combines both research and medicine was his true purpose.

“Pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. through the NIH OxCam program would allow me to gain expertise in both the basic sciences and clinical medicine, offering me the opportunity to enhance my experiences serving local communities and combating local and global health issues such as inherited genetic and neurological disorders, as well as HIV/AIDS and its related neuropathology,” Humble said.

Fitzpatrick graduated from the College of Science in May 2015 with a degree in biochemistry, with minors in political science and chemistry. He was a member of the Ogden Honors College and graduated with College Honors. He was also a LaSTEM Research Scholar and LSU-HHMI Undergraduate Research Fellow. While at LSU, Fitzpatrick received the Gates Cambridge Scholarship and a Fulbright Fellowship. He was recognized by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship competition with an honorable mention in both 2012 and 2013, and was also a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the NIH Ox-Cam family,” Fitzpatrick said. “This program cultivates collaborative, interdisciplinary work, a scheme that is particularly fruitful in exploring rare diseases. As a global force in the biomedical domain, the NIH campus hosts a number of rare disease initiatives and technology platforms which will serve as a foundation for my doctoral work at Cambridge.”

During his Fulbright fellowship, Fitzpatrick has been pursuing an immunology master’s degree at Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He is exploring various immune-related and infectious diseases and the cellular machinery that supports a healthy or aberrant immune response. Immunology serves as a critical discipline in his pursuit of investigating rare genetic disorders. Better defining how one’s immune system may respond to a potentially life-saving therapeutic – and how to alter that response – is an essential objective in moving more therapies to the clinic.

Focusing on liver-directed gene therapy, Fitzpatrick is working with Federico Mingozzi at Genethon, a non-profit research institute focused on the development of therapeutic gene transfer technologies for rare disease indications. This group is dedicated to bringing a gene therapy product for Crigler-Najjar syndrome to the clinic, in addition to other therapeutics indicated for various inborn errors of metabolism. With a team of immunologists, Fitzpatrick’s work is to explore the immunogenicity of the viral vectors we employ for gene therapy prospects. 

“Throughout the duration of my studies in Paris, I have worked closely with patients’ advocates who represent various rare disease organizations and with public policy experts at the European Rare Diseases Organization,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is all in an effort to highlight hardships faced by the rare diseases community across Europe, and to foster a better healthcare environment for these families.”

For more information on the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program, visit http://oxcam.gpp.nih.gov.

The Ogden Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising assists students in applying for prestigious undergraduate and post-graduate fellowships and scholarships. For more information about fellowship advising resources, or to schedule an appointment, contact fellowships@lsu.edu.

LSU College of Science
The LSU College of Science is an international leader in scientific research and instruction, elevating LSU to the highest level of excellence among major research universities in the U.S. and abroad. The college consists of five academic departments including biological sciences, chemistry, geology & geophysics, mathematics, and physics & astronomy, and the LSU Museum of Natural Science. Seven major fields of study and more than 20 concentrations are available to LSU students interested in pursuing a science major at LSU. College of Science students make up nearly half of LSU’s top graduates. For more information on LSU’s College of Science, visit science.lsu.edu.

LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College
The Ogden Honors College, established in 1992, is a vibrant, diverse and prestigious community located at the heart of LSU. The Honors College typically admits the top 10 percent of incoming LSU freshmen, and provides students with a curriculum of rigorous seminar classes, as well as opportunities for undergraduate research, culminating in the Honors Thesis. Its focus on community service, study abroad, internships and independent research helps today’s high-achieving students become tomorrow’s leaders. 

 

 

Contact Ernie Ballard
LSU Media Relations
225-578-5685
eballa1@lsu.edu