Former Fellows

JOSHUA L. ANDERSEN, PhD in Cell Biology and Immunology, University of Utah, 2006
Project: In the Kornbluth lab I’m seeking to understand age-associated changes in the regulation of cell death, and the possible link between these changes and the pathogenesis of Alzheimers disease and cancer.

Recent Publications: Andersen et al., 2005; Andersen et al., 2006

In his own words: Prior to starting the research training program, my exposure to the field of aging research was limited to the relatively narrow scope of molecular biology. However, through weekly seminars I’ve been exposed to a wide range of topics concerning the field of aging and this has helped to broaden my focus as a scientist.

costello1MATTHEW C. COSTELLO, PhD in Developmental Psychology, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, 2006
Project: My research examines age-related differences among younger and older adults in selective attention. The primary behavioral measures are a series of tasks in which subjects must detect and localize changes to visual displays. Additionally, I am involved with a series of neuroimaging studies examining age group differences in cognition and attention, with functional neuroimaging and diffusion tensor imaging as central measures.

Links: Duke Cognitive Psychology Lab

Recent Publications: Coming soon!

In his own words: The Research Training Program has helped my professional development immensely. My training has been intense and extensive, and the thoughtful support I have received has proven invaluable. I strongly recommend the program to anyone thinking of starting up postdoctoral research in aging.

nancydennisNANCY A. DENNIS, Ph.D., The Catholic University of America, 2004
Project: My research focuses on the cognitive and neural mechanisms of memory and cognition in young and older adults. With respect to cognitive aging, my research concentrates on the examination of age related neural markers of cognitive decline, as well as mechanisms for neural compensation. My research combines behavioral, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and functional MRI (fMRI) approaches to explore the interaction of cognitive and neural processes in aging while focuses on the investigation of both episodic encoding and retrieval, as well as relational memory.

Links: Cabeza Lab, Cabeza Lab People

Recent Publications: See Cabeza Lab Publications, CV

In her own words: The RTP program has afforded me the opportunity to work directly with two of the top researchers in my field, Dr. Roberto Cabeza and Dr. Dave Madden. With their mentorship, I have completed 4 neuroimaging studies of my own and been fortunate enough to collaborate on over a half dozen more. These collaborations include working with researchers in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Institute for Genome Science and Policy, and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. My training has not only well prepared me for a career in my field, the Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging, but for work in the scientific research community in general.

JENNIFER R. DUNGAN, RN, PhD in Nursing Science with a Minor in Genetics from the University of Florida College of Nursing, 2006
Project (Project Mentor: William Kraus, MD): I have focused my training on two aspects of aging and genetics of cardiovascular disease: The first part of my project extends my dissertation work. It explores gene expression signatures of aging in cardiovascular disease using microarray. I am examining blood-based RNA from subjects in the Duke CATHGEN study of coronary heart disease to explore the effect of age on transcription profiles in people with a narrow burden of cardiovascular disease. This is an unbiased search for candidate genes that may help to explain some of the genetic contribution to aging in the context of heart disease. Second, I am focused on the genetic epidemiology of coronary artery disease and the phenomena of survivorship (survival in the context of having a chronic disease). Using a family-based database of early onset coronary artery disease (Duke GENECARD, PI: Elizabeth Hauser, PhD) and a population-based database of people who undergo cardiac catheterization (Duke CATHeterization GENetics/CATHGEN, PI: William Kraus, MD), I am exploring survival and survivorship in order to establish a proof of principle for the genetic contribution of this phenotype to heart disease. Through this project, I am also establishing a foundation in the study of temporal (time related) variables and their effect on gene association studies, so that we may better understand their impact on our analyses and appropriately control for their effects.

Links: Duke Center for Human Genetics, Duke CATHGEN Study, Duke GENECARD Study

In her own words: The Duke Aging RTP has provided me with a strong foundation in aging focused research, allowing me the flexibility to explore my own area of interest (survivorship in coronary heart disease) while also engaging me in the important age-related research taking place at Duke and beyond. It has given me the opportunity to expand my level of expertise and research skills and present my research at such meetings as the American Society of Human Genetics and the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science, to name a few. Overall, Duke University is a unique atmosphere that offers tremendous resources for training, career development, and even peer socialization. The Duke Aging Center has a long-standing tradition of excellence and accomplishment, but without a precocious atmosphere. I feel this program has strengthened my foundation in aging research, made me a more well-rounded researcher, provided extraordinary networking opportunities, and prepared me for a smooth transition into independent academic research.

IRA J. SMITH
Project: Diabetes and its precursor, metabolic syndrome, are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Metabolic syndrome – the clustering of CVD risk factors – is a particularly powerful precursor to CVD. The prevalence of each of these conditions increases with age and are the cause of significant disease burden and disability in elderly populations. The development of countermeasures for metabolic syndrome in middle aged populations has the potential to have dramatic implications for the disability of elderly Americans by preventing, delaying or mollifying the development of disease in the elderly. Understanding the mechanisms whereby lifestyle interventions, such as exercise, mediate beneficial effects can lead to the design of better and more effective strategies to prevent disease and modify quality of life in the elderly. While physical activity has been observed to improve insulin sensitivity in individuals with the metabolic syndrome, the molecular mechanisms responsible for these benefits have yet to be elucidated. The goal of my project was to determine the effects of long-term endurance exercise training on the insulin-signaling cascade in middle-aged patients with the metabolic syndrome with the goal of understanding the development of disease in aging individuals.

Links: Faculty, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine

Recent Publications: Smith and Dodd, 2006

In his own words: The Research Training Program in Aging exposed me to different research disciplines and provided me with an appreciation for multidisciplinary research in aging. Topics covered during the weekly seminars were stimulating and informative, both on a professional level and a personal level.

Participation in the program also provided the opportunity for professional development. For instance, preparing the “mini-R01” grant proposal to gain acceptance into the program improved my writing skills and the experience of developing the proposal will be helpful when I write an actual R-01. In addition, Duke offers numerous opportunities for professional development through seminars (lasting from a couple of hours to 3 days), programs and other resources. Seminars cover topics such as: improving scientific writing, developing an R-01, and how to manage a lab.

solimeoSAMANTHA SOLIMEO, Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Iowa, 2005; MPH in Gerontological Public Health, University of Iowa, 2002
Project – A Qualitative Study of the Older Male Experience of Osteoporosis (Postdoctoral Supervisor/ Mentor: Deborah T. Gold, PHD): This study will examine the self-reported experiences of community-dwelling men aged 50 and older with osteoporosis to improve our understanding of their social experience. In addition, the study will contribute to existing efforts to evaluate the reliability and validity of a recently developed measure of disease-related quality of life for male osteoporosis patients, the Male OPAQ. These aims will contribute to the larger goals of increasing knowledge about male osteoporosis patients, producing new information pertaining to male osteoporosis diagnosis and treatment, and developing a standardized instrument to measure disease-related quality of life among older men with osteoporosis.

In her own words: The Postdoctoral Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to build upon my doctoral research by broadening my knowledge of how age and gender influence the experience of other chronic disorders in later life. It has provided me with the flexibility to translate my dissertation findings into published manuscripts. The fellowship has given me the institutional support to participate in professional organizations through committee work and scholarly presentations at the meetings of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Anthropological Association, as well as Editor of Anthropology & Aging Quarterly. The weekly seminars have introduced me to new areas of gerontological inquiry as well as to scholars from other disciplines who share similar research interests. Overall, the fellowship has been an important and productive experience, effectively bridging graduate school to an academic position.