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Graduate Student’s Cancer Research Takes Top Prize in Innovation Challenge

Shuang Zhou’s impressive aim is to find a cure for childhood cancer. The NDSU graduate student in pharmaceutical sciences is clearly making progress toward that noble goal.

Zhou led a research team called “NewCure” that won a $5,000 first place and $1,000 People’s Choice Award at the NDSU Innovation Challenge ’14, a competition that showcases NDSU students’ creativity in developing progressive products and services.

“The reason I’m so interested in this kind of cancer is the high incidence. Every three minutes, there will be one child in the world diagnosed with cancer,” said Zhou, who is from Chifeng, China. “It’s really sad.”

Zhou, who is advised by Erxi Wu, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, is developing a new therapeutic agent for neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that most commonly affects children and infants, and medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer.

The therapy uses a common antibiotic for animals that has emerged as a promising cancer-fighting compound. Salinomycin is a “smart” drug that targets cancer stem cells.

According to Zhou, many young patients don’t respond to current therapies, while others suffer lifelong side effects like heart or lung damage and hair loss.

“I really want to solve these kinds of problems, and provide a new therapy, drug or treatment that can be used in clinical settings. I want to see that one day it is used in a clinic,” said Zhou, who is now developing a pre-clinical study based on the research. The team has recruited two medical doctors from China to help with that work.

Zhou is quick to point out that her innovative research resulted from Wu’s mentorship and the efforts of the other members in Wu’s lab.

“It takes a lot of time,” she said of the research. “But, if you find something new and exciting, it’s all worth it.”

In addition to the NDSU awards, Zhou traveled to San Diego in April to accept a Young Investigator Award from the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Her research also was presented in the Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

In the meantime, Zhou continues her important work. Other universities have made phone calls and sent her emails, seeking to form research collaborations.

“Our research results are very good. We now have a clearer picture of the mechanism of the drug, how it actually interacts with its targets. We have just submitted a new manuscript which contains our findings to a leading journal,” she said.

And with the progress, comes the personal satisfaction of a job well done. “When people like your research and value and appreciate it, the feeling is so good,” Zhou said.

MPH Program Creates Center to Focus on American Indian Health

A new NDSU center has begun important work to address inequalities in American Indian health. The American Indian Public Health Resource Center is part of NDSU’s Master of Public Health program, the only program in the country with an American Indian specialization. 

The center’s noteworthy goal is to improve the health and mortality rates among American Indians. 

“The American Indian population in the Northern Plains has some of the worst health disparities in the nation,” said Donald Warne, director of the Master of Public Health program and the new center. “Most of these health disparities are preventable, so the role of public health is essential.” 

According to Warne, American Indians have twice the prevalence of diabetes and nearly six times the mortality rate from the disease. In North Dakota, average age at death is 75.7 years for the general population and 54.7 years for American Indians. 

Center staff members came on board Aug. 1, and quickly began work on public health initiatives in the areas of services and programming, research, education and policy. 

“We hit the ground running, and it seems like the stars are aligning for us,” said Melanie Nadeau, center operational director and assistant professor of practice, noting the seven-member staff and three graduate student research assistants will emphasize teamwork and synergy. “It’s really exciting. We have staff from across the United States, and we all have different areas of expertise.” 

For example, policy project manager Anita Brock is working on a North Dakota system so Medicaid can be billable for public health workers. Services and programming project manager Hannabah Blue has joined a Collaborative Innovative Network program, known as COIN, to engage tribes in reducing infant mortality rates. Education project manager Vanessa Tibbitts is working on a tremendous need in Indian Country to expand the American Indian Public Health Workforce. A top priority for her is to engage with tribal colleges to develop public health training programs at the undergraduate level and to build bridge programs to the Master of Public Health and to the American Indian Public Health Graduate Certificate Program. Research project manager Dereck Stonefish is compiling a research agenda with the input of tribal leaders across the state. 

“Our center is the first of its kind in the nation,” Nadeau explained, noting a committee of representatives from each of the four North Dakota tribes and the National Indian Health Board will advise the center. “We want to work with the tribes, addressing issues that will help close the health disparities gap. If we work together as a community, we can change what is going on.” 

Nadeau said the center’s five-year goal is to develop strong relationships with all tribes in North Dakota. The 10-year plan is to expand to assist tribes throughout the region. Eventually, the hope is to be recognized as a national resource center. “By improving the health of American Indians, we improve the overall health status of all members of society,” she said. 

The center is funded through a three-year grant of more than $1.4 million from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund provided a match of more than $720,000.

Start of the Semester Reminders

As you begin this new semester, the Graduate School team would like to remind you about specific policies, programs and upcoming deadlines. Please review the information and links below to help you plan accordingly: 

  1. Continuous enrollment: All students are required to register for at least one credit each semester (fall and spring) until all degree requirements are completed, including final approval of your thesis, paper, or dissertation.
  2. Follow the Graduate School on Facebook and Twitter for news, reminders and events for graduate students.
  3. The Counseling Center offers a Graduate Student Support Group Friday afternoons. 
  4. The Graduate School offers professional and career development programming throughout the semester. Upcoming events will be posted on our website. 
  5. If you plan to complete your degree requirements this spring, keep in mind the following:
    • Complete the Intent to Graduate form.
    • Final examinations: Submit the Request to Schedule Examination form to the Graduate School at least two (2) weeks prior to the examination. Late forms will not be accepted. The Report of Examination must be filed with the Graduate School within seven (7) days after the exam.
    • Disquisition deadline: If you intend to graduate this semester, you must submit your paper, thesis, or dissertation to the Graduate School by April 17 and complete all required revisions by May 15. Disquisitions that are submitted after April 17 will likely not be reviewed until the next semester.

If you have any questions, please contact the Graduate School in 106 Putnam Hall, call us at (701)231-7033, or email us at

If you were not able to attend the new student orientation and would like to receive a packet of new student materials, please visit the Graduate School office.

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NDSU Graduate School
Phone: +1 (701) 231-7033
Campus address:  106 Putnam Hall
Physical/delivery address:  NDSU Graduate School/106 Putnam Hall/1349 12th Avenue Northwest/Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address:  NDSU Dept. 2820/PO Box 6050/Fargo, ND 58108
Page manager: NDSU Graduate School

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 9:31:08 AM