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April 25, 2007

Chemistry professor wins $300,000 Beckman Young Investigators Award

Garegin Papoian, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry at UNC, has won a $300,000 Beckman Young Investigators Award.

The national award, given to 16 recipients by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation of Irvine, Calif., supports the research of promising young faculty members in the early stages of their careers in the chemical and life sciences.

Papoian will receive $300,000 over three years in support of his study of the physical properties of chromatin, the complex of DNA and protein found inside the nuclei of cells.

One of the functions of chromatin is to package DNA into a smaller volume to fit in the cell. The major proteins involved in chromatin are called histone proteins. They act as spools around which DNA winds, and they play a role in gene regulation. The exact mechanisms of chromatin formation and dynamics are not fully understood, but misregulation of chromatin may result in human genetic diseases and cancer.

Papoian, who has been at UNC since 2004, is the previous winner of numerous awards, including a Camille and Henry Drefyus New Faculty Award and an R.J. Reynolds Excellence Junior Faculty Development Award.

He received a doctorate from Cornell University, where he won the Wentink Prize, given to outstanding graduate students. He received a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health.

For more information on the Beckman Foundation, visit


School of Pharmacy student wins research excellence award

Raed Khashan, a doctoral student in the UNC School of Pharmacy, has won an award from the American Chemical Society’s Division of Computers in Chemistry for his research.

Khashan is one of five recipients for the Chemical Computing Group Excellence Award. He will receive $1,150 and a copy of the group’s Molecular Operating Environment software with a one-year license. The winners will present their work at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Boston on Aug. 21. Khashan is the fourth student from the School to receive the award.

Khashan’s research focuses on computer-assisted drug discovery. To develop an effective drug, researchers need to find molecules that fit precisely in the active sites of the target proteins. A key to that process is having a computational method that can accurately score the most promising drug candidates and identify them from large libraries of chemicals. Khashan has  developed a novel scoring method that significantly outperforms current commercial software, said Alex Tropsha, Ph.D., Khashan’s research adviser and a professor in the School of Pharmacy.


Pisano receives Making a Difference for Women Award
Dr. Etta Pisano of the UNC School of Medicine has received the 2007 Making a Difference for Women Award from Soroptimist International of Raleigh.

The award honors Pisano’s pioneering research showing that digital mammograms are as reliable as film mammograms and are better at finding breast cancer in young women and those with dense breast tissue. Digital screening allows radiologists to adjust contrast and to zoom in on suspicious areas, which requires less radiation than film and allows files to easily be sent to another doctor for a second opinion.

Pisano is vice dean of the School of Medicine and Kenan professor of radiology and biomedical engineering. She is also director of the Biomedical Research Imaging Center at the university and a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
To determine the effectiveness of digital screening, Pisano launched a $26 million study in 2001 called the Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial. Pisano said she started preparing large-scale studies to improve cancer care at age 15, when her mother died of a brain tumor.
In August 2006, Pisano received the Health Breakthrough award, given by Ladies’ Home Journal magazine, in honor of her work on the 2001 study.


Nursing professor Barksdale named fellow

Debra J. Barksdale, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at UNC, has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Prior to joining the university, Barksdale worked in urgent care, primary care and home health care. Her research focuses on stress and cardiovascular disease in black Americans.

Barksdale will be formally inducted as a fellow on June 20 at the academy’s national conference in Indianapolis, Ind.

The academy established the fellows program in 2000 to recognize nurse practitioner leaders who have made outstanding contributions to health care through clinical practice, research, education or policy.

Note: Barksdale can be reached at (919) 843-2479 or For a photo of Barksdale, click on

Minsley receives Hunt Award for teaching excellence

Dr. Glenn Minsley has received the UNC School of Dentistry’s 2007 Richard F. Hunt Memorial Award for Excellence in Predoctoral Teaching.

The Hunt Award is the most prestigious teaching award given at the School of Dentistry. Recipients are nominated and selected entirely by students. The award was established almost four decades ago with gifts from the Loblolly Study Club to the Dental Foundation of North Carolina. It honors the memory of Dr. Richard F. Hunt, a member of the doctor of dental surgery class of 1955, who died in 1968.

Minsley, who joined the School of Dentistry in 1982, directs the preclinical complete denture course. He is an associate professor in the prosthodontics department and director of the Maxillofacial Prosthetics Division. He is the chief of the Division of Maxillofacial Prosthetics at UNC Hospitals and a practicing prosthodontist.


Historian wins Slavic studies award for his work on Russia

UNC historian Donald J. Raleigh, Ph.D., has won an award from the nation’s oldest and largest regional Slavic studies organization for his work on Russia.

Raleigh, the Jay Richard Judson Distinguished Professor of History, recently received the Southern Conference on Slavic Studies Senior Scholar Award, given for a career of distinguished scholarship. The conference is the most active affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

Raleigh has written, translated or edited more than a dozen books on Russia, and he has visited the former Soviet Union and modern-day Russia 31 times. His books include “Russia’s Sputnik Generation” (Indiana University Press, 2006) and “Experiencing Russia’s Civil War” (Princeton University Press, 2002).

In “Russia’s Sputnik Generation,” Raleigh features interviews with eight Russian baby boomers about their lives. All were first-graders in 1957, the year the Soviet Union launched its first Sputnik satellite. Reaching middle age during the Gorbachev Revolution, they experienced the transition from communism to a Russian-style market economy. The book is a spin-off of a more in-depth book Raleigh is writing, for which he received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

At UNC since 1988, Raleigh teaches modern Russian and Soviet history in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences.

‘Sputnik’ news release:

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School of Pharmacy contact: David Etchison, (919) 966-7744,
School of Medicine contact: Stephanie Crayton, (919) 966-2860,
School of Nursing contact: Amanda P. Meyers, (919) 966-4619,
School of Dentistry contact: Deb Saine, (919) 966-2731, 
College of Arts and Sciences contact: Kim Spurr, (919) 962-4093,