Ghose Lab undergrad receives NIH funding for summer research

Nathan Rather working on project involving gene's role in cell death process

Wednesday, Jul 12, 2023 • Greg Pederson :

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Nathan Rather, UTA undergraduate student in biology

An undergraduate student in biology at The University of Texas at Arlington has received a national grant to fund his summer research project to investigate the processes that lead to cell death.

Nathan Rather is a junior who works in the lab of Piya Ghose, UTA assistant professor of biology. Rather earned an award from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a supplement to Ghose’s NIH Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award (MIRA)/Outstanding Investigator Award. 

The program provides funds to support undergraduate students who are considering pursuing biomedical research careers by providing research experiences in cutting-edge scientific environments during the summer.

“When I heard that we had received the grant I was excited. I’m very thankful that our project was selected, Rather said.

“It is very exciting to see Nathan receiving this terrific source of support from the NIH,” Ghose said. “Nathan had the foresight to seek out research opportunities right from his freshmen year and is fast developing into a very promising scientist, as evidenced from his sincerity, dedication and keen interest in his work and the overall mission of the Ghose lab.”

Ghose’s lab studies programmed death and clearance of cells of complex structure in living animals, utilizing the C. elegans, a roundworm, in much of its research. Rather’s project focuses on understanding how one compartment of the cell studied by the lab dies and is eliminated.

“The lab as a whole is interested in cell death, and we study this phenomenon in the C. elegans tail-spike cell,” Rather said. “My work looks at the soma of the tail-spike cell and seeks to identify the genes that are responsible for its death and the subsequent elimination of its corpse.” A soma is a cell body of a neuron which contains the nucleus and other structures.

The lab studies tail-spike cell death with the hope of learning more about the cell biology and genetics behind neurodegeneration, cancer and basic developmental cell death, Ghose said.

Last fall, Rather started working to identify a particular gene that is involved in the cell death process that Ghose’s lab studies. 

“Now, this new project seeks to characterize how this gene works in the cell death process, and how it differs from other known regulators,” he said. “It’s a very interesting core cell biology project.”

Rather knew from the beginning of his college career that he wanted to get involved in research. It’s one of the main reasons he came to UTA, he said. His father completed his graduate studies in English at UTA, and Rather spent the first 12 year of his life in the Arlington and Mansfield area, so he already knew about the University and what it had to offer.

“For me, one of the big draws about UTA was its reputation as a research institution,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to participate in research as an undergraduate, and UTA seemed like a perfect fit for that. UTA is especially unique in that it provides opportunities for research and other undergraduate activities to all of its students.”

In his first semester as a freshman, Rather attended a College of Science undergraduate research information session and met Ghose. 

“Piya shared a little bit about what she works on, and how undergraduates are a part of her work,” Rather said. “At the event she strongly encouraged undergraduates to engage in research. After she spoke, I talked with her for a bit, and she invited me to swing by the lab and see first-hand what it is she does. And so, I came by and was really interested in the work that her lab does.”

Rather joined the lab and spent the winter break learning how to handle the worms and other daily tasks in the lab. He followed by helping a post-baccalaureate student with their project, which included helping to generate and maintain C. elegans strains. Now, he’s working on a project all his own.

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Rather plans to pursue a Ph.D. in cell biology.

“I am confident Nathan will have much success and will make many exciting discoveries as his career advances,” Ghose said. “We look forward to seeing more of the wonderful talent here at UTA get both research opportunities and recognition for their work.”


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