UTA junior receives NIH funding for summer research

Undergraduate researcher in the Ghose Lab examines gene’s role in cell death process

Friday, Aug 04, 2023 • Katherine Egan Bennett : Contact

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A junior biology major at The University of Texas at Arlington has received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to fund his summer research project investigating the processes that lead to cell death.

Nathan Rather, who works in the Ghose Lab under the leadership of Piya Ghose, assistant professor of biology, earned the award from the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The grant is a supplement to Ghose’s NIH Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award/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.

Rather said he was excited and thankful for the award.

“It is very exciting to see Nathan receiving this terrific source of support from the NIH,” Ghose said. “He had the foresight to seek out research opportunities right from his freshman 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 and her research team study programmed death and clearance of cells of complex structure in living animals, utilizing the C. elegans, a roundworm. Rather’s project focuses on understanding how one compartment of the cell 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 that contains the nucleus and other structures. The lab studies tail-spike cell death with the hope of learning more about cell biology and the genetics behind neurodegeneration, cancer and basic developmental cell death, Ghose said.

“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 years 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 rare in that it provides opportunities for undergraduate research to all of its students.”

In his first semester, Rather attended a College of Science undergraduate research information session and met Ghose. She invited him to visit her lab and learn more about her work.

“Dr. Ghose 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.”

-Written by Greg Pederson, College of Science