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King College’s neuroscience program, part of the Biology department in King’s School
of Arts Sciences, has gained significant recognition for research in the field of
This summer, Dr. Celia Dodd, assistant professor of Biology at Fort Valley State University,
and two of her students, junior James Hernandez and senior Governor Henderson, spent
time at King College conducting research in toxicology alongside King senior Isaac
Snapp and Rekek Negga, a 2009 alumna and lab manager for Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis, chair
of King’s Biology department.
“The collaboration began with a recommendation from Celia’s postdoctoral advisor,”
said Dr. Fitsanakis. “When Celia completed her postdoctoral work about a year ago
and accepted a professorship at Fort Valley State University, she expressed interest
in learning the intricacies of how a small college the size of King manages a toxicology
research program. It became evident that Celia needed to visit King and see our research
in progress rather than simply discuss it through an exchange of emails.”
In January of this year, Dr. Fitsanakis was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). It is one of the largest grants
in the College’s history and will be distributed over the course of three years. The
grant, which was secured through a rigorous national competitive process with a funding
success rate of only 8.5%, represents a major milestone in scientific research at
King. The grant, entitled “Role of Oxidative Stress and Protein Transporters in Glyphosate
and Mancozeb Neurotoxicity”, focuses on the potential ability for widely used pesticides
to cause oxidative stress.
The NIEHS funding enables undergraduate students in the health sciences, predominantly
biology and neuroscience, to engage in hands-on original research that is usually
only available to students of large metropolitan universities.
“This summer, I invited Celia, along with two of her students, who would be performing
the research at Fort Valley, to spend a week here at King to learn about our program,”
said Fitsanakis. “They were in the lab 8 to 10 hours a day for three and a half days.
At the end of the week, we were able to provide them with worms, called C. elegans, which they could use, along with a copy of our lab protocols. The experience will
help Dr. Dodd as she works towards establishing a research program at FVSU.”
“We are grateful for the opportunity to observe the research program at King College,”
said Dr. Dodd. “Research we will be conducting will examine how chemicals in flame
retardant materials affect developing nervous systems. Although we are a larger institution
than King, we are small in comparison to other colleges and universities that typically
While the FVSU students were in the lab absorbing as much information as possible
and gaining practical experience, Dr. Fitsanakis provided additional guidance to Dr.
Dodd concerning the grant writing process for applying for funding through NIEHS.
“In addition to our work at King being recognized, I have been recognized within the
Society of Toxicology, particularly within the Neurotoxicology Specialty Section,
as a kind of an oddity in the field because I am performing research at a small institution
that receives little scientific research funding. When my colleagues in the field
have graduate students or postdoctoral fellows who want to perform the type of research
I am doing in a similar environment, they are now referring their students or fellows
to me for mentoring, much like what happened with Dr. Dodd.
“The work we are doing is a key portion, but it is not so much that others want to
emulate the work specifically, but rather the model for which we have been so successful,
and successful in an atypical collegiate setting that has not been historically known
for research,” continued Dr. Fitsanakis.
“Originally, I was thinking about working as a nurse or going into medicine,” said
Henderson. “I never thought of research at all as a career. It’s now one of my options.
The summer experience has opened up new avenues to career paths for me.”
“We are excited to see how Fort Valley’s research program progresses and look forward
to collaborating with them in the future,” stated Dr. Fitsanakis.
King College is a Presbyterian, master’s-level comprehensive college structured on
a university model. King offers more than 90 majors, minors and pre-professional
degrees and concentration in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health
sciences, pharmacy, digital media, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are
offered in business administration, education, and nursing. For more information visit
www.king.edu, call 800.362.0014, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.