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Two Holy Cross Faculty Members Receive Grants from the National Institutes of Health

Among other things, the money will help both Michelle Mondoux and Julia Paxson fund student research opportunities in their respective labs
December 18th, 2019 by 

Julia Paxson teaches in a lab and Michelle Mondoux teaches in a classroom
Julia Paxson (left) and Michelle Mondoux. Photos by Tom Rettig

Two College of the Holy Cross faculty members have recently been awarded over $300,000 each in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Michelle Mondoux and Julia Paxson, both associate professors of biology, received grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for $322,200 and the National Institute on Aging for $391,000, respectively, to continue the research they’ve been conducting at the College.

Mondoux has been studying the effects of sugar consumption at the cellular and molecular level. Her lab uses an organism called Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) — a microscopic worm — as a model to understand the cellular effects of a high-glucose diet, and which genes and pathways are involved in the response to glucose.

“The cells we have chosen to study are the eggs and sperm of the reproductive system. Like humans, C. elegans have reduced fertility on a high-glucose diet,” says Mondoux. “Given the high rates of sugar consumption and the fact that infertility affects an estimated 15% of those trying to conceive, it’s critical that we understand how cells might respond to high levels of glucose in order to identify potential strategies that might help protect and maintain the survival and quality of eggs and sperm.”

Paxson focuses her research on how the functions of stem cells in the adult body change with age. The NIH grant money will help accelerate this research.

“Little is known about how the functions of stem cell populations change with age, or how those changes may contribute to functional declines that we see in aging bodies,” Paxson explains. “With this grant, we are now able to correlate the cellular function and behaviors that we have already documented with underlying changes in complex molecular mechanisms.”

Both Mondoux and Paxson are looking forward to how the grant money will allow them to expand not only their research capabilities, but student opportunities in the lab, as well.

“This grant will impact my students enormously,” Paxson says. “I usually have 10-14 students working in my lab in a variety of capacities including as student volunteers, students doing research for credit and students participating in the College Honors program. The financial resources provided by this NIH grant will enable students at all levels working in the lab to gain advanced skill sets in working with technologies that would otherwise be unavailable to us because of financial limitations.”

For Mondoux, the grant allows her to give more students an opportunity to do research in the lab, and also makes those research experiences more productive.

“Having the grant contributes to a livelier, more vibrant research environment, which improves our collective ability to do great science,” she says.

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