February 21, 2018  

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Doctoral Student Shares Research Efforts at Prestigious Conference

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Southern Miss doctoral student Amit Kumar has spent the past four years working the lab of Assistant Professor Vijay Rangachari. (University Communications photo by Van Arnold)

Count University of Southern Mississippi doctoral student Amit Kumar among the legion of scientists, researchers and laboratory assistants working around the clock to defeat Alzheimer’s Disease.

Thus far Kumar’s research has taken him from his homeland in New Delhi, India to the campus of Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Miss., and recently to Queensland, Australia as a presenter at the 4th Annual Protein Misfolding and Neurological Disorders Meeting.

“The knowledge, experience and exposure I gained from this conference is unprecedented,” said Kumar, a fourth-year doctoral candidate who majored in biochemistry. “I got an exclusive chance to interact with many top scientists in the field of Alzheimer’s Disease. The talks I attended have given me more detailed insights in my area of work and have made me aware of the varied aspects of Alzheimer’s research throughout the world.”

Working primarily in the laboratory of Southern Miss Assistant Professor Vijay Rangachari, Kumar is studying the generation, isolation and characterization of the primary toxic species involved in Alzheimer’s Disease, which are called “amyloid-beta42 oligomers.” He is also conducting research focused on producing “anti-amyloid agents” that can help in combating the disease’s progression.

The prestigious Australian conference includes an elite field of neurological experts from across the globe. Kumar, 25, applied and received a travel grant provided by the conference to attend as a student presenter. Less than 10 percent of the 60-70 invitees are graduate students, making Kumar’s presentation all the more significant.

“It is quite unusual for a graduate student to give an oral presentation at a highly exclusive conference like the one Amit attended and speaks to the quality and importance of the research that is going on in the Rangachari lab,” said Dr. Sabine Heinhorst, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Southern Miss. “Their research has important implications for the development of treatment strategies for Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Rangachari has mentored Kumar for the past four years, watching him develop into a passionate, committed researcher.

“Amit has spear-headed several projects in our lab that has resulted in several published articles,” said Rangachari. “He is very hard-working and laborious with a genuine zeal for research. His invitation to the prestigious conference in Australia is a consequence of his effort and determination. I am very happy for his success and I have little doubt about his successful research career.”

Acknowledging that he has always been fascinated by neuroscience, Kumar hopes to publish more research papers and earn his doctorate in the near future. His long-range goals include the possibility of working as a senior scientist in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the major neurodegenerative diseases affecting a large portion of the population around the world,” said Kumar. “We need to remain vigilant in our research and testing to stop the progression of this terrible disease.”