Pullen Named Cox Distinguished Professor in Science at WWU

Dr. Nicholas
Pullen, assistant professor of
biology at William Woods University, will serve as the Cox
Distinguished Professor in Science for
the upcoming academic year. Pullen’s research will compare the
effects of nitric oxide (NO) upon different kinds
of cancer cells.
The
Clark and Mildred Cox Distinguished Professor in Science
position was established by the Clark Cox Trust in 2008, and Dr. Mary Spratt,
professor of
biology, held the position until her retirement last year.
“William
Woods University is committed to offering an
excellent science program to support the needs of our students,” Dr. Sherry McCarthy,
vice president and
academic dean, said.  “This endowment continues to help us toward attaining
that goal and offering another research
opportunity for our undergraduate students.”
The
appointment must involve a specific research activity involving students in a
mentor-mentee relationship. Amanda Marty of Arnold, Mo., a senior double
majoring in biology and
equestrian science, has been selected as this year’s
Cox Scholar to assist Pullen. Together they will study the
effects of nitric oxide (NO) upon different kinds
of cancer cells.
“Nitric
oxide is a small molecule free radical,
essentially meaning that it can move
easily and is very reactive,” Pullen said. “When produced in very high
quantities, NO elicits deleterious effects, including DNA mutations/damage and
cellular death, yet low NO concentrations might assist a cell. It’s a double
whammy; NO can be a good thing or a bad thing.”
While
his past NO studies have examined brain cancers, Pullen’s upcoming research will look at
other types of cancer, such as B-Cell Lymphoma.
“Then we will proceed in identifying overlapping
factors that NO might be
impinging upon to assist cancer growth – ultimately knowledge in such factors
can help in identifying
targets for more precisely and effectively treating certain cancers,” he said.
Funding up to $6,000 per year
is available to support equipment, supplies and materials associated with the
research, as well as travel and
expenses, and technical, clinical and laboratory consultations that may be
required. A stipend of $500 will also be
awarded to the student assistant each semester.
The Cox Distinguished Professor
appointment is expected to
yield a specific tangible outcome upon conclusion. This outcome might be a
scholarly or professional publication, a presentation at a scholarly meeting or
professional conference, a book or a monograph.
Before
joining the WWU faculty in the fall of
2012, Pullen was a fellow in a National
Institutes of Health-funded IRACDA program at Virginia Commonwealth
University (VCU) in Richmond, Va.
IRACDA (Institutional Research and Academic Center Development Award) is a national
teaching and research grant program partnering research universities with
Historically Black Colleges
and Universities.
Pullen
taught biology and biochemistry at VCU and chemistry at Elizabeth City State
University, as part of his
fellowship. He is also a participant fellow in the National Science
Foundation funded Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (FIRST-IV), and he
received the AAAS/Science Program Award for Excellence in Science.
After
earning a Bachelor of Science
degree in biology from
James Madison University in Harrisonburg,
Va., in 2005, Pullen
went on to earn a Ph.D. in the
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology from VCU in 2010.
He
has published and continues scientific research in two areas:
mast cell biology (crucial players in allergy and
asthma), and cancers of the central nervous system; most recently his
activities have included education research related to undergraduate science
education.
CUTLINE:
Nicholas Pullen explains the anatomy
of an “ice cream headache” to Kelly M. Abernathy (left) and Katherine E. Bilsky
while discussing various palatine nerves.