CSU San Marcos -- October 24, 2003

Cal State San Marcos Receives Multimillion Dollar Federal Grant for Biomedical Research

Cal State San Marcos has received a $3.6 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—through their Minority Biomedical Research Support SCORE Program—to advance professional development and research efforts of faculty doing work within the field of biomedical sciences.

The purpose of the SCORE Program, according to the NIH, "is to develop biomedical research faculty at minority-serving institutions who are committed to improving competitive research programs and increasing the number of underrepresented minorities professionally engaged in biomedical research."

The university received its first SCORE grant in 1999. At the time, the $3.565 million grant was the largest grant ever awarded to the university.

The current program project is led by Victor Rocha and is administered in the university's Office of Biomedical Research and Training (OBRT), which he directs. It will provide funding from Sept. 1, 2003 to Aug. 21, 2007 and will support research projects led by George Vourlitis, biology; Tom Wahlund, biology; and Gerardo Gonzalez, psychology.

Each project will also provide research training and education for Cal State San Marcos students preparing for advanced education and careers in the broad field of biomedical research.

Vourlitis will conduct a study looking at the deposition of anthropogenically derived nitrogen in terrestrial systems, and how that deposition impacts rates of pollution in related water systems. According to the researcher, fossil fuel combustion and high population densities have caused levels of nitrogen deposition in Southern California to be among the highest in the world.

"This research will allow the future development of a process model to estimate the amount of nitrogen exported to aquatic ecosystems," explained Vourlitis, "and in collaboration with aquatic biologists, toxicologists, and other health scientists, the risks to human health associated with anthropogenic nitrogen deposition."

Wahlund, along with his research partner Betsy Read, will continue research into the genetic makeup of certain marine algae, Emiliana huxleyi, which are distinguished by an intricate armor they construct of calcium carbonate. According to Wahlund, "The results of our studies will contribute toward understanding the design principles of biomineralized calcium carbonate structures, and thus will provide models for novel synthesis and processing strategies for producing materials for biomedical applications."

The third project, being led by psychology professor Gerardo Gonzalez, will develop and evaluate multimedia technology for use in the detection of clinical depression of both English- and Spanish-speaking subjects. The goal is to discover if the Voice-Interactive Depression Assessment System (VIDAS) provides reliable and valid data, can identify significant relationships between depression levels and voice characteristics in both languages, and determine if its applications are culturally sensitive for both English- and Spanish-speaking populations.

According to Gonzalez, "Enhancing VIDAS will contribute to the early detection of depression symptoms and mood, thus potentially preventing the occurrence of clinical depression in the general population."

The Office for Biomedical Research and Training provides a supportive multicultural environment for student and faculty career development in the biomedical sciences and related disciplines. OBRT sponsors programs that focus on science education, student support services, research training, and research participation. According to Rocha, OBRT is part of an effort to "make Cal State San Marcos the institution of choice for students interested in the biomedical sciences."

More information about OBRT is available by calling 760-750-4084 or visiting www.csusm.edu/obrt.


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