ECU Students Awarded Grants

A pair of East Carolina University students received prestigious National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Service Research awards for their research initiatives.

Shawna McMillin

East Carolina University doctoral student Shawna McMillin.

Katelyn Kotlarek

East Carolina University doctoral student Katelyn Kotlarek.

Shawna McMillin, a bioenergetics and exercise science doctoral student, received a F31 fellowship for her proposal “Molecular Mechanisms Regulating Functional Overload Stimulated Glucose Uptake in Skeletal Muscle.”

Third-year doctoral student Katelyn Kotlarek was also awarded a F31 fellowship from the NIH this spring. Kotlarek, a member of Jamie Perry’s Speech Imagining Laboratory at ECU, is pursuing her doctorate in communication sciences and disorders.

The NIH states that the purpose of the Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Service Research Award is to “enable promising predoctoral students with potential to develop into productive, independent research scientists to obtain mentored research training while conducting dissertation research.”

McMillin funded

McMillin’s grant is a two-year award from the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Total funding for the award is $65,732.

McMillin is the first ECU student to be funded through the NIDDK and the ninth overall to be funded through any NIH institute.

McMillin’s research aims to develop new types of therapies for type 2 diabetes. McMillin said that lifestyle modification, including an increase in physical activity, can reduce the rate and severity of type 2 diabetes. Her research focuses the on understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating resistance exercise training-induced skeletal muscle glucose uptake.

“It is exciting to receive the F31,” McMillin said. “It was only possible with the support of my mentors, Carol Witczak and Jeff Brault, and the opportunities provided by ECU.”

Witczak is the sponsor for the award and Brault serves as a co-sponsor. Both are associate professors in the College of Human Health and Performance’s kinesiology department.

Kotlarek recognized

Kotlarek’s research focuses on understanding the structural changes that affect the soft palate during cleft palate repair.

Her project “Investigation of Anatomical and Physiological Changes Following the Use of a Pedicled Buccal Fat Pad Graft During Primary Palatoplasty” aims to use magnetic resonance imaging to describe the functional effects to the velopharyngeal portal – the area between the nasal cavity and mouth – caused by a pedicled buccal fat pad graft used during primary repair of cleft palate. The present study will determine whether the technique creates a more favorable velopharyngeal system for speech production over traditional cleft repair techniques, subsequently reducing overall medical costs and improving quality of life and overall clinical care in this population.

Her grant is also a two-year award totaling $33,666. The grant was award by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.