Claflin University will welcome its first visiting Fulbright Scholar this fall to research a potential solution for a dangerous infectious disease impacting 120 million people internationally.
Fulbright Scholar Raghavendra Krishna Nagampalli, a student from the University of Madras in Chennai, India, is set to spend nine months at Claflin University working under the tutelage of Dr. Rajagopalan Bhaskaran, associate professor of chemistry and director of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) facilities.
Bhaskaran and Nagampalli aim to analyze proteins associated with Human Lymphatic Filariasis. The disease is an infection of paralytic worms which are transmitted through mosquito bites. Infected individuals can experience the worm developing into an adult which penetrates blood vessels causing immense damage and swelling.
Their research will include using the NMR -a large sophisticated imaging tool that can completely identify the structural outline of any compound. Claflin is the only higher education institution in South Carolina to have a NMR on campus.
“With the NMR technique, we can determine the dynamics of the protein in Human Lymphatic Filariasis,” Bhaskaran said. “Ideally, we can utilize this information to eventually develop therapies for the disease.”
Bhaskaran noted the disease is prominent in South Asia, Africa and the eastern portion of South America. The end game, Bhaskaran says, is to provide a detailed model for designing a potential healing remedy.
The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to increase understanding and foster research opportunities between its citizens and that of other nations. Aundreta Conner-Feris was the first Claflin student to be named a Fulbright Scholar in 2008.
President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale said the University is thrilled to host its first Fulbright Scholar.
“It is a highly prestigious honor for Claflin University to be the academic home for a Fulbright Scholar next fall,” said Tisdale. “This collaborative research effort will provide a positive research platform to advance curing a debilitating disease affecting millions globally.”
Nagampalli’s professor at the University of Madras is Dr. K. Gunasekaran who Bhaskaran refers to as “the father of biophysics.”
Bhaskaran is an expert in using NMR. He also received his Ph.D. in physics/biophysics from the University of Madras. Arriving in January to Claflin, he has academic experience at institutions in India, Taiwan and the United States, where he was most recently a research fellow and NMR manager at the Auburn University. In addition, he was formerly the site head of the research and development informatics arm at the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
“In August, we will begin labeling and preparing protein samples for the NMR,” said Bhaskaran. “This is a very exciting opportunity for Claflin University to produce meaningful research that possesses a positive global impact.”