EKU Alum Wins Research Fellowship with National Institutes of Health

Published on May 26, 2022

Christian White, a 2021 Eastern Kentucky University graduate, was recently awarded the Postbaccalaureate Intramural Training Fellowship by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will be working in Washington, D.C. for the next year. 

White will be working with the laboratory team of Dr. Forbes Porter at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development on an ongoing project entitled, “Cholesterol Homeostasis and Lysosomal Disorders.” This project will provide fundamental biochemical understanding essential to the pursuit of cures for a variety of neurodegenerative and cognitive impairment disorders in children. 

“Working as part of a team of scientists in the NIH’s state-of-the-art labs to fight diseases will be an invaluable experience,” White said. “This will be an important next step toward an MD/Ph.D. program and my goal of a career as a medical research scientist.” 

The Alexandria, Ky., native majored in biomedical sciences, minored in chemistry and was an Honors Program graduate at EKU. He said he considers his undergraduate research experiences in Eastern’s biology and chemistry laboratories fundamental to his success. 

“While I was at EKU, I got involved with multiple research projects that instilled in me a passion for discovery. My science coursework at EKU familiarized me with lab techniques that will be central in my work at NIH.” 

“Christian is very reliable and has very good laboratory skills,” said Dr. Buchang Shi, EKU chemistry professor. “He worked very well with other students in my laboratory group, and he has the potential to become an outstanding medical researcher.” 

White’s honors thesis examined the role played by the ACE2 enzyme in the tissue-damaging effects of COVID-19. 

“Christian was a fun and talented student to work with,” said Dr. Oliver Oakley, EKU biology professor, who also served as White’s thesis mentor. “During the lockdown, I looked forward to our meetings discussing COVID-19 pathogenesis. In all my years teaching undergraduate students, I have never encountered a student that I was more confident would be very successful in medical research.” 

White’s achievement signals an apt illustration of the payoff from EKU’s recent investments in undergraduate research facilities and programs in the sciences, according to Dr. David Coleman, executive director of the EKU Honors Program. 

“Throughout his time in EKU Honors, Christian was an achiever – not only in our classrooms and labs, but also on a study abroad experience in Thailand. He is also one of many EKU students who have benefitted from the remarkable facilities in EKU’s Science Building and the expertise of our fabulous faculty in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, who have, in recent years, worked so hard to gear up EKU’s undergraduate research opportunities in the sciences.”