CRD’s Davit Aslanyan receives Prime-minister’s Science Prize

CRD Davit Aslanyan, who is a Junior in the Physics department at Yerevan State University and also an intern at the CRD received Armenia’s highest award for undergraduates as the best Physics Undergraduate Student in the country, for his academic achievements and activities.

Davit along with two other CRD young scientists, Hripsime Mkrtchyan and Gayane Kareptyan, will represent CRD at the American Geophysical Union Congress in San Francisco with 7 of CRD’s most recent scientific results.

The AGU congress attracts some 20,000 scientists from around the world each year to San Francisco’s Mascone Center in December. This year it will be held from December 9-13.

2019 Victor Hambartsumyan Award Recipient, Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian

Interview Conducted By Careen Khachatoorian

 

The Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America (AESA) is pleased to award Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian the Victor Hambartsumyan Award, a prestigious award that recognizes the technical excellence and achievements of engineers and scientists of Armenian descent, at the 36th Annual AESA Gala.

 

Dr. Mazmanian is currently a Luis B. and Nelly Soux Professor of Microbiology and Heritage Principal Investigator at the California Institute of Technology. He completed his undergraduate degree and obtained his PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Mazmanian’s research has had an impact in how we think about the gut microbiome and its importance in autism, neurodegenerative diseases and other conditions of the brain. He has shown that gut bacteria can influence the brain by releasing molecules that cross the blood-brain barrier.

 

Most recently, his work on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has shown that mice colonized with gut microbiota from human donors with ASD displayed ASD-like behaviors arising from specific classes of bacteria and their metabolites. He is a co-founder and director of Axial Biotherapeutics which is currently conducting human clinical trials using small molecules and live biotherapeutics for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 2012, Dr. Mazmanian was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship. His work has been published in Science, Nature, Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, and Cell, amongst many other scientific journals.

 

In honor of the AESA Victor Hambartsumyan Award, Dr. Mazmanian was kind enough to allow us to interview him.

 

Careen: First, I would like to ask you a bit about yourself and how you got started in this field. What made you passionate about this field?

Dr. Mazmanian: I had many teachers who encouraged me to pursue a career in writing, but I truly became passionate about science during my introductory biology class at UCLA. I had never felt this feeling of curiosity – and wanting to “turn the page” – than I did in this class. I fell in love with microbes, bacteria in particular, and pursued my PhD in bacterial pathogenesis. After graduate school I was wondering what I wanted to do with my career. At that time, microbiology was dominated by the study of infectious diseases and bacterial pathogenesis, but this wasn’t what I wanted to do. I came upon an opinion article about bacteria that live in our gut, and their impacts on nutrition and metabolism. I saw the potential of bacteria that live symbiotically with us as opposed to infecting us as being, somehow, more integral to human health. That was enough for me to make a quick decision and jump in with both feet. I did my post-doctoral work at Harvard Medical School where I set up a model system to look at how bacteria influence the maturation and development of the immune system. Then, I started my own laboratory at Caltech in 2006 and continued studying immune responses of the gut in the context of inflammatory bowel disease. About 8 to 10 years ago, I felt that it was time to blaze a new trail, therefore I became interested in the gut-brain connection and how microbes affect both behavior and neurological issues such as depression, autism, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. I became curious as to how bacteria influence these neurological outcomes. My laboratory discovered targets, whether they be druggable targets for small molecules or bacteria. In the meantime, I started two companies and it’s exciting to note that the technology that was developed in the lab is currently been used as an experimental treatment for autistic kids. I imagine there will be much more translational research that comes from this program.

 

Careen: Do you have any advice for trainees?

Dr. Mazmanian: Be passionate. Identify something that appeals to you. Ultimately, you need to be happy, which will increase the likelihood of success. I have realized two important qualities that I believe help contribute to success: hard work and common sense.

 

Careen: What is your involvement with Armenia’s scientific community?

Dr. Mazmanian: I was born in Beirut and moved to Los Angeles when I was one year old. I had no connection with Armenia. One day I got on a plane and took a flight to Armenia. I immediately felt at home. I wanted to give back by providing scientific information and teaching what I know. I identified the Institute of Molecular Biology at the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia and simply asked them if I could teach. They allowed me to use a lecture hall and advertised for the class, and I began teaching a yearly course on host-microbial interactions to graduate students from any university in Armenia. After a few years, I asked my colleagues to help. Now, we teach a class at the institute annually. As for locally, I try to make myself available to Armenian students and scientists as much as possible.

 

Careen: Do you think commensal bacterial therapy could be a medical procedure of the future for any non-hereditary neurological diseases?

Dr. Mazmanian: The study of the microbiome may lead to new potential therapies for different diseases. Diseases of the intestines, such as Clostridium difficile infection or Crohn’s disease could possibly be cured. There are so many clinical trials that I am optimistic this will translate into FDA approved drugs someday. It’s very possible that ten years from now we can go to the doctor and get prescribed live bacteria or molecules of bacteria.

 

Careen: Lastly, where do you see your research going in the next several years? What do you plan on accomplishing next?

Dr. Mazmanian: We’ve already begun to move our basic research from the lab to the clinic and we have a path through my company, Axial Biotherapeautics, to do this. We currently have a clinical trial underway to treat autism and will launch several new clinical trials in the next few years. My laboratory will continue to study how the gut microbiome impacts behavioral and neurodegenerative disorders including Autism, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease. We are constantly making discoveries in basic experimental systems that will ultimately lead to new drug candidates, and more human research. I’m really hopeful that some of these technologies will show promise in the clinic and we can contribute to providing medicine for patients.

 

 

AESA Organizes Annual STEM Conference and Expo 

AESA Organizes Annual STEM Conference and Expo  Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America (AESA) is organizing a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Conference & Expo at Glendale Tech Week from September 15th to 17th  2019.  AESA is excited to host these events as a strategic initiative that is bound to become a hallmark event […]

AESA Conference at Glendale Tech Week 2019 Call for Abstracts

GLENDALE, Calif. – Aug. 19, 2019 – On Sunday, September 15, 2019 the AESA Conference at Glendale Tech Week will exhibit cutting-edge STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) related presentations and multidisciplinary panel discussions in a wide variety of technical topics.

AESA (Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America) welcomes undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals engaged in science and engineering to apply and present their work in the form of a poster or oral presentation. Businesses and university affiliates are welcome to advertise academic programs and scout for bright talented individuals in our community. “Join us as we lead the local STEM Community into the next wave of innovation through creativity, collaboration, and craftsmanship. The exciting opportunities in our very own neighborhood eagerly await you at the AESA Conference and Expo at Glendale Tech Week,” said Shaunte Baboomian, Chair of AESA Conference & Expo Organizing Committee.

This is an exceptional collaboration and networking opportunity amongst diverse presenters, program affiliates and local audiences. Students and professionals in science and engineering are expected to present their research and technology-related advancements to dazzle your mind and imagination! AESA will also host an Expo on September 16 and 17 at the Armenian Society of Los Angeles. Attendees are welcome to bring their resume and meet the various businesses that will be exhibiting at the event.

Register at expo.aesa.org and indicate whether you would like to be considered for an oral presentation in addition to your poster board at the conference. General admission is free.

Abstract due date: September 12, 2019 11:59 PM

Inquiries: stemconf@aesa.org

Conference at Glendale Tech Week 2019:
Date: Sunday, September 15, 2019
Time: 1 PM – 5 PM
Location: Glendale Central Library, located at 222 E. Harvard St., Glendale, CA 91205

The Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America (AESA) is a non-partisan, non-sectarian, and non-profit organization with a mission to enable and empower an Armenian STEM community worldwide to reach its fullest potential and facilitate global progress through STEM education, collaboration and humanitarian initiatives.

Sign up for AESA’s newsletter (https:ww//aesa.org/) to stay informed on events and opportunities in the local STEM community. Follow AESA on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AESApage/) for all updates!

Contact
Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America
contact@aesa.org
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