Nine Partake in BU Scholars Day, Yi Zhong Wins

(l–r) Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter, Yi Zhong, and Dr. Eva Helmerhorst
(l–r) Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter, Yi Zhong, and Dr. Eva Helmerhorst

Five GSDM students and four faculty judges participated in this year’s Boston University Scholars Day Tuesday, April 15. Scholars Day, formerly called the BU Science and Engineering Research Symposium, which has been held for nearly two decades, is an annual tradition celebrating graduate student research.

Originally, the focus was on science and engineering research, but it has expanded in recent years to include the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The number and quality of presentations has grown enormously and, this year, the number of presenters from different Schools and Colleges at the University exceeded 120.

Yi Zhong, a second-year PhD student mentored by Dr. Eva Helmerhorst from the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, won the GSDM Scholars Day 2014 Award. Her poster presentation, “Isolation and Purification of a Gluten-Degrading Enzyme from Human Gastrointestinal Tract-Derived Bacteria,” was authored by Yi Zhong, Dr. Guoxian Wei, Adriana Valery, and Dr. Helmerhorst.

Yi Zhong’s work focused on celiac disease, a T-cell mediated-inflammatory disorder of the small intestine caused by gluten, the storage proteins in a variety of cereals. Gluten proteins are not well-digested by mammalian digestive enzymes due to their unusual amino acid composition. Yi showed that gluten-degrading microorganisms can be cultured from human feces. Natural resident microbes of the gastro-intestinal tract, or their gluten-degrading enzymes, may find applications in the diagnosis and/or treatment of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Yi will further study the substrate specificities and in vivo efficacy of these enzymes.

Congratulations go to Yi Zhong and special thanks to GSDM students Mohammed Badri, Debashree Saxena, Kaveh Bahravand Ahmadi, and Asma Bensalah, who also presented high quality research projects.

“Congratulations to all the members of the GSDM community who took part in Scholars Day,” said Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter. “I applaud their ongoing commitment to research and to representing the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine in the larger Boston University community.”

More information on Scholars Day 2014 can be found at: