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New NSF fellow studies hormone tied to fertility, cancer

Clark-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Nicole Clark has been awarded a predoctoral fellowship through the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

She will be a first-year Ph.D. student starting this summer in the School of Molecular Biosciences (SMB) at Washington State University Pullman. Her fellowship provides $44,000 in funding for tuition and a graduate research stipend for each of the next three years beginning with 2014-15.

Clark’s research centers on understanding non-classical progesterone signaling in female reproduction in Jim Pru’s lab, Center for Reproductive Biology, WSU Department of Animal Sciences. Pru has an associate faculty appointment in SMB.

Progesterone is the hormone of pregnancy and it is essential for reproductive function in the female. Clark plans to understand alternative signaling pathways by which progesterone coordinates various aspects of reproductive physiology.

Her preliminary studies show that disruption of non-classical signaling pathways not only results in faulty fertility, but also leads to development of uterine hyperplasia. Hyperplasia is a precursor in the progression toward uterine cancer, the most prevalent gynecological cancer in women with more than 43,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year.

Clark will receive her bachelor’s degree in genetics and cell biology from WSU this spring through SMB, where she has been enrolled in the Students Targeted toward Advanced Research Studies (STARS) program during the past four years.

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