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Third Member of Duquesne Research Team Receives Prestigious Award

A doctoral student in the biochemistry program at Duquesne University has become the third member of a team researching Fragile X syndrome and hepatitis to receive a prestigious award for her work.

Snezana Stefanovic, a second-year biochemistry doctoral student, was recently selected to receive a 2013 Education Travel Award for the Biophysical Society's 57th annual meeting in Philadelphia in February.

Stefanovic received this highly competitive award on scientific merit and will be honored at the Education, Minority Affairs and Professional Opportunities for Women Committees Travel Awardee Reception.

She earned this recognition because of her extensive research regarding the Fragile X syndrome, the most common form of inherited mental retardation. Working in the research group of Dr. Rita Mihailescu, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, she used a variety of biochemical and biophysical methods to try to elucidate the mechanisms by which a missing cellular protein impacts RNA translation.

Born in Belgrade, Serbia, Stefanovic came to the U.S. in 2008 to earn her master's degree in chemical engineering at Youngstown State University. She chose to pursue her doctorate at Duquesne after learning about the ground-breaking, hands-on research conducted in the department of chemistry and biochemistry.

Earlier this semester, two of Mihailescu's undergraduate students took top honors in a scientific poster competition, Bridging Research Communities, at Carnegie Mellon University. Sara Katrancha won first place for her poster on the Fragile X syndrome. Her research with Mihailescu analyzed the properties of mutated cellular protein in some patients of Fragile X syndrome. Her goal was to understand if the mutation caused the disease by either a gain or loss of function with respect to the normal cellular protein. (See Katrancha and Mihailescu discuss their work on YouTube.)

Emily Spitzer, who also works with Mihailescu, received sixth place in the Carnegie Mellon competition for a project dealing with the hepatitis C virus. Her research used biochemical and biophysical methods to analyze the binding properties of a peptide nucleic acid designed to fight against the virus' developing resistance to current therapy.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.