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  • 04/06/18

    David Punihaole, Ph.D., awarded Ford Fellowship

David Punihaole, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher working with Professor Renee Frontiera, is one of 24 people nationally to be awarded a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. 

The award provides one year of support for individuals engaged in post-doctoral study after attainment of a Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Science degree. It is awarded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on behalf of the Ford Foundation to individuals who have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.

David received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in molecular biology. He remained at Pitt to earn his doctorate in molecular biophysics, under the guidance of Professor Sanford Asher in the Department of Chemistry. David’s graduate research pioneered new ways to measure amino acid side chain dihedral angles using Raman spectroscopy and to use spectroscopic markers to probe the local environment of proteins. He applied these new methods to investigate the structure of polyglutamine amyloid-like fibrils implicated in several neurodegenerative disorders, including Huntington’s disease.

In Professor Frontiera's laboratory, David is pioneering the development of a new label-free, super-resolution imaging technique using stimulated Raman spectroscopy. He also maintains a collaboration with Professor Theresa Reineke’s group studying the structure and formation of polymer-DNA complexes used in gene therapies. During the tenure of his fellowship, David plans to adapt super-resolution Raman microscopy to study biological cells and to specifically investigate the mechanism of polymer-mediated DNA transfection.