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September 8, 2008


NEW YORK, September 8, 2008 – Paul F. Thomson, ’04, a fifth-year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at The City College of New York (CCNY), has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Pre-doctoral Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The award, given by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), provides a stipend of $20,772 per year plus an annual institutional allowance of $4,200.

Named for a former NIGMS director, the Kirschstein Award seeks to improve the diversity of the health-related workforce by supporting training of pre-doctoral students from underrepresented groups.  Its goal is to help ensure that highly trained, productive and creative scientists will be available in adequate numbers and in appropriate research areas and fields to meet the United States’ health research needs.

Award selection criteria include: likelihood of the candidate becoming an independent investigator; the mentor’s abilities and funded research support; the institution’s research environment, and the quality and significance of the candidate’s research proposal.  Between 40 and 45 percent of submitted proposals are typically funded, according to Dr. Shawn R. Drew, director of the funding program.

The award to Mr. Thomson will support his investigations into chemical carcinogenesis – understanding the events that lead to formation of tumors after DNA damage.  He is working under the guidance of Dr. Mahesh Lakshman, CCNY Professor of Chemistry.  Mr. Thomson, a native of Jamaica now residing in Brooklyn, who has a B.S. in biochemistry and premedical studies from CCNY, has been a member of Professor Lakshman’s lab since 2001, initially as an undergraduate.

Mr. Thomson will study how molecular structures use polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are widely prevalent in the environment, influence metabolism and DNA damage.  He plans to conduct X-ray crystallographic analysis to examine the shapes of a set of compounds for which he has developed a novel chemical synthesis.  A collaborator will test the biological effects in cellular systems to determine whether metabolism to carcinogenic species is increased or decreased, as well as the extent of DNA damage.

In another phase of the investigation, he will also use chemical synthesis in an effort to modify genetic definitions within a strand of DNA.  Afterwards, a collaborator will use nuclear magnetic resonance to study the structure of the modified DNA in order to relate structure to biochemical events such as replication and repair to the DNA structure.

Mr. Thomson came to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica, with his family in 1998 and settled in the East New York section of Brooklyn.  He worked in a local supermarket as a janitor for a year to earn money for college and enrolled as a freshman at CCNY for the Fall 1999 semester.  During his long commute between Brooklyn and the CCNY campus in Harlem, he often reads scientific journals on the subway.

“I’ve seen Paul grow from a youngster into a young man and a professional,” Professor Lakshman said. “He truly enjoys what he is doing and in my profession it is truly rewarding to see young people like him get started in their careers.”

Mr. Thomson praised Professor Lakshman as a “very knowledgeable and very encouraging” mentor.  “He’s always been there for me.  It transcends being a mentor.  He’s a good friend.”

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines.  Over 14,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.  For additional information, visit www.ccny.cuny.edu.