Two students earn Presidential Graduate Fellowships

July 17, 2003

Two UNMC students, Jeffery N. Talbot and Heth R. Turnquist, have received Presidential Graduate fellowships for the 2003-3004 academic year. University of Nebraska President L. Dennis Smith, Ph.D., announced the awards last month.

In all, eight students were honored across the University of Nebraska system. Four students attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and two are enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Each fellowship at UNMC includes a stipend of $20,000.

Talbot is a Ph.D. candidate in pharmacology. The subjects of Talbot's research are Mu Opioid Receptors (MOR) in the brain, which are activated by such drugs as morphine, heroin and methadone. Prolonged administration of these drugs leads to rapid onset of tolerance, a profound decrease in the drugs' effects and dependence. In an effort to improve the usefulness of such drugs for therapeutic applications, Talbot is studying the use of certain proteins to regulate MOR functions. Based on his findings to this point, he believes improved understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of MOR signals in the brain can shed light on the processes by which both opioid tolerance and dependence are induced. He earned his bachelor of science degree in biochemistry from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1995.

Turnquist is a Ph.D candidate in pathology and microbiology at UNMC. Turnquist's area of study is pancreatic cancer, which exhibits resistance to current therapies and has an average survival rate of less than six months and a five-year survival rate of only three percent. He is investigating the immune response to this form of cancer with the goal of developing new immunotherapies for the disease. Turnquist is currently attempting to determine if a combination of cells in a developing pancreatic tumor enhance immune response and increase the duration of the patient's survival. In addition, he is hoping to determine whether certain characteristics of pancreatic cancer cells deter recognition by the immune system. Turnquist earned bachelor of science degrees in both biology and psychology from South Dakota State University in 1997.