Meet UNMC New Investigator James Haorah, Ph.D.

February 26, 2009

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James Haorah, Ph.D.
UNMC researcher James Haorah, Ph.D., answers questions about his work, life and interests.

NOTE: This profile is part of a series highlighting the 23 researchers who were named UNMC Distinguished Scientists or New Investigators for 2008. Each of these researchers will be profiled in UNMC Today leading up to a March 16 ceremony to recognize their achievements.

  • Name: James Haorah, Ph.D.
  • Title: Assistant professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience
  • Joined UNMC: 1995
  • Hometown: Ukhrul, Manipur State, India

Describe your research in laymen terms, please.

My research team studies the mechanism to protect the brain cells from alcoholism and oxidative stress condition so as to prevent inflammation and neurological complications.

Why did you become a scientist?

I am a scientist by accidental love for science. I was brought up in a seminary to become a Catholic priest. Disappointment came early in college because my superior priest told me to switch subjects from science to arts since I was aspiring to be a priest and not a scientist. At this time, I also learned from my superiors that my total aversion to the use of wine (alcohol) would prevent me from entering the priesthood because Holy Mass consecration involves the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. So I left seminary, I earned bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees in biochemistry. Now I love my profession as a scientist and educator.

What led you to pursue this area of research?

I have personal reasons as to why I chose to do research on alcoholism. Alcohol addiction and alcoholism is ... destroying many relationships, marriages, the future of innocent children and precious human life. In the United States, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug. I am interested to study the effects of alcohol abuse in the central nervous system.

How do you see your research contributing to science?

I must say that research findings from my laboratory have contributed significantly to the understanding of how alcohol-induced free radical production causes neuroinflammation and neuronal degeneration as a result of blood-brain barrier leakage that is commonly observed in alcoholic brain tissues. My team's success would not have happened without the ever encouragement and unreserved support of my department chair, Howard Gendelman, M.D.

What is your hope for the next generation of scientists?

Definitely, competition is very high among scientists, but if we have a good research idea that is relevant to the improvement of our daily lives, and if we work hard, I am positive that success will hug us even before hope begins to knock at the door.

Beyond grant funding, how do you measure success?

For me, success is doing my daily responsibilities joyfully, whether it is teaching, running manuscripts, talking to people at work or doing dishes at home.

What would you tell a student interested in a research career?

I tell students to pick a research topic that they will enjoy. Then one can expect productivity and success within short span of time.

Do you have a hero/role model? If so, what do you admire most about this person?

My dad was my hero. The traits I admired most were his honesty and humility. My dad's famous phrase was: "Son, if you are honest and sincere in what you do or say, you will not die even if bullets hit you. But if you are not honest and sincere in what you do or say, even a tiny scratch by a small stick will kill you."

Tell us about your family and hobbies outside of the lab.

Joice (my wife) and I are blessed with four daughters, Sophia, Catherine, Irene and Ameri-Grace. Joice is a very busy nurse. So much so that outside the lab and classroom, my unavoidable hobby is transporting my children to their various functions.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I was a water buffalo herder until I was 11;
  • I started nursery class (grade A) at the age of 11 years and 7 months.
  • Because I was the oldest in my classes when I was younger, I was nicknamed "grandpa."

Click here to see the UNMC Honors Web site, which features photos of profiles of the medical center's Distinguished Scientists and New Investigators.