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Our Researchers

We are proud to introduce our researchers. Their work in basic research is forging new pathways to a cure for digestive diseases.

Photo of Ziad Kanaan, MDResearch Fellow: Ziad Kanaan, MD, PhD
A native of Beirut, Lebanon, Ziad Kanaan, MD, PhD, joined the Section of Colon & Rectal Surgery as a research fellow in 2008.

Kanaan, who received his medical doctorate from American University of Beirut in 2006, has always had an interest in medicine. While in medical school, he also discovered a passion for research and academia. "I realized the rewarding aspects of becoming a physician in touching people's lives and affecting change in medicine through clinical work and academic research."

He says the Section's program was a perfect fit, because it allowed him to further his experience in basic research. "The fellowship provided me with a wonderful opportunity to work with nationally known mentors in academic surgery and to earn my PhD in physiology and biophysics."

Kanaan hopes his current genetic research will make a difference in the lives of people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The aim of his research is to trace the pathways by which colonic inflammation progresses into invasive IBD-associated colorectal cancer in some individuals with Crohn's colitis or ulcerative colitis. His focus is on the role of microRNAs. MicroRNAs are regulators of gene expression. When these "regulators" malfunction, they may trigger abnormal cell development, proliferation and, ultimately, cancerous tumors.

"Identification of such mircoRNAs may ultimately provide diagnostic and/or therapeutic targets for early detection and treatment of IBD-associated colorectal cancer," Kanaan says.

In his free time, Kanaan enjoys swimming, soccer, and biking. "But I especially cherish spending quality time with my wife and family." Now that he has earned his PhD, Kanaan looks forward to completing his general surgery residency and colorectal surgery fellowship.

Photo of Henry L. RobertsResearch Associate: Henry L. Roberts
Henry Roberts joined the Section of Colon & Rectal Surgery as a research associate in May 2009.

A Louisville native, Roberts earned his B.S. in biology from the University of Louisville in August 2007. Roberts says he became attracted to the field of medicine while in high school. He shadowed then chief surgical resident Eric Davis, MD, now an associate professor of surgery at UofL. “It was a terrific experience and helped decide my future.?/p>

Roberts has become skilled in genotyping, DNA extraction and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) creating multiple copies of a specific segment of DNA. He is currently assisting the laboratory’s team of investigators with identifying certain microRNAs that may be targets for IBD-associated colorectal cancer.

“I would recommend this program to anyone who is interested and passionate about research. You have outstanding mentors who support you every step of the way—from project design to publication.?/p>

Roberts says he looks forward to applying to medical school and a career in a surgical discipline.

When he is not in the lab, you can find him at a UofL Cardinal game—basketball or football. “I am a sports fanatic,?he says.

Research Associate: Clay T. Weller
Clay Weller chose to follow his brother Edward’s footsteps when he joined the Section of Colon & Rectal Surgery as a research associate in August 2009. A North Carolina native, Weller says, “I wanted to enhance my knowledge and experience in clinical research, and Edward told me he had a fantastic experience working in the Section's lab.?/p>

Weller, who is a 2009 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, says he acquired invaluable research skills and laboratory techniques. His work—including genotyping, DNA extraction and PCR—prepared him well for the Master’s program in physiology and biophysics.

“Staying up to date with current research helped me excel in my classes,?he says. “I also was able to use the skills I developed on my research project.?/p>

As part of his course work for his Master’s degree, Weller is currently assisting the laboratory's team of investigators as they try to identify specific microRNAs that may be targets for IBD-associated colorectal cancer.

“The researchers in the lab really mentor you and help you strive for excellence.?/p>

Weller says he looks forward to completing his Master’s degree in August 2012 and has applied to medical school for 2013.

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