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Andrew Woodman receives American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship

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10/15/2018 – Andrew Woodman, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has been selected to receive the American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship. The Fellowship seeks to enhance the integrated research and clinical training of postdoctoral fellows who are not yet independent and recognizes the unique challenges that clinicians, in particular, experience in balancing research and clinical activity. The Fellowship mechanism aims to create flexibility to enable its recipients the ability to develop academic careers in research alongside fulfilling clinical service commitments. The Fellowship’s scientific focus is on all basic, clinical, translational, behavioral and population research broadly related to cardiovascular function, disease and stroke or related clinical, behavioral, basic science, bioengineering, biotechnology and public health problems.

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Woodman, like many in the field of science, followed an interesting journey to where he is today. Originally from England, Woodman grew up in a working-class family where the emphasis was on developing a skill or trade. He left school at 16 years of age and began a 10-year career in the printing industry. In his late twenties, Woodman became bored with his occupation and longed for an inspiring career path. That desire led him to pursue re-education, specifically in the area that had always fascinated him- science. At the age of 29, Woodman enrolled at the University of Warwick where he would later earn his degree in Microbiology and Virology, earning himself first class honors. He loved what he was doing and so he decided to stay at the University of Warwick and pursue his Ph.D. While there, he worked in the laboratory of Dr. David J. Evans (who is now at St. Andrews University) and his work focused on the role of the enterovirus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase in genetic recombination. In 2014 Woodman came to Penn State and conducted research in the Cameron Lab pertaining to his thesis with Dr. Craig E. Cameron and Dr. Jamie J. Arnold- his first interaction with Penn State. The research they conducted went so well that upon earning his Ph.D., Woodman was offered a position to work as a postdoctoral fellow in the Cameron lab. In August of 2015 Woodman made the move from Evesham, England, to State College Pennsylvania where he still is today.

Woodman 4Since its inception, the primary goal of the Cameron Lab has been the development of strategies to treat or to prevent infections by RNA viruses. The lab uses poliovirus and hepatitis C virus (HCV) as its primary model systems, bringing their expertise in virology, biochemistry and mechanistic enzymology to create a unique combination of intellectual and technical resources to the study of RNA viruses. The Cameron Lab’s initial focus was the viral RNA- dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). In particular, the lab’s interests were in the kinetic, thermodynamic and structural basis for fidelity of nucleotide incorporation, a topic of considerable importance not only for accurate maintenance, transmission and expression of genetically encoded information but also for targeting the RdRp for antiviral therapy. These studies have led to exciting discoveries that have moved the lab into many new areas, including enzyme dynamics, vesicular trafficking, innate immunity, vaccine development and mitochondrial molecular biology. The lab’s work is highly collaborative and includes research teams from academia (local, national and international), government and industry.

Woodman’s work in the lab, prior to his AHA Fellowship, focused on Positive-sense single stranded RNA viruses. Like those found within the Enterovirus genus, these viruses have error prone polymerases, short replication cycles and high yields that together generate genetic diversity. These advantageous evolutionary mechanisms enable virus populations to survive in changing environments, although the majority of mutations that are introduced are lethal or deleterious. RNA recombination provides a mechanism that can remove a deleterious mutation while providing an opportunity to break the link between mutations that are lethal and those that are beneficial in the same genome.

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With the support of Woodman’s American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship, he is investigating a group of viruses known as Coxsackievirus B. These viruses are often associated with persistence and have been known to contribute to cardiomyopathies (heart disease) and type I diabetes (T1D). Using bulk and single-cell virological approaches, Woodman is seeking to understand the dynamics of virus infection in biologically relevant model cells. His goal is to understand the host and viral factors that lead to persistent infection. In the future, the Cameron Lab hopes that their approach may help to understand the currently unknown, individual differences that can lead to virus-induced cardiomyopathy and type I diabetes.

Outside of the lab Woodman is a true family man. His wife Kate, a recent graduate of the College of Education’s Masters program, currently works within the College of Education as an Academic Advisor and his two daughters, Alice and Zara (aged twelve & seven respectively), attend elementary school in the area. The family enjoys being outside, often taking hikes, and takes advantage of all that living in Central Pennsylvania has to offer.

Congratulations Andrew being awarded the American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship and being a wonderful representation of what our department has to offer.

We are Penn State!