Kennesaw State hosts John C. Salerno Memorial Research Symposium

KENNESAW, Ga. | Sep 5, 2018

Office of Research honors pioneering researcher in enzymology and spectroscopy on Sept. 28

The Kennesaw State University Office of Research is hosting the inaugural John C. Salerno Memorial Research Symposium on Friday, Sept. 28. Showcasing a cross-section of KSU faculty research, the event is a tribute to the prolific research contributions of Salerno, who was the Neel Distinguished Chair in Biotechnology at KSU prior to his death in 2015.

The symposium, which is open to the public, will take place from 1-5 p.m. in Room 400 of the KSU Center. Participants will deliver 15-minute presentations on their research, followed by a question-and-answer segment.

Jonathan McMurry, associate vice president for research and professor in KSU’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, explained that this symposium is a celebration and a formal recognition of the growing research portfolio of KSU faculty.

“John’s legacy at KSU is to be found not only in the discoveries he made and his contributions to building the research environment, but also to the mentoring of young faculty who have now come into their own as independent researchers,” McMurry said,

Salerno, whose research has been published in more than 200 scientific journals, came to KSU in 2006 as professor of biology and chemistry. He previously served as professor and chair of the Biology Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York for 26 years.

Many of Salerno’s innovations were in enzymology, particularly the properties and activity of nitric oxide synthases, a family of enzymes that produce nitric oxide. This important cell-signaling molecule is beneficial to cardiovascular health as it regulates blood vessel expansion in the body’s circulatory system.

His work also focused on spectroscopic methods or approaches to study the interactions between various types of radiation with biological matter, thus allowing for the investigation of complex macromolecules in novel ways.

Through Salerno’s association with McMurry as co-founder of KSU’s first incubator company, New Echota Biotechnology, numerous patents have been filed on the potential uses of compounds and methods that would help in the advancement of drug development and disease management.

In addition to his research productivity, Salerno also was recognized with the University’s prestigious “Distinguished Professor” award in 2015. The top faculty award, presented by the Kennesaw State University Foundation, was established to acknowledge sustained excellence in and integration of teaching, research and creativity activity, and professional service.

“John’s contribution towards elevating the research environment in KSU’s College of Science and Mathematics cannot be overstated,” said Donald McGarey, interim vice president for research. “John was not only a highly respected researcher, he had a passion for teaching and was a mentor to many students who worked on various research projects in his lab. This memorial symposium is yet one more way to celebrate John’s life, his influence and important contributions.”

The idea for the symposium came to fruition when McMurry, also Salerno’s research colleague, and Natasha Williams, assistant director of pre-award services in the Office of Research, were individually seeking ways to honor Salerno’s memory, and promote KSU faculty research, respectively. They decided to combine efforts after realizing their common mission. McMurry also gained support from KSU researcher and Salerno’s spouse, Susan M.E. Smith.

“John gave so much to so many people, and he’s still giving even after he’s gone,” said Smith, professor of biology and Foundation Fellow. “The family is pleased to see his legacy of research and teaching honored by the university.”

Faculty from across all disciplines were invited to submit research abstracts in late July to the Office of Research to be considered for inclusion in the symposium. Final selection of presenters will be determined by a committee of faculty peers headed by McMurry. A cash prize will be awarded to one faculty participant as well as an opportunity for attendees to select their favorite presenter in the form of a “People’s Choice” award.

– Joëlle Walls

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