Under the Microscope: Taking a Closer Look at USciences Faculty Research

By Colby Gallagher

Published on May 17, 2019

USciences faculty researchers are passionate about their areas of interest. In these interviews, faculty discuss how they got involved in their research and what keeps them interested. 

Carol Maritz PT, EdDCarol Maritz, PT, EdD, associate dean of Samson College of Health Sciences and a professor of physical therapy, started teaching at USciences in 2001 and is a board-certified clinical specialist in geriatric physical therapy. Dr. Maritz’ current research focuses on the impact of exercise to reduce fall risks in older adults, so she has implemented an interval training exercise program at Mount Zion Baptist Church near campus to aid that population in preventing fall risks and the associated injuries.

The Bulletin (B): What made you want get into the field you’re in and specifically study the elderly?

Dr. Maritz (CM): I have an interest in helping people who have physical challenges. My grandmother had a strong influence on my life and career. She was a strong woman who made it despite many challenges. She was a role model for how to be a strong, independent woman.

B: What does the exercise program at Mt. Zion entail?

CM: We meet every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the year and do a 45-minute program of strengthening, conditioning, and balance training. Exercises include squats, curls, lunges, rows, sit-to-stand, and chair sit-ups to name a few. We also go through a balance portion that includes dynamic stepping with increasing speed. Individuals who participate in the exercise program show increased strength in their legs, better balance, and faster walking speeds. All of these lead to a decreased risk for falls. Interval training has been shown to be more effective at improving all of the above in a shorter duration of time.

B: What’s your favorite part of it, and what has it taught you?

CM: Our population ranges in age from mid-60s to mid-90s. They are awesome individuals who have a very positive view about life. I include doctor of physical therapy students during the summer and, to date, have easily had 40 students participate in the program.

Christopher Janetopoulos PhDChristopher Janetopoulos, PhD, codirector of the BioImaging Core Facility and an associate professor of biological sciences, joined USciences in 2014, and his research focuses on cytokinesis and cell migration.

B: What made you want get into the field you’re in and specifically study the two particular cell processes?

Dr. Janetopoulos (CJ): I saw a cell paper showing that the cells were actually measuring and integrating the concentration of chemicals at the front and rear of the cell when choosing which way to move; it seemed like directed migration would be a fascinating topic to study. I realized that cytokinesis (cell division) used many of the same molecules to change morphology. We now propose that directed migration evolved to use the same mechanisms that are utilized during cytokinesis. Many of the key molecules that we study are up or down regulated in cancer.

B: What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the field during your research?

CJ: The biggest changes that come to mind are the technologies that have been invented to visualize and manipulate proteins that are under microscopic observation. Also, in a test tube, there has been an explosion of techniques to manipulate genes and to develop sequencing technologies to rapidly decode entire genomes. These are techniques that can be done in your own lab and at a fraction of the cost seen just 5 or 10 years ago.

B: What’s your favorite part about USciences?

CJ: I enjoy my colleagues and having undergraduates that are all committed to some aspect of science. It has been fun watching our department grow and seeing the graduate students flourish. Our faculty members are asking some exciting and diverse questions, and it provides an excellent environment for young researchers.

George Downs PharmD'72George Downs PharmD’72, dean emeritus of pharmacy and the new Linwood Tice Professor of Pharmacy in the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, became a faculty member in 1972. Dr. Downs has served in various roles, including dean, throughout the last 46 years and is involved in researching substance abuse disorders and how pharmacists can effectively treat them. 

B: You’ve been researching substance abuse disorders; what is your goal in working with this field?

Dr. Downs (GD): What we’re trying to do is address the stigma of addiction. People just don’t want to recognize substance use disorder as a disease, and they say it’s just bad behavior. If we can convince the general population, the professional population, pharmacists, and physicians that this is a disease that needs to be addressed, we can save a lot of lives. Right now we’re just really struggling with trying to get the stigma under control. Our goal would be to try to get more pharmacists to start communicating with these patients and being nonjudgemental in the care of these patients. If I could do that, I would be thrilled.

B: What is the biggest change you’ve witnessed in your four-plus decades at USciences?

GD: Over the last 40 years, you’ve seen just a dramatic change to where every hospital now has pharmacists in the intensive care units; they have them in environments that we never even dreamed about. That’s an enormous change; I think the role of the pharmacist has become much more powerful and much, much more important.

B: You recently receive the Tice Professorship. What does that mean and how does it feel to be awarded that honor?

GD: Dean Tice was kind of the grand old man of pharmacy; he’s been around here forever. He had the vision that pharmacy should be doing more than just counting and pouring, and he made that happen. So, I think having that name as a professorship is really very significant, and I’m really proud that I got that name.

Categories: News, Misher College of Arts and Sciences, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Samson College of Health Sciences, Faculty, Department of Physical Therapy, Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administration, Research