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Grant supports WKU researcher's project on epigenetics, obesity

A WKU researcher will use a grant from the Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (KBRIN) Investigator Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under grant number 5P20GM103436-13 to develop a better understanding of the metabolic dysregulation evident in complex metabolic diseases like severe obesity.

Dr. Jill Maples

Dr. Jill Maples

Dr. Jill Maples, assistant professor of Exercise Science in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport, will use the $111,000 grant to fund a two-year study to determine why there is an impaired ability to appropriately increase fat metabolism in response to a typical Western, high-fat diet observed in the skeletal muscle of severely obese individuals.

The objective of the KBRIN-IDeA grant program is to provide support to promising junior investigators at Kentucky colleges and universities to establish a research program involving undergraduate students that is competitive for NIH funding. In addition to providing funds for research support, the program requires release time from teaching, training and mentoring in NIH proposal development, and the development of collaborative relationship with a senior scientist (mentor).

“My research interests revolve around discerning molecular adaptations that occur in response to diet and exercise, and how these adaptations ultimately impact human health,” Dr. Maples said. “I am particularly interested in metabolic diseases including obesity and insulin resistance.”

Dr. Maples noted that the grant will be instrumental in providing the necessary funds to train students, conduct experiments, travel to conferences and publish manuscripts. “I am committed to ensuring that undergraduate research students at Western Kentucky University have the opportunity to experience every aspect of the research process from experimental design, to data acquisition and analysis, to presenting and publishing their work,” she said.

“The KBRIN grant will be a great resource for the Exercise Science program, as well as for the department,” said Dr. Scott Lyons, interim department head. “It will allow her to focus on her excellent research in epigenetics and obesity, and it will also provide research assistantship opportunities for students.”

Dr. Maples recently was selected as a co-winner in the first “Science Idol” competition at the National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence in Washington, D.C. Dr. Maples and other contestants had only three minutes to give an engaging and informative research presentation in front of three judges and an audience consisting of other biomedical scientists.

The Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network is a network of support for biomedical researchers and educators within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The purpose of the network is to develop infrastructure and capacity for biomedical research and training in the state. For information on KBRIN, visit

Contact: Jill Maples, (270) 745-4339.

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 Last Modified 12/8/15