College of Staten Island Assistant Professor Dr. Rupal Gupta has been awarded a Junior Faculty Research Award in Science and Engineering by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The $50,000 grant will be used to continue Dr. Gupta’s research project being performed at the College entitled “A Correspondence between Antimicrobial and Inflammatory Processes in the Human Innate Immune Response: Role of Calgranulins.” She joins a select group of 22 other CUNY faculty who have won the award since 2012.

“I am grateful for the support from the Research Foundation and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,” said Dr. Gupta. “This is a memorable achievement for my professional career. Having the significance of the work conducted by my laboratory and what we envision to achieve in the coming years validated in such a way is both rewarding and motivational.”

The foundation of Dr. Gupta’s research to this point is based on the human body’s immune system and its response to pathogens. Dr. Gupta explains there are two ways the human body is naturally equipped to deal with pathogens. One way is by utilizing antibodies created by the body in response to recognized pathogens that enter our system. Her team’s research centers on our body’s innate immune response that acts as a first line of defense against pathogens and induces inflammation. 

“Our bodies have a feedback loop that sends signals to start inflammation during infection, which creates a natural defense system against them,” said Dr. Gupta. “Understanding how this process works, the connections that warn human bodies of a potential infection and initiate inflammation, could help us better understand how our immune system works and ultimately help the immune-compromised.”

The Junior Faculty Research Award will go a long way into the advancement of Dr. Gupta’s study. It will be used to support researchers in her lab and to purchase materials and supplies, including biological samples for study.

“The goal is to use this research we are doing now to establish a long-term vision for future study,” she noted, explaining that a major aim of this award program is to help fuel research productivity and advance future studies. “There has to be a vision for not only how the project can develop our research right now, but also how it will impact our research and understanding of the immune system five to ten years from now.”

Dr. Gupta is hopeful that by understanding the atomic-level complexities of the immune system, her research can ultimately further the medical and pharmaceutical industry, providing for advanced treatment and potential medicines for the immune-compromised. “Our lab doesn’t work in drug development. Rather, we hope our studies will in turn help the researchers in academia, medical industry, and drug manufacturers develop efficient therapeutics,” she explained.

Dr. Gupta, who also teaches in The Graduate Center, CUNY has been a faculty member in the Chemistry Department at the College of Staten Island since 2017. Her lab features several CSI undergraduate students who are an integral part of her team. “Our researchers and undergraduate students do a phenomenal job,” she noted. “Our research requires a lot of skilled and precise operation, and on a specific timeline, and so we extensively train our students so that they can perform and operate within the lab.”

The Junior Faculty Research Award in Science in Technology is a one-year grant, but Dr. Gupta hopes it springboards follow-up proposals for grant funding to further the research, as her current project looks to open the door for more extensive and long-term research into the immune system.

By David Pizzuto