BG student receives award for research on immunologic, rheumatologic diseases

Bioinformatics and Genomics student Chachrit Khunsriraksakul has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Finkelstein Memorial Student Research Award.

Chachrit Khunsriraksakul

Congratulations to Penn State Bioinformatics and Genomics student Chachrit Khunsriraksakul on being selected as the recipient of the 2020 Finkelstein Memorial Student Research Award.

The award, named after the late Judy S. Finkelstein, was established for students at Penn State College of Medicine, who are performing research on immunologic or rheumatologic diseases. To be eligible, medical and graduate students must submit an application and an abstract that outlines their research plans.

Applications are reviewed for scientific merit by an advisory committee, and two students receive funds to support research related to the etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of immunologic or rheumatologic diseases.

Khunsriraksakul selected to focus on the hard-to-diagnose and incurable rheumatic disease, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE is a chronic multisystem disease and treatment is limited. The diagnosis of SLE is heavily relied on the clinical classification criteria and still remains challenging due to the varying presentation of SLE. Importantly, many patients fall under the syndrome incomplete lupus erythematosus (ILE), which refers to patients meeting some criteria of SLE to be suggestive, but not diagnostic of SLE.

His research will investigate the benefits of integrating genetic biomarkers with classical lab testing to help diagnose SLE in a more accurate, confident, and efficient manner. With cutting edge machine learning algorithms, he’ll work to identify ILE patients who are more likely to progress into full-blown SLE (i.e. those most in need of early-intervention prior to the onset of irreversible damages).

As an awardee, Khunsriraksakul will receive $2,000 to support this research at the Penn State College of Medicine. On this project, he will be responsible for data analysis and will collaborate with Dajiang Liu, PhD, MA, of Penn State Public Health Sciences; Dr. Nancy Olsen of Penn State Health Rheumatology ; and Dr. Laura Carrel, MA, PhD, of Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, on this research.

About the award

In 1974, Robert and Sevia Finkelstein established the award in memory of their 15-year-old daughter, Judy, who died from an autoimmune disorder. The family created the award to help advance research and treatment of autoimmune diseases.

About Penn State Public Health Sciences

The Department of Public Health Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine aims to advance theories and practices that prepare future public health leaders, improve population health and reduce health disparities — across Pennsylvania, the U.S. and globally — through excellence in education, research and service. To learn more, visit