June 27, 2018
By Whitney Tarpy
OXFORD, Miss. – Erik Hodges, a graduate student in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Department of BioMolecular Sciences, was selected as the recipient of the 2018 Virginia Dolores Cantú Fellowship.
A winner is named based on an application that illustrated a knowledge of and commitment to the value of laboratory animal research and the importance of humane care of research animals.
“I was elated when I heard I was selected,” Hodges said. “It always feels good to be recognized for your efforts. The topic is one I am very passionate about, and it is nice to know that I was able to convey my thoughts effectively to the reviewers.”
Originally from Norman, Oklahoma, Hodges works in the lab with his research advisor Nicole Ashpole, assistant professor of pharmacology. The lab’s focus is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of biological aging, specifically why the brain loses mental functions over time.
“Working with research animals requires great responsibility and commitment as we try to advance the health and well-being of humans and animals,” Ashpole said. “It’s clear that Erik understands this. He’s constantly adjusting in order to assess their behavior in the least invasive way, and is clearly dedicated to treating them as humanely as possible.”
Hodges’ fellowship essay discussed the detail that he puts into the lab’s study to assess the animal’s ability to learn and remember with specialized mazes. He described how the mice, much like humans, don’t perform well under stress. To avoid this, Hodges said they go to great lengths to “think like a mouse” when trying to care for them and anticipate their needs.
“By keeping the animals healthy and as stress free as possible, we are upholding our responsibility to treat them humanely, and they provide us with answers to important biomedical questions,” Hodges said.
Virginia Dolores Cantú served students and faculty involved in laboratory animal research at the University of Mississippi for many years by facilitating their compliance with the federal regulations on the humane care and use of laboratory animals. Cantú was also an integral part of the team that achieved AAALAC accreditation for the university. The fellowship was established in 2010 by Joe Turner Cantú, Eddie Upton and the Cantú family.