Smith Receives Vitetta Professorship, Will Study Chromatin Structure and More

By whitlocd | June 9, 2011

Dr. Steve O. Michael, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, announces that Dr. Sheryl T. Smith, Assistant Professor of Biology, has been selected  to be the ninth recipient of the Stacy Anne Vitetta ’82 Professorship.

Her a two-year professorship begins July 1, 2011. The endowed professorship supports new faculty in natural science research. Smith will study chromatin structure, epigenetics and gene regulation.

“The proposals submitted for appointment to this professorship were very strong, but your project, Evolution of Genomic Insulator Sequences: Implications for Phenotypic Diversity, was viewed as especially meritorious in terms of its research design and contributions to your ongoing professional development,” says Michael.

Smith’s research focuses on a specific class of regulatory DNA elements known as insulators. These sequences play a vital role in genome organization and when mutated can lead to changes in gene expression that cause abnormal development or disease. She currently is studying how these DNA elements have changed over millions of years of evolution and how these changes may act as a driving force for diversity within and among species.

Smith began her research program at Arcadia University in 2007 and has mentored 14 students from Arcadia and two visiting students from the Wistar Institute’s Biotechnology Training Program. Amy Lloyd ’12 (Forensic Science), Nickodemo Pavoni ’12 (Biology), Kyrillos Awad ’12 (Biology), and Roma Patel ’12 (Biology) currently are developing research projects in Smith’s laboratory.

Stacy Anne Vitetta earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Arcadia University in 1982. She passed away shortly before graduation from a lingering illness. Her parents, Francis G. Vitetta, a long-time Trustee of the University, and Dollie Vitetta, chose to remember their daughter by creating a professorship in her name that would be awarded biannually. In creating this award, the Vitettas wanted to assist young, non-tenured faculty who are starting their teaching careers, who have limited resources, and whose passion for pursuing independent research may be limited by their lack of tenure or limited time and resources.

In the fall of 1995, the University and the Vitettas established the Stacy Anne Vitetta Professorship. This award is used “to recruit and retain bright, capable and committed full-time junior faculty.” The Vitettas asked that preference be given, but not limited, to junior faculty who work in the natural sciences and that the President make the awards and consider only professors who have been teaching full-time at Arcadia University for 10 years or less. The award is for a period of two years, and each recipient is provided an opportunity to publicly present his or her research.