Cameron Atighetchi with award.
Master’s candidate Cameron Atighetchi with the “All of Us Community Award” he won for his research on lupus. Photo by Analisa Venolia

CSUN students took center stage at a National Institutes of Health conference and presented the results of their own research studies to an audience of medical professionals and prospective medical students. 

CSUN students Cameron Atighetchi, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in biology, and Shirin Noori, a senior biology major, spoke at the “All of Us” Researchers Convention, which was held virtually on April 3-4. 

The “All of Us” Research Program is a nation-wide effort to create a diverse health database. The goal is to help researchers access information from other studies, help with treatment decisions for individuals and connect people with the right clinical studies for their needs. The conference allows researchers to share their work with those interested in precision medicine — which is an approach that takes into account individual patients’ differences in genetics, environments, and lifestyles. Students and professional researchers presented their studies at the conference.

Atighetchi and Noori applied to present at the conference and were both selected to speak to conference attendees based on the quality of their abstracts.

Noori presented her research on inflammatory bowel disease. Atighetchi presented his research on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), commonly known as lupus. SLE primarily affects non-white communities. 

“In generalized science, there’s always been a huge bias towards European populations,” Atighetchi said. “That leaves a lot of underrepresented populations under-investigated, especially with SLE, which primarily affects people of African-American, Hispanic and indigenous ancestry. Being able to close that gap and lessen that disparity in genomic studies contributes to more diversity in research and will advance our understanding of SLE in populations that are underrepresented in research.”

Atighetchi’s research examines the severity of the disease among underrepresented demographics. He is working on identifying which groups have an increased risk of SLE and is also investigating genetic markers associated with SLE in these diverse populations. 

For his research, Atighetchi received the convention’s “All of Us Community Award.” He is the first recipient of the award, which was introduced this year and is voted on by conference participants for the presentation that best articulates the benefits and impact of the study on the general public.

Eduardo Amorim, assistant professor of biology and Atighetchi’s principal investigator, commented on the importance of participating in conferences like “All of Us.”

“For students like Cameron, participating in conferences like this is invaluable,” Amorim said. “Not only do they provide a platform to highlight their achievements, but they also offer unparalleled networking opportunities and serve as a catalyst for furthering their research endeavors.” 

Amorim was also delighted about Atighetchi’s award. 

“Cameron’s recognition reaffirms our commitment to conducting impactful research that contributes positively to society, and I couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments,” he said.

Atighetchi appreciated the opportunity to speak at the convention.

“I’m just glad I was able to present my research and communicate my main points,” Atighetchi said. “Winning an award was the cherry on top.”

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