The Pediatric Center of Excellence in Nephrology (PCEN) at UVA has been very productive. The PCEN has created and enhanced many educational activities within the Department of Pediatrics such as the Annual Pediatric Research Symposium, the Annual Trainee Competition, the Betsy and Stuart Houston Lecture, the Pediatric Research Seminar Series and Grant Review Sessions. Crucial findings have been made and novel methodologies have been established that were instrumental for the success of the program.

A website for the Center was developed and launched. This site includes an overview of the Center, summaries of the individual projects and short biographies of the main investigators. It also provides information about the enrichment programs for students and the public and a link to the NIDDK website. The Enrichment Program of the Center has been successful in attracting and supporting junior faculty through Pilot Projects, and retaining graduate students to research in Pediatric Nephrology. Most of the students that applied for rotations and our Summer Research Program learnt about us from the UVA PCEN website. A full progress report including publications can also be found at the Center website.

Seminar Series

The Seminar Series, directed by Dr. Sequeira-Lopez, consist on fully CME accredited educational lectures for medical professionals focused on Basic, Clinical and Translational Research topics to explore cutting edge developments that will ultimately benefit the diagnosis and treatment of childhood illnesses with a special emphasis on kidney disease. Speakers are from UVA and also include eminent national and international invited scientists. All seminars have a moderator assigned. Seminars are scheduled on Fridays at noon so that the residents and most pediatric faculty can attend, but it is open and free for all the School of Medicine and other faculty interested in research. The content is purposely broad to 1) allow residents expand their knowledge and vision about research and translational medical care and 2) learn about novel technologies in other research areas that can be applied to kidney research. The clinician-scientist role is critical to the future of health care, and a major goal of this Seminar Series by maintaining vigorous and diverse research topics is to motivate our young physicians to become Physician-scientists. The Seminar Series has been praised and very well attended. The full list of seminars can be accessed through our webpage

2015-2016 Seminars include (but not limited to):

Ambra Pozzi, PhD | February 2, 2015

Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Integrins in fibrotic responses: Good or bad receptors. 

February 3, 2015 | Roy Zent, M.D.

Ph.D. Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Integrins in the kidney. 

March 3, 2015 | Sergio D. Rosenzweig, MD, PhD

Deputy Chief of the Immunology Service at the Clinical Center, NIH and the Co-Director of the Primary Immunodeficiency Clinic

NIAID, NIH. Glycosylation, Hypogammaglobulinemia and Resistance to Viral Infections.

April 3, 2015 | Hiroko Nishimura, MD, DMSc

Professor, Department of Health Informatics, Niigata University of Health and Welfare, Niigata, Japan, Professor Emeritus, Department of Physiology, University of Tennessee.

Does reduced nutrition during development program renal glomerular injury? From animal study to patients 

September 4, 2015 | Ariel Gomez, MD,

UVA Department of Pediatrics,

The CHRC: Programs of Excellence. 

December 4, 2015 | Linda Mullins, PhD

University of Edinburgh/BHF Cardiovascular Science Centre, Queen’s Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh.

Rodent Genome Targeting: a personal perspective!

December 4, 2015 | John Mullins, PhD

Director, BHF Centre for Research Excellence and Chair, Molecular Physiology, University of Edinburgh.

Integrating ‘Macro’ and ‘Wide-angle’ views of renin and the RAS. 

March 4, 2016 | Michael J. McConnell, Ph.D

Department of Biochemistry, UVA.

Single Cell Analysis of Brain Somatic Mosaicism. 

March 18, 2016 | Rhian M. Touyz, MBBCh, PhD, FRCP, FRSE

British Heart Foundation Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine, Director – Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, BHF Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre.

VEGF signaling, anti-cancer drugs and hypertension. 

April 22, 2016 | Allen Everett, MD.

Director of the Pediatric Proteome Center, Johns Hopkins University.

Proteomic Discovery and use of biomarkers in Pediatric Medicine. 

June 27, 2016 | Hiroko Nishimura, MD, DMSc,

Professor, Department of Health Informatics, Niigata University of Health and Welfare, Niigata, Japan, and Professor Emeritus, Department of Physiology, University to Tennessee.

Reninangiotensin system and angiotensin receptors – Evolution and Function

We just started a new monthly formal educational activity, the “Junior Investigators Development Series” given by senior investigators and experts in the field. The first one entitled: “Best practices for writing an outstanding grant application” will be given by Dr. Jim Nataro, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics on October 27, 2016. Other topics will include:

  • Time management: how to deal with unwanted deadlines.
  • Mentoring and Being Mentored.
  • Scientific Writing.
  • Mock Study Section.
  • Project Planning: Focusing Your Resources to Get Results.
  • Securing Tenure.
  • The Challenges of a Career in Clinical Research.
  • Career development topics.
  • Ethical Research Guidelines and Regulations Policies.
  • The Ethics of Authorship: Understanding and Addressing the Problems of Credit in Research.
  • Avoiding Plagiarism and Self-Plagiarism.
  • People Management for Principal Investigators.
  • Laboratory Leadership and Management in Science.
  • How to hire good people.
  • Grants and Budget.
  • Strategies for Successful Collaborations.
  • HR Negotiation skills, Leadership and Personnel Issues.
  • Navigating the University Structure: From the Administration to all the Resources.
  • Writing and Reading Letters of Recommendation.
  • Problems and Solutions in Scientific Management.
  • Strategies for Physician-Scientists.

Annual Pediatric Research Symposium

Under the direction of Dr. Sequeira Lopez from 2014, and with the intellectual support from the PCEN members, the Annual Pediatric Research Symposium increased visibility of the Department of Pediatrics research groups, established new collaborations and attracted students at all levels. In addition to inviting prominent pediatric scientists to deliver the Keynote Lecture and interact with trainees during the poster session, we implemented the “Meet the speaker” Session, an educational activity oriented to trainees and young faculty. This consists on an informal open discussion about practical research topics aimed to guide attendees in the advancement of their academic careers. Please note below (in bold) that 3 out of the 4 speakers are Pediatric Nephrology Scientists.

2014 | Dr. Mary Leonard (Stanford University)

Keynote Lecture: “The Impact of Childhood Chronic Disease on Bone Health: A Life Course Perspective.”

Meet the Speaker Session: “Lessons Learned: The Challenges of a Career in Clinical Research”

2015 | Dr. Samir El-Dahr (Tulane University)

Keynote Lecture: “Nephron progenitors: Genes, Environment and Epigenetics.”

Meet the Speaker Session: “Transitioning to Independence in Scientific Research”

2016 | Dr. Alessio Fasano (Massachusetts General Hospital)

Keynote Lecture: “How early nutrition influences gut microbiome and metabolic profiles in health and disease.”

Meet the Speaker Session: “How to Choose the Right Mentor for a Successful Academic Career”

2017 | Dr. Patricio E. Ray (Children’s National Medical Center, Washington DC)

Keynote Lecture: “A historical perspective of the HIV-renal epidemic: There is always something new out of Africa.”

Meet the Speaker Session: “The challenges of becoming a translational research scientist in the next decade.”

2018 | Dr. Norman D. Rosenblum (University of Toronto)

Keynote Lecture: “Kidney-Urinary Tract Malformation: Translating Developmental Genetics and Genomics to Make a Difference for Children.”

Meet the Speaker Session: “Developing a Career as a Clinical Translational Scientist in Pediatrics: A Dialogue.”

Annual Pediatric Research Trainee Competition

Under the direction of Dr. Sequeira Lopez from 2014, the abstracts submitted by trainees to the Pediatric Research Symposium are evaluated and graded by a committee. The top scored (12) give an oral presentation 2 weeks before the Research Symposium, and then the top 3 winners present orally their abstracts at the Pediatric Research Symposium and receive an award.

In addition, we implemented in 2015 the UVA Lifetime Achievement Award in Pediatric Science.


(see progress report on Pilot and Feasibility Program)

Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira-Lopez are mentors on the T32 Training Grant: Kidney Disease & Inflammation (NIH DK072922,PI Dr. Mark Okusa). Dr Sequeira-Lopez is currently the mentor of a Pediatric Nephrology first year fellow (Dr. Tahagod Mohamed) as part of the T32. The three PIs of the PCEN mentor students (at all stages) and junior faculty.

Betsy and Stuart Houston Lecture

Houston-LectureIn 2016, Dr. Gomez established the Betsy and Stuart Houston Lecture, an annual event to invite renown scientists to give an illuminating scientific lecture and interact with our faculty and trainees. The first invited speaker was the 2007 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine Dr. Mario Capecchi. The title of his talk was: “Gene Targeting into the 21st Century: Mouse Models of Human Disease from Cancer to Neuropsychiatric Disorders.” His lecture filled the entire auditorium — leaving every chair filled, the stairs stacked on both sides, and the back of the room lined (see photo) — as well as provided a live broadcast to attendees in a separate study hall. We also organized a lunch session where faculty and students within the UVA School of Medicine met with Dr. Capecchi to have a general discussion about scientific research. The title was “The making of a scientist” and was moderated by Dr. Sequeira Lopez. For 2017 the speaker will be Dr. Johannes Carolus (Hans) Clevers, from Utrecht University.

Grant Review Sessions

Under the coordination of Dr. Sequeira Lopez from 2015, we established an educational activity to review grants proposals from our Junior Faculty in Pediatrics. We identify and invite specialists from within and outside Pediatrics to evaluate the proposals and give constructive feed back. The Specific Aims page is distributed a week in advance. A moderator is assigned, who within a week after the presentation will write and send the presenter a summary of the discussion and recommendations.

“Noninvasive MRI Techniques to Detect Pathology in Murine Models of Renal Disease” Jennifer Charlton, MD, Sep. 18, 2015. This proposal was awarded this year the Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant from the American Society of Nephrology and recently a 13 percentile on an RO1 submission.

  • “GSNOR/S-nitrosothiol Regulation of Vesicular Transport” Lisa Palmer, PhD, Sep. 25, 2015. This proposal was scored, not funded and recently resubmitted.
  • “Health and Development Improvements for Children in Rural Tanzania” Mark DeBoer, MD, Rebecca Scharf, MD, Nov. 6, 2015
  • “Immunomodulation through the O-glycome by Serine proteases of Enterobacteriaceae” Fernando Ruiz, PhD, Nov. 20, 2015
  • “A longitudinal study of trauma-alcohol conditioning and DNA methylation in posttraumatic stress disorder and alcohol use disorder symptoms” Erin C. Berenz, PhD, Dec.18, 2015
  • “Effects of Newborn Detergent Use on Allergic Diseases in Childhood” Julia Wisniewski, MD, Feb. 19, 2016
  • “Strategies of Pathogenic E. Coli to Colonize the Host” Jorge A Giron, PhD, May 6, 2016

Student Training

The PCEN is very successful in providing research exposure to high school and college students and attracting graduate and medical students to Pediatric Nephrology Research. In addition, the laboratories of each PCEN PIs hosted summer research students (in state and out of state) to pursue projects funded by the Administrative Supplement for Summer Students. Two predoctoral students Eugene Lin and Yan Hu from the UVA Department of Biology training in the laboratories of Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira-Lopez successfully completed their projects, received several awards (i.e AHA Junior investigator awards, Mid Atlantic forum) and obtained their PhDs in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Dr. Dr. El-Dahr has three predoctoral students from the interdisciplinary Biomedical Science Program at Tulane. We have already received applications from undergraduate students for next Summer.

PCEN Summer Students


Summer students of the UVA PCEN
from left to right: Robert Paxton, Meghan Milligan, Sofia Rosenzweig and Gonzalo Olaverria Salavaggione

Project 1 : Ariel Gomez, MD

  • Eugene Lin, UVA Department of Biology graduate student. Currently a Postdoctoral student at John Hopkins studying the effects of sympathetic denervation on kidney development.
    • Project: Role of Foxd1 cells in renal vascular patterning
  • Gonzalo Olaverria Salavaggione, rising senior undergraduate student, Ohio State University Biology major.
    • Project: Analysis of expression of hypoxia related genes Hif 2 and Epo in the kidney.
  • Robert Paxton, BS in Biology with concentration in Biotechnology and Molecular Biology, Elon University, graduated in 2016.
    • Project: Cell fate in the developing kidney.

Project 2: Samir El-Dahr, MD

  • Jenny Ngo, Tulane School of Medicine,Medical student rising second year.
    • Project: Role of histone methyltransferases in kidney development.
  • Zahra Saifudeen, freshman undergraduate student, Tulane University.
    • Project: Regulation of Renal Epithelial Cell Differentiation by Epigenetic Modifiers.

Project 3: Robert Chevallier and Maria Luisa Sequeira-Lopez

  • Akif Shameem, UVa Class of 2016, Biology and Public Health major.
    • Project: Formation of atubular glomeruli by oxidant injury in murine ureteral obstruction.
  • Sofia Rosenzweig, University of Maryland Baltimore County undergraduate student.
    • Project: Lineage tracing studies on the formation of atubular glomeruli and on nephron regeneration after release of UUO.
  • Meghan Milligan, High School rising senior. Currently an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia.
    • Project: Clonality analysis of insterstitial cells during ureteral obstruction.
  • Jessica Moskaluk, rising junior undergraduate student, Pennsylvania State University. Forensic Science major.
    • Project: Regulation of gene expression in renin lineage cells.

Examples of additional training provided by the PCEN

Nathan Grainger, PhD | Student at the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine.

He came to Dr. Sequeira-Lopez’s lab April 24-30 2016, to train in complete and partial unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) and release surgical procedures in newborn and adult mice. He had no previous surgical experience and after a one on one training for a whole week he was able to successfully perform the procedures without help.

Members of Dr. Kevin Lynch Laboratory

UVA Department of Pharmacology came to Dr. Sequeira-Lopez Lab to train in UUO techniques.

Leon DeLalio | PhD Student at the CVRC, UVA

He is working on the pannexin gene in renin kidney cells and receiving regular guidance and training in Dr. Gomez Lab in histological and molecular biology techniques in kidney.

Lisa Palmer, PhD | Member of the CHRC

Dr. Palmer received guidance and training on harvesting embryos and phenotypic evaluation ad well as on immunohistochemical techniques.

Jessica Harakal | PhD Student at the UVA Carter Immunology Center,

She currently a Postdoctoral student at Dr. Tung’s Laboratory, and received training on immunohistochemical techniques and mouse models for lineage tracing studies on the neonatal kidney.

Lectures at UVA and Tulane by the PIs of the PCEN

September 2013

Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira-Lopez visited Dr. El-Dahr at Tulane University, reviewed and discussed the progress of the projects of the current PCEN.

May 2015

Dr. El-Dahr was the invited Keynote Lecturer of the Pediatrics Research Symposium. The title of his talk was: “Nephron progenitors: Genes, Environment and Epigenetics”. He participated in all the activities (poster presentations, oral presentations by the winners of the Trainee Research Competition and Meet the Speaker Session: “Transitioning to Independence in Scientific Research”). He also met with Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira Lopez to discuss the progress of the current PCEN.

September 2015

Dr. El-Dahr visited Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira-Lopez at UVA to discuss the progress of the current PCEN and the strategic plan for the renewal.

March 2016

Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira-Lopez visited Tulane University. Dr. Sequeira Lopez gave a Seminar “Development of the kidney vasculature” in Department of Pediatrics The PI’s discussed pilot projects, the progress of the current PCEN and the strategic plan for the renewal. In addition, the PIs met regularly at scientific meetings (ASN, Council on Hypertension, IWDN).

Public Engagement and Education.

  • The activities of the PCEN at UVA have been publicized through:
  • Poster presentation at the American Society of Nephrology meeting in November, 2014, Philadelphia, PA. Gomez RA, El-Dahr S, Chevalier R, Pentz ES, Sequeira Lopez MLS. Pediatric Center of Excellence in Nephrology. “Opportunities to learn methods in epigenetics, cell fate analysis and kidney injury/repair.”
  • Our website which is updated regularly to include the new pilot project and list the publications resulting from the Center research projects.
  • Weekly emails with Seminar announcements.
  • Kids Matter, the weekly newsletter of the UVA Children’s Hospital.
  • Lay presentations to the members of the UVA Children Hospital Committee, and laboratory tours to engage and educate our community members that can then further disseminate the importance of our program (on a yearly basis).