Stoddard Selected for Young Scientist Award for Excellence in Research

image of Shana Stoddard sitting on a bench on campus

Dr. Shana Stoddard, associate professor of chemistry at Rhodes College, has been selected to receive the 2024 Lloyd N. Ferguson Young Scientist Award for Excellence in Research from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE).

The award recognizes a young scientist or engineer (15 years or less in the field) who has demonstrated excellence in scientific research and documented contributions to their field. Stoddard will be presented the award at NOBCChE’s national conference in September.

This is Stoddard’s sixth award from a national organization since joining Rhodes in 2017 as a tenure track assistant professor of chemistry.

Stoddard, who earned early tenure at Rhodes, has maintained an active research program mentoring a total of 108 students—100 undergraduates, three high school students, and five graduate students.

Her body of research work has resulted in two patent applications, 12 publications, 71 regional or national presentations, and eight invited talks. Stoddard has published with a total of 60 students—53 undergraduate and two high school co-authors. Of the 60 student co-authors, 36 are students of color and 20 students of color are from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM.

Stoddard’s research focuses on understanding the structure of proteins and how they bind to their targets and using the information to improve patient outcomes with autoimmune disorders, cancers, neurological disorders, and coronaviruses. Both computational and experimental, her research has made impacts in the field of drug design, protein modeling, and even medical imaging. In addition, Stoddard’s work has allowed for a more detailed understanding of several proteins targeted for drug therapy, and she has developed guidelines for scientists to produce highly specific drugs for diseases and cancers including neuroblastoma, colorectal cancer, MERS, SARS, COVID-19, Huntington’s disorder, and glioblastoma.

Through her research program, Stoddard has predicted the structure of kidney protein, even leading to protein structure corrections in international databases. She was the first to identify and report the novel consensus sequence variation of a protein domain known to be important in various functions such as cell migration and blood vessel creation. Stoddard recently submitted a patent application for the invention of bio-tools which can be used to understand kidney function. The patent application has 16 student co-inventors, 15 from Rhodes. 

“We have already had researchers reach out to us to determine if they could use our bio-tools in their experiments to investigate kidney function,” said Stoddard.

Another area of excellence in the Stoddard lab is protein modeling expertise. Stoddard has developed accurate 3D models of several large proteins. The largest is the 250kDa multidomain proteins thrombospondin type-1 containing domain 7A (THSD7A) protein. This work provides researchers better opportunities to develop specific therapies for primary membranous nephropathy (PMN), which is a kidney-specific autoimmune disease.

Stoddard has had several students from her lab to pursue research careers, and she said she enjoys creating space for students to approach a challenge, to develop independence, and to thrive. Cabria Shelton ’23  is a former lab student who wrote Stoddard expressing excitement to join her as a fellow Black woman in STEM and appreciation for the mentorship Stoddard provided her throughout her journey at Rhodes. Shelton currently is pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences.

Colin Welsh ’18 is another former student pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and said, “Dr. Stoddard emphasized a degree of independence in my work. While this could be painful at times, it is perhaps the skill that has most benefited me as a scientist. The faculty whose labs I rotated in during my first year of graduate school lauded my ability to think through problems on my own, a skill that Dr. Stoddard encouraged me to grow and develop.”

“I am honored and humbled to receive Lloyd N. Ferguson Young Scientist Award, which highlights the creative excellence and innovation going into my research,” said Stoddard. “I am also very excited to continue to bring this opportunity for research excellence to my students, encouraging and equipping them to pursue transformative scientific discovery. I tell them that the scientist is the connection between the lab and life and that they can also be contributors in that realm.”