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Four profs, four disciplines: SBU forms group to study pregnancy and prenatal development

Jul 10, 2019

Four professors at St. Bonaventure University have established an interdisciplinary Consortium for the Study of Pregnancy and Prenatal Development.

Developed by professors from biology, chemistry, education and nursing, the consortium’s mission is to study the factors that impact pregnancy and prenatal development; to improve local and global knowledge of those factors; and to improve the well-being of developing embryos, fetuses, infants, mothers and all other stakeholders in pregnancy health.

“This is an opportunity for a group of collaborative professors whose disciplines all play a part in investigating various aspects of pregnancy and prenatal development to work together to accomplish things we couldn’t accomplish alone,” said Dr. Adam Brown of the School of Education.

Brown’s consortium colleagues are Dr. Xiao-Ning Zhang (biology), Dr. Connie Perkins (nursing) and Dr. Scott Simpson (chemistry).

“This kind of interdisciplinary academic initiative is a testament to the spirit of collegiality that doesn’t exist among faculty at every university,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “These professors have a genuine interest in working together, to benefit from each other’s research in an attempt to better understand this vast and critically important field of study.”

Brown’s expertise is in human development, which he has taught for 20 years. He developed an honors course called Human Pregnancy and he’s collecting research for a pregnancy textbook.

Brown also is researching ways to reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (NVP) while increasing health outcomes for embryos and fetuses.

Zhang’s expertise is in biochemistry.

“Plants, including fruits and vegetables, produce a variety of small compounds to protect themselves from the adverse conditions in the environment, such as pathogens and herbivores,” Zhang said. “Some of these compounds in certain vegetables may have the potential to disturb the development of the embryo or fetus if ingested in large dosage.”

Zhang’s lab uses biochemistry, bioinformatics and molecular genetics approaches to study the behaviors of molecules in plants when they interact with the environment.

“Learning and understanding the biochemical pathways for producing these compounds inside of plant cells is the first step that could lead to long-term strategies to potentially prevent vegetables from making high levels of these compounds before they get on the market,” Zhang said.

Simpson’s work is specifically designed to remove pesticide residuals from food. Many of these pesticides are neurotoxins or hormone/endocrine disruptors that can greatly effect a developing fetus, he said.

“It is the hope through the collaborative consortium that we will be able to have a broader impact on the ever growing concerns on health risks that these pollutants may cause,” Simpson said.

Before coming to St. Bonaventure to build the university’s new RN to B.S. in Nursing program, Perkins worked in maternity and the nursery at UPMC Cole in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. She was certified in neonatal resuscitation and pediatric advanced life support.

“Interdisciplinary research is key to healthcare’s future,” Perkins said. “My role in the consortium will allow me to dispense critical information to nurses, who play a vital role in the education of their patients.”


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.