Biology Ph.D. Graduate Ritu Bohat Receives Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award

Award Recognizes Significance and Impact of Research

Each semester, the Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award is presented to a graduating doctoral student who has performed outstanding research and submitted the best dissertation to the College of Natural Science and Mathematics. The Summer/Fall 2023 recipient was Ritu Bohat, a biology Ph.D. graduate.

Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award Winner, Ritu Bohat
Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award winner Ritu Bohat with Dean Dan Wells.

The award was announced on December 16 at the University of Houston Commencement for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Bohat received a certificate and an award of $1,000.

Her dissertation was titled “Targeting PI3K Isoforms to Improve Effectiveness of T cells Mediated Immunotherapy.” Her research was conducted under the supervision of Weiyi Peng, assistant professor of biology and biochemistry, at UH’s Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling.

Bohat’s research examined how our body’s immune system can be taught to fight against cancerous cells that have an overactive form of the protein PI3K. By targeting the divergent forms of this protein, it reduces the activity of the cancer cells without hurting immune cells, where these proteins are also present.

This work provides a deeper understanding of this protein in cancer and immune cells and provides a novel therapeutic approach to improve the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy. Her work is now proceeding toward a clinical trial.

Beyond cancer research, she also contributed to the development of a lupus mouse model, offering researchers a valuable tool to unravel the complexities of this autoimmune disorder and potentially advance therapeutic solutions.

For the award, nominated dissertations are evaluated for the:

  • Significance and impact of the research
  • Originality of the work
  • Quality of the scholarship, and
  • Quality of the presentation and organization of the dissertation

- Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics