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Appetite regulation expert receives H.O.P.E. Award

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

LAWRENCE — David Pendergrass, lecturer in undergraduate biology and director of the Molecular Biosciences Degree Completion Program at the KU Edwards Campus, has been awarded this year’s H.O.P.E. Award by the University of Kansas Board of Class Officers.

Established by the Class of 1959, the H.O.P.E. Award (Honor for an Outstanding Progressive Educator) recognizes outstanding teaching and concern for students. It is the only KU award for teaching excellence bestowed exclusively by students and is led by the Board of Class Officers. The winner is selected by the senior class members.

“I am simply humbled to have received such a distinctive honor from the students themselves,” said Pendergrass, who was honored Nov. 15 during the KU-Texas Christian University football game in Lawrence. “I have been so blessed to have worked with such unbelievably fantastic students over the past 12 years.”

The Molecular Biosciences Degree Completion Program, which began in 2003 now boasts more than 55 students in the major. He teaches graduate and upper undergraduate biochemistry, biochemistry laboratory, neurobiology, brain dissection, developmental biology and mammalian physiology, as well as two seminars during each year in addition to his administrative duties.

Pendergrass’ research interests include the neuroregulation of appetite, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, learning and memory, non-opioid pharmacology, addiction disorders and protein allosteric interactions. He has given seminars in appetite regulation, schizophrenia, sexual differences in the brain, and the learning and memory paradigms of infants and toddlers. He has most recently given a seminar on the effects of TRPV1, a sensory receptor in the pancreas and brain, as a positive feedback system leading to insulin resistance at the Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta. Pendergrass is editor for the newly formed Journal of Evolution and Health.

Pendergrass wrote the “Smartest Loser” for individuals who are unfamiliar with the precepts of the Paleolithic diet and are looking to achieve lifelong weight loss. The Smartest Loser was inaugurated at the Jewish Community Center in March 2011 with nearly 35 participants. The Smartest Loser was also conducted at the Edwards Campus for the Governor's Weight Loss challenge.

“My teaching efforts actually led to my research interest,” Pendergrass said. “Incorporating biochemistry into physiology and weaving in the neurobiology allowed me to connect dots regarding appetite regulation across several disciplines. As a result, the students get far more than just memorable facts; they can apply it to an everyday condition, which, of course, helps them learn better. Class is always a lot of fun because all the students are interested in food and wellness. We have some lively discussions.”

Read more about Pendergrass’ research interests at www.appetiteregulation.com.

H.O.P.E. winners receive a monetary award and recognition on a permanent plaque displayed in the Kansas Union. For more information on the H.O.P.E. Award, visit facultydevelopment.ku.edu/awards. For a list of past H.O.P.E. winners, visit facultydevelopment.ku.edu/awards/hope-recipients.