Research Awards

 

 


PAST HONOREES

Undergraduate Awards

Graduate Student Awards

SCHOLL AWARD

Sponsored by the Dr. Scholl Foundation, this award goes to a graduate student who has performed outstanding research as demonstrated by the submission/publication of a first author manuscript in a peer-reviewed journal.

John Brenner, Ph.D.

brenner

My project, under the guidance of Dr. Allison Abbott, is aimed at identifying individual functions of microRNAs in the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans. microRNAs are ~22 nucleotide RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression. microRNAs play critical roles in development and disease, but their individual functions remain largely unknown.

Although worms lacking individual microRNA genes, in most cases, develop normally, I used a sensitized genetic background to identify functions for 25 microRNA genes. This work was published in Current Biology in 2010, where it was the featured paper on the Current Biology website, had a commentary published at the same time written by Victor Ambros (a leader in the microRNA field), and was mentioned in a Nature Reviews Genetics “In Brief”.

This work implicated the mir-51 family of microRNAs in developmental timing, which was surprising since the expression of this family of microRNAs is atypical for developmental timing regulators. I found that the mir-51 family acts broadly in multiple microRNA-dependent pathways in C. elegans, including developmental timing, expanding the known roles for this microRNA family in C. elegans development. This work was published in PLoS One earlier this year (2012).

I am now a Postdoctoral Researcher at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in the lab of Dr. Tim Schedl. Here I examine the role of post-transcriptional regulation in the decision for germline stem cells to either maintain the stem cell fate or to enter meiosis. In the future, I will continue using C. elegans as a model to enhance our understanding of post-transcriptional mechanisms that regulate stem cells and development, and I also hope to train the next generation of scientists in both the classroom and the lab.

 

OLIVER H. SMITH ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

This award recognizes exceptional academic achievement by a graduate student in the Ph.D. program. This award will be based on grade point average (GPA), research activity and scholarly achievements.

 

Adam Lietzan

Adam Lietzan

Adam’s research project uses protein X-ray crystallography and steady-state kinetic analyses to detail the poorly characterized mechanism of coordination between the two remote active sites in Pyruvate carboxylase (PC), a multi-site biotin-dependent enzyme. His structural studies have revealed features that promote the efficient coordination of catalysis between distinct active sites and have unveiled potentially important roles for previously unrecognized residues in each of the enzyme active sites.

Pyruvate carboxylase serves as a paradigm for catalysis in multi-enzyme systems. PC transfers a carboxybiotin intermediate generated in the biotin carboxylase (BC) domain to a pyruvate acceptor substrate in the carboxyl transferase (CT) domain. This summer, Adam’s research goals consist of kinetically characterizing mutant forms of PC in order to demonstrate the contribution of various amino acids to forming the biotin-binding pocket in the CT domain. Enzymatic assays will be utilized to describe alterations in the catalytic and coupling efficiency between the two distinct active sites. These experiments will provide a detailed description of plasticity in the CT domain during catalysis while presenting insights into a mechanism for coordinating distinct active sites in a model multi-enzyme system.

 

DR. CATHERINE GROTELUESCHEN SCHOLARSHIP FUND FOR BIOLOGY

Andrew Karls

Andrew KarlsThe Department of Biological Sciences is grateful to announce that Andrew Karls is the first recipient of the Dr. Catherine Grotelueschen Scholarship, given by Dr. Catherine Grotelueschen and her husband Mr. James Grotelueschen. Dr. Grotelueschen is an alumnus of our Biological Sciences Department, earning her Master’s degree in 1975. The endowment will provide scholarship support towards the summer stipend for a graduate student in the Biological Sciences Department. Andrew Karls’ research examines different ways that neurons regulate voltage-gated calcium channels. In neurons, the concentration of intracellular calcium is much lower when compared to extracellular concentrations. Thus, entry of calcium ions can serve as a switch, turning on or off a variety of cellular processes. One potential way these calcium channels are regulated is by G-protein coupled receptors, such as the GABAB receptor. While much is known about how these receptors can inhibit calcium channels, Andrew’s work specifically focuses on how GABAB receptor activation leads to calcium current enhancement. This summer, Andrew will begin experiments designed to provide detailed information about the particular calcium channel isoform involved in calcium current enhancement, as well as describe kinetic and physiological differences between these specific isoforms. This work has implications in how seizure disorders such as epilepsy are treated early in life.

 

DENIS J O’BRIEN FELLOWSHIP FOR BIOLOGY

Adam Lietzan

Adam LietzanThe Department of Biological Sciences periodically receives funding from the Denis J. O’Brien Fellowship Fund for financial assistance in the form of a summer stipend. This year’s winner is Adam Lietzan.

Adam’s research project uses protein X-ray crystallography and steady-state kinetic analyses to detail the poorly characterized mechanism of coordination between the two remote active sites in Pyruvate carboxylase (PC), a multi-site biotin-dependent enzyme. His structural studies have revealed features that promote the efficient coordination of catalysis between distinct active sites and have unveiled potentially important roles for previously unrecognized residues in each of the enzyme active sites.

Pyruvate carboxylase serves as a paradigm for catalysis in multi-enzyme systems. PC transfers a carboxybiotin intermediate generated in the biotin carboxylase (BC) domain to a pyruvate acceptor substrate in the carboxyl transferase (CT) domain. This summer, Adam’s research goals consist of kinetically characterizing mutant forms of PC in order to demonstrate the contribution of various amino acids to forming the biotin-binding pocket in the CT domain. Enzymatic assays will be utilized to describe alterations in the catalytic and coupling efficiency between the two distinct active sites. These experiments will provide a detailed description of plasticity in the CT domain during catalysis while presenting insights into a mechanism for coordinating distinct active sites in a model multi-enzyme system.

 

 

 

 


 

 


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