Malik Lab's Bayes wins molecular evolution award

The Walter M. Fitch Student Award is given to the best presenter at a special plenary session at the annual meeting for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution
Joshua Bayes
The Malik Lab’s Joshua Bayes is studying the molecular basis of speciation in the fruit fly Drosophila. After presenting his research last week, Bayes received the most prestigious award a graduate student can earn in the field of molecular evolution—the Walter M. Fitch Award. Photo by Carol Insalaco

Joshua Bayes of the joint Hutchinson Center/University of Washington Molecular and Cellular Biology Program has won the Walter M. Fitch Student Award. The award, which includes a $1,500 prize, recognizes the best graduate student presentation given during a special plenary session at the Annual Meeting for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Bayes, who is carrying out his doctoral thesis research in Dr. Harmit Malik’s lab in the Basic Sciences Division, is studying the molecular basis of speciation—or how one species splits into two—in the fruit fly Drosophila. He was among eight finalists selected to present at the symposium, which has provided a forum for young investigators to showcase exemplary research since the society’s first annual meeting in 1993.

“It was already such an honor to be part of the Fitch symposium, which brought together an exceptional group of students speaking on a wide range of evolutionary topics,” Bayes said. “To be a graduate student and have the culmination of my thesis work recognized was truly beyond my expectations.”

In his talk on “The Molecular Basis of Hybrid Sterility Caused by the Hybrid Sterility,” Bayes presented his finding that implicates rapid evolution of satellite-DNA as one of the earliest events in inter-species divergence.

Dr. Harmit Malik
Dr. Harmit Malik Basic Sciences Division

“I am delighted that Josh impressed the selection committee to win the award,” Malik said of the presentation that took place in early June at the University of Iowa. “I think the committee must have been impressed by the combination of molecular, cytological and evolutionary approaches that Josh has successfully employed to tackle one of the most intriguing problems in biology.”

The award honors Walter M. Fitch, professor of molecular evolution at the University of California, Irvine. Fitch is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Linnean Society in London. He is the co-founder of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution and the first president of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

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