Basic Sciences’ Patel wins Whitney fellowship

Malik Lab researcher studies evolution’s effect on mitochondrial function
Dr. Maulik Patel
Dr. Maulik Patel of the Malik Lab has won a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Research Fellowship. Photo courtesy of Maulik Patel

Dr. Maulik Patel, a postdoctoral researcher in the Basic Sciences Division’s Malik Lab, has been awarded a prestigious Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Research Fellowship. He joins 20 other young researchers nationwide in receiving the three-year award.

The $139,500 grant will enable Patel to study the hypothesis that genetic conflicts involving viruses and the “battle of the sexes” may drive the evolution of mitochondria, tiny powerhouses in cells that produce energy from food and oxygen consumption. Unlike nuclear DNA, which is inherited from both parents, mitochondrial DNA comes only from the mother. Given these different modes of inheritance, it is believed that the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA are locked in an evolutionary conflict. Mitochondrial defects are associated with aging, cancer, immunity and diseases like Parkinson’s.

The Whitney Foundation nurtures and supports the careers of promising young scientists in biomedical research and aims to broaden postdoctoral training and experience.

“I am delighted that Maulik’s creative and fearless approach to the study of mitochondrial function in evolution and immunity was recognized by the selection committee,” said Dr. Harmit Malik, Patel’s postdoctoral mentor and a former Whitney fellow.

Patel’s current work is a shift from his graduate studies in C. elegans neurobiology at Stanford University, research that recently garnered him a Weintraub Graduate Student Award.

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