Two researchers from the Basic Sciences Division join 11 other graduate students from institutes throughout North America as winners of the 2010 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award, sponsored by the division.
Bungo Akiyoshi of the Biggins Lab and Dr. Maulik Patel of the Malik Lab, along with the other winners, were selected on the basis of the quality, originality and significance of their work. Nominations were solicited internationally.
The recipients, all advanced students at or near the completion of their studies in the biological sciences, will participate in a scientific symposium May 7 at the Center. The symposium will include scientific presentations by the awardees as well as poster presentations by Center graduate students.
Akiyoshi is a doctoral candidate in the Molecular and Cellular Biology program run collaboratively by the Center and the University of Washington. In the Biggins Lab, he is studying the mechanisms of chromosome segregation to better understand how cells inherit a complete set of chromosomes during every cell division. Akiyoshi has established to methods to purify kinetochores, the specialized protein structures that are assembled on DNA sequences, in order to study the function of these proteins. Because chromosomal abnormalities are a hallmark of all cancers and many birth defects, studying chromosome segregation is critical to understanding how cells maintain genomic stability and prevent disease.
Dr. Maulik Patel
Patel's award recognizes work he did at Stanford University, where he received his doctorate in neuroscience in 2009. He is researching the molecular logic of the nervous system. In humans, billions of neurons are precisely wired into a functional circuit through trillions of synapses, but how the neurons find their synaptic partners is poorly understood. Patel uses the simple nervous system of the C. elegans nematode worm to study synapse development.
Honoring a leader in molecular biology
The award, established in 2000, posthumously honors Weintraub, a founding member of the Basic Sciences Division who died from brain cancer in 1995 at age 49. Weintraub was an international leader in the field of molecular biology; among his many contributions, he identified genes responsible for instructing cells to differentiate, or develop, into specific tissues such as muscle and bone.
“Hal was one of the most outstanding scientists of his generation, as well as one of the most unpretentious. He had the knack of identifying the important questions in biology and designing experimental approaches that were creative, simple and elegant,” said Deputy Director Dr. Mark Groudine, a former friend and colleague of Weintraub.
“By nurturing colleagues, students and postdocs, and helping all of us become better scientists, Hal was instrumental in establishing the collegial atmosphere at the Hutchinson Center. We believe having a symposium recognizing the achievements of young scientists is a great way to honor Hal and the recipients of this award,” said Groudine, who was involved in establishing the prize.
The award recipients will receive a certificate, travel expenses and an honorarium from the Weintraub and Groudine Fund, established to foster intellectual exchange through the promotion of programs for graduate students, fellows and visiting scholars.