Tapscott Lab's Geng among Weintraub winners

Molecular and cell biologist Linda Geng is one of 13 recipients nationwide of the Center's 2012 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award
At the symposium Dr. Linda Geng will discuss the role of a transcription factor called DUX4 in a form of muscular dystrophy called facioscapulohumeral dystrophy. Photo courtesy of Dr. Linda Geng

Dr. Linda Geng, formerly of the Hutchinson Center's Tapscott Lab, is among 13 graduate students from institutions throughout North America chosen to receive the Center's 2012 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award.

A committee of Center investigators led by Dr. Susan Parkhurst chose the winners-from nominations submitted internationally-on the basis of the quality, originality and significance of their work. The awardees, all advanced students at or near the completion of their studies in the biological sciences, will present their research at the Weintraub Symposium May 4 at the Hutchinson Center.

A native of Houston, Geng came to the Center the summer of 2006 to work under the direction of Dr. Pete Nelson; the following summer she returned and spent the next four years working for Dr. Stephen Tapscott examining the function of a gene involved in a form of muscular dystrophy called facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD). During that time, Geng contributed to several breakthrough discoveries on FSHD.

"We found that this gene is inappropriately activated in diseased muscle cells and leads to molecular changes that may be detrimental to muscle cells," said Geng. "Additionally, we found that this gene may play a role in early developmental biology."

At the symposium Geng, who has a doctorate in molecular and cellular biology and is a candidate for her medical doctoral degree, will discuss the role of a transcription factor called DUX4 in FSHD.

Keeping Weintraub's legacy alive

Established in 2000, the award and symposium honors the late Dr. Harold M. 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. Hal had the knack of identifying the important questions in biology and designing experimental approaches that were creative, simple and elegant," said Dr. Mark Groudine, deputy director and a 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 instrumental in establishing the award.

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.

2012 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award Recipients

Columbia University
- Priyamvada Rajasethupathy, Ph.D., neuroscience

Georgetown University School of Medicine
- David Solomon, Ph.D. candidate, tumor biology

Harvard University
- Itay Budin, Ph.D. candidate, biochemistry and physical biology
- Nicolas Chevrier, Ph.D. candidate, immunology

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
- Junjie U. Guo, Ph.D., neuroscience
- Christopher Shoemaker, Ph.D. candidate, molecular biology and genetics

The Rockefeller University

- Johannes Scheid, M.D. /Ph.D. candidate, immunology

University of California, Berkeley
- Gregory Alushin, Ph.D. candidate, biophysics

University of California, San Francisco

- Feng-Yen Li, M.D./Ph.D. candidate, biomedical sciences

University of Colorado

- Jonathan Friedman, Ph.D. candidate, molecular, cellular and developmental biology

University of Michigan

- Beverly Piggott, Ph.D. candidate, molecular and integrative physiology

University of Washington
- Summer Thyme, Ph.D. candidate, biochemistry

University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
- Linda N. Geng, Ph.D. molecular and cellular biology, M.D. candidate

[Adapted from a Hutchinson Center news release by Linsey Battan]

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