Former Fellows

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Herbert T. Abelson Jane Coffin Childs Fellow

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Biology

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Nucleic acid antagonists at the subcellular level

Emma Abernathy

Department of Genetics, Stanford University

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Determining how diverse RNA viruses manipulate the autophagy pathway

Viruses make excellent tools for studying host pathways because they have evolved ways to subvert or co-opt those pathways. I’m interested in the autophagy pathway- a highly conserved means for the cell to recycle cellular material during times of stress by promoting vesicle formation and subsequent degradation of cytoplasmic contents. Autophagy is a fascinating and broad-reaching area of research where there is still little mechanistic knowledge, but appears to be involved in many different diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and infectious diseases.

I’m particularly interested in how viruses co-opt this pathway to promote their own replication and spread. To address the mechanisms by which viruses induce and interact with the autophagy pathway, I am using poliovirus infection in HeLa cells that have several key autophagy genes knocked out by Crispr-Cas9. This will allow me to explore how the virus interfaces with the distinct complexes of the autophagy pathway and how the virus utilizes these for replication. Using viruses to study this underlying cellular process may help uncover potential drug targets for other diseases where autophagy is implicated.

Paul N Ackerman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Departnment of Surgery, Boston University

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Amnioacridine localization in tumors

Paul N. Adler Jane Coffin Childs Fund Fellow

University of California Irvine Department of Biology

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Imaginal discs of D. melanogaster

Paul N Adler Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

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Nature of positional information

James L. Alderfer Jane Coffin Childs Fund Fellow

The Johns Hopkins University Department of Radiological Sciences

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Physicochemical properties of ribopolymers

Gregory Allen

Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California San Francisco

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Synthetic control of immune cell traffiking

Patrick Allen Jane Coffin Childs Fund Fellow

University of Colorado Boulder Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

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Interactions between nucleic acid ligands and HlV-1 proteins.

Catherine C Allende Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile

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Relationship between the structure & specificity of amino acid activating enzymes

Jorge E Allende Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile

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Relationship between the structure & specificity of amino acid activating enzymes

Jeanine Amacher Frederic M Richards Fellow

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California

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Substrate docking and ubiquitylation in the E3 ligase Cbl , with John Kuriyan

Post-translational modifications regulate key interactions in signaling pathways. In protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) signaling, for example, crosstalk between phosphorylation and ubiquitylation signals is critical to proper cellular function. A phosphorylation cascade is triggered upon PTK activation; in turn, the RING-type E3 ubiquitin ligase Cbl is activated, and attenuates many of these signals via lysosomal degradation. In cancers where there are mutations in PTK signaling, this communication breaks down, leading to uncontrolled cell proliferation and poor patient prognosis.

During my postdoctoral work in Dr. John Kuriyan’s lab at UC Berkeley, I am using biochemical assays and X-ray crystallography to better understand the regulation and selectivity of Cbl with respect to its targets. Cbl has a unique activation mechanism, whereby substrate docking is followed by phosphorylation at a conserved tyrosine residue, turning Cbl “on.” I hypothesize that crosstalk between Cbl’s tyrosine kinase binding and RING domains dictates its selectivity and regulates substrate kinase activity. PTK signaling is a finely tuned product of evolution, and a greater understanding of how Cbl interacts with its substrates will unveil new possibilities for intervention.

Paola E Amati Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Molecular Genetics Group, International Laboratory of Genetics and Biophysics, Naples Italy

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Mature and origin of colicinogenic factors in E. Coli

Effie Apostolou

Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Boston, MA

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Differentiation hierarchy and reprogramming potential in hematopoietic cells with Dr. Konrad Hochedlinger

My current research focuses on the molecular and epigenetic mechanisms governing the process of nuclear reprogramming of somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). More specifically, I study how the differentiation stage of the initial somatic cell affects the efficiency of reprogramming into iPS.

I was born at Naoussa, a small town in northern Greece. I studied biology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and pursued my PhD on molecular  biology at the medical school of the National University in Athens. While working at Dr. Dimitris Thanos’ lab for my PhD thesis — “In vivo study of the dynamics of transcriptional   complexes” — I became intrigued by biochemistry and familiar with molecular and cytogenetic techniques.  I also published my first paper, which  opened the door to Harvard University and a new world.  I switched my scientific focus to this new and exciting field. I joined Dr. Konrad Hochedlinger’s lab and am more than happy with my choice. At the beginning of my second year, I feel so much richer in knowledge and research experience. I also enjoy life in Boston, which is an ideal city for tango dancing and hiking.

Donna Arndt-Jovin Jane Coffin Childs Fellow

Stanford University - Department of Biochemistry

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RNA Synthetase

Donna J Arndt-Jovin Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Max-Planck Instiute fur Biophysika-lisch Chemie, Gottingen, West Germany

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Influence of transformd viruses on cell curface change

William B. Atkinson Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Coumbia University, Department of Anatomy

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Cytochemical studies on malignant uterine tissues

Joseph C. Aub Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Harvard University , Department of Chemistry

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Growth in relation to metabolism and permeability

Miguel M. Azar Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs FUnd

Department of Pathology, University of Tennesee

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Termination of immune tolerance

Geoffrey M. Badger Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Organic Chemistry, University of Adelaide

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Porphyrin metabolism of tissues

Ling Bai

Department of Physiology, University of California San Francisco

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Identification of homeostatic signals that regulate AgRP "hunger" neurons

Christa Baker

Department of Molecular Biology and Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University

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Auditory coding contributing to drosophila courtship behavior

Steven Baker

Department of Neurological Sciences, Stanford University

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A comparative genomic analysis of lifespan evolution in verterbrates

Aging can be viewed as the time-dependent decline in organismal function which increases the likelihood of death. How and why we age remains one of the greatest mysteries in modern biology. Interestingly, the rate of aging–and ultimately lifespan of organisms–varies greatly even within vertebrates. Among extant vertebrates, extreme longevity appears to have arisen multiple times independently, suggestive of convergent evolution. My project aims to uncover the genes and pathways that contribute to lifespan variation using comparative genomics. At present over 100 vertebrate genomes have been sequenced and are publically available. Included among these organisms are species with both remarkably short and long lifespans. I have set out to develop a computational pipeline which identifies regions that exhibit molecular convergence within the genome of species sharing a similar lifespan. I then plan to characterize these regions biochemically to determine their effects on expression, regulation, and function of the involved genes. Longer term, I will develop mutant mice harboring variants with significant effects on function to directly assess their influence on lifespan in a well-studied model of vertebrate aging.

Robert A Bambara Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, University of Rochester Medical Center

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DNA synthesis

Stephen D Barbour Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Microbiology, Case Western Reserve University

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Genetic recombination

E. S. Guzman Barron Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Chicago, Department of Medicine

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Metabolism of blood cells

Robert Bases Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Radiology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

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Cell antigens and RNA

Jeremy Baskin

Department of Cell Biology Yale School of Medicine / New Haven, CT

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My current research concerns the mechanisms by which cells regulate the biosynthesis of phosphoinositides, a class of lipids found on the cytosolic face of numerous membranes within the cell. In particular, I am interested in studying the metabolic interconnectedness of different classes of lipids.

I was born and raised in Montreal, Canada in a family of artists. My parents are both classical musicians, and my younger sister is a budding actress; to this day I play classical piano as a hobby. I was drawn to chemistry in high school, and my interest in organic chemistry grew in my undergraduate years at MIT, where I received a B.S. in 2004. Midway through MIT, inspired by an advanced biochemistry class, I joined a young chemical biology lab. I continued in this area in my graduate years at UC Berkeley, in the laboratory of Carolyn Bertozzi, where my research concerned the development of chemical tools for imaging cell-surface glycans in living systems. After earning a Ph.D. in chemistry in 2009, I again switched direction, embarking on post-doctoral research in cell biology, under the supervision of Pietro De Camilli.

Robert E Beardsley Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Laboratory of Plant Morphogneisis, Manhattan College

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Molecular biology of crown-gall tumorigenesis in plants

Steven K Beckendorf Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Molecualr Biology, University of California, Berkeley

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Developmental mutants of Drosophila salivary glands

Jonathan R. Beckwith Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, Harcard Medical School

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Regulation of Chromosome replication in E. coli

Michel Becuwe

Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

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Mechanisms of lipid droplet formation, with Robert Farese

Brittany Belin Simons Foundation Fellow

Division of Biology: Geological & Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

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The role of hopanoids in plant-microbe symbioses, with Dianne Newman

A native of rural Pennsylvania, my interest in biology was sparked by a summer research program for high school students on ribosome biogenesis at Carnegie Mellon University. As an undergraduate, I studied biochemistry and philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, where I researched the molecular evolution of bacterial actin-like proteins with Dr. Holly Goodson. I continued my Westward migration to pursue a PhD at UCSF. In my thesis research with Dr. Dyche Mullins, I developed new tools for in vivo imaging of nuclear actin, which I used to discover a role for nuclear actin filaments in the DNA damage response.

As a postdoc I decided to jump across the branches of the tree of life, and I am currently working in the lab of Dr. Dianne Newman at Caltech to determine how the membrane composition of rhizobia, soil bacteria that engage in symbiotic nitrogen fixation in the roots of legume plants, affects their symbiotic fitness and recognition by plant hosts. I am particularly interested in the role of hopanoid lipids, which may be required for bacterial adaptations to environmental stress.

Blair Benham-Pyle

Stowers Institute for Medical Research

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Cell fate and intercellular signaling in planarian regenerative organizers

The growth and regeneration of adult tissues requires the establishment of local signals that regulate growth and differentiation. While signaling molecules regulating proliferation have been studied in a wide range of tissue and disease contexts, mechanisms linking tissue composition and cellular cooperativity to growth and regenerative potential are poorly understood. During development, signaling centers with a defined genetic signature – organizers – induce the proliferation, migration, and differentiation of neighboring cells and establish patterns critical for the formation of adult organ systems. However, it is unclear if comparable signaling centers regulate tumor development or regeneration. The planarian worm provides a unique opportunity to study the establishment and function of regenerative signaling centers in vivo due to its extraordinary ability to regenerate organ systems from tiny fragments in approximately one week.


As a postdoctoral fellow in the Sanchéz laboratory at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, I plan to use a combination of sequencing and quantitative imaging techniques to identify the minimal cell types and tissue structures required for complete regeneration and accurate scaling of planarian worms. This work is expected to reveal novel mechanisms regulating self-organization and growth in resource-limited adult tissues and may expand our ability to improve human regenerative capacity and treat human cancers that arise from aging tissues.

Klaus G Bensch Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Yale University

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Properties of cell membranes

Peter L Bercquist Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Cell Biology, University of Aukland

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Mode of action of nucleic acid base analogs

Werner Bergman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Chemistry, Yale University

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Prepartion of sternanthrene

Andrea Berman

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry / University of Colorado / Boulder, CO

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Holding on for dear life: Primer binding and processivity in tetrahymena thermophila telomerase, with Thomas Cech

I am using biochemical and biophysical techniques to understand how the essential protein p65 facilitates the assembly of the Tetrahymena telomerase ribonucleoprotein particle.  I am also interested in studying the mechanism by which telomerase recycles its RNA template sequence, allowing the protein component to copy the template several times without dissociating.

I grew up on Long Island, NY and received my BS in biology with a concentration in biochemistry from Cornell University.  An undergraduate research opportunity in an x-ray crystallography lab at Cornell piqued my interest and I moved to Connecticut to pursue and earn a PhD in molecular biochemistry and biophysics from Yale University, working in the laboratory of Tom Steitz.  Currently living near Boulder, Colorado, I am engaged in the work I’m doing with Tom Cech, in whose lab I am learning new biochemistry techniques and interacting with graduate and undergraduate students.  When not in the lab, I enjoy practicing yoga, baking, eating New York bagels and pizza, and hiking and biking in Boulder with my husband.

George P. Berry Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Bacteriology, University of Rochester Medical Center

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Relation of viruses to tumors

Michael T. Bethune

Division of Biology California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

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My research aims to identify prostate cancer-reactive T cell receptors and their cognate antigens, thereby enabling the design of novel TCR gene therapies and dendritic cell-targeted vaccines.  I am also using protein engineering to improve the safety and efficacy of T cell receptors in such therapies and to extend these therapies to other widely-prevalent cancers of epithelial origin.

My training began at the University of California, Davis, where I was introduced to biochemistry by my undergraduate mentor, Robert Fairclough.  After UC Davis, I spent two years in Washington D.C. before joining the Stanford Biochemistry Department as a graduate student.  There, I worked with my advisor, Chaitan Khosla, on celiac sprue, an autoimmune-like disease in which dietary gluten precipitates an inflammatory immune response in susceptible individuals.  This research piqued my interest in how immune responses are shaped by foreign material, and in the potential for using bacterial and viral vectors to augment immunity to pathogens and to mitigate autoimmunity.  As a deleterious self pathogen, cancer is a uniquely challenging target of this engineering immunity approach. When not working, I enjoy discovering new activities in the L.A. area with my wife, Carol San, who is an occupational therapist.

Marco Bezzi

Department of Genetics, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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The role of circular RNAs in prostate cancer development and progression, with Pier Paolo Pandolfi

The tremendous advances in DNA and RNA sequencing technologies have recently had a profound impact on our understanding of cancer biology and have revealed the importance of the non-protein-coding RNA molecular “space”. Disregarded for the past 20 years and considered products of aberrant RNA splicing, circular RNAs are nowadays acknowledged as an attractive type of noncoding RNA, probably involved in a multitude of cellular processes and able to play a critical role in human diseases.

The aim of my project is to uncover circular RNAs with diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic potential in prostate cancer which represents the most common non-cutaneous malignancy and one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among men, both in Europe and in the United States. At the same time we aim to elucidate critical properties of this fascinating class of RNAs, opening new horizons for the entire cancer research field.

Manasi Bhate HHMI Fellow

Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco

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Design of peptides to target protein-protein interfaces of membrane fusogens, with Willam DeGrado

I am broadly interested in the structure, function and dynamics of proteins that mediate signal transduction across the cellular membrane. These include membrane receptors, enzymes, ion channels and transporters. Since signaling is a dynamic process we need to study the ensemble of protein conformations and motions to understand how physical and chemical stimuli are converted into cellular information.

My graduate training was in solid-state NMR of membrane proteins. I currently use a combination of NMR, protein engineering and biophysics to gain quantitative insights into a family of transmembrane kinases that allow bacteria to sense and adapt to antibiotics in their environment.

Personal Website :

Martin A Billeter Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Laboratory of Biochemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland

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Double-stranded RNA in the replication of single-stranded RNA virus

Kivanç Birsoy

Whitehead Institute Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

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Current research: Cell autonomous and non-autonomous mechanisms of cancer metabolisum regulation and tumor growth.

I grew up in Izmir,Turkey, and received my BS in molecular biology and genetics from Bilkent University and my PhD in molecular genetics from Rockefeller University.  At Rockefeller, I was a graduate student in Jeffrey Friedman’s lab, studying development of fat tissue and regulation of the obesity hormone, leptin. My current post-doctoral work in David Sabatini’s lab at Whitehead Institute involves studying mechanisms of cancer metabolism regulation. Outside of the lab, I am a big soccer fan. I also enjoy the outdoors, and spending time with friends and family.

Mark W Bittensky Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Yale University

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John J. Bittner Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Minnesota, Department of Physiology and Bacteriology

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Mode of action of the milk influence in mammary cancer

Joshua Black

Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Charlestown, Massachusetts

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Histone lysine tridemethylases regulate cell cycle progression with Dr. Johnathan Whetstine

I am studying how chromatin structure contributes to transcription, DNA replication, differentiation and maintaining genome stability.  My research is focused on how the JMJD2 family of histone tri-demethylases are involved in regulating these processes.

I received BS degrees in biology and chemistry/biochemistry from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where I became interested in understanding how the expression of genes was controlled to coordinate differentiation and development.   I received my PhD at UCLA where, in Michael Carey’s laboratory, I developed a reconstituted chromatin system to begin to elucidate the biochemical events required prior to gene transcription.  My research uncovered an interaction between the critically important Mediator co-activator complex and the chromatin regulator p300. In post-doctoral work in the laboratory of Jonathan Whetstine, I am studying how the JMJD2 family of histone tri-demethylases regulates chromatin structure and gene expression.  I have uncovered an important role for one of these enzymes, JMJD2A, in DNA replication and cell cycle progression.  Since these enzymes are amplified in numerous cancers and important for maintaining genomic stability, this work has potential to lead to new cancer therapies.

Lindsay W Black Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, University Maryland

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Bacteriophage T4 morphogenesis

Kenneth Bohnert Honorary Fellow

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco

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Germline rejuvenation in C. elegans, with Cynthia Kenyon

The survival of a species requires that age must be reset with each generation. How germ cells, the reproductive cells of animals, accomplish this feat remains a fundamental, unsolved question in biology.

Utilizing the genetically-tractable nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, my research aims to identify mechanisms that cleanse the germ lineage of cellular damage and thereby allow for trans-generational rejuvenation. As a JCC fellow in Dr. Cynthia Kenyon’s lab, I have uncovered a regulatory switch that links damage elimination to fertilization and establishes a clean slate for the next generation prior to embryogenesis. Currently, I am exploring the molecular underpinnings of this switch in more detail.

Because molecules that ensure the immortality of the germ lineage might be capable of rejuvenating diverse cell types, I am also testing whether these natural age-reversal strategies can be co-opted in somatic tissues. If so, mechanisms important for germline immortality might provide a promising entry point for reversing whole-organism aging.

Alexandre Bolze HHMI Fellow

Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Regulation of gene expression by ribosomal proteins, with Jonathan Weissman

I study how cells regulate the translation of RNA into proteins in the lab of Dr. Jonathan Weissman at UCSF. Firstly, I aim to test the hypothesis that mutations in ribosomal proteins can impair the expression of a specific set of genes without impairing the translation of the majority of mRNAs. Secondly, I aim to identify the driving force behind the observed codon-pair bias, which is the over- or under- representation of some pairs of codons in mammalian genomes.

My interest in the mechanism of translation comes from my PhD work with Dr. Jean-Laurent Casanova at the Rockefeller University. I discovered that heterozygous mutations in the gene RPSA caused Isolated Congenital Asplenia in humans, which is characterized by the absence of spleen at birth. RPSA codes ribosomal protein SA. It remains a mystery why mutations impairing the production of a ubiquitous ribosomal protein would lead to the unique absence of the spleen, and consequently predispose children to severe bacterial infections.

David Booth Simons Foundation Fellow

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California

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Genetic regulation of multicellularity in a close relative to metazoans


The evolution of regulatory mechanisms to coordinate multicellular development was critical to the origin of animals. Fundamental mechanisms that led to animal multicellularity may also be conserved in the closest living relative of animals, the choanoflagellates, since one species, Salpingoeca rosetta, can transition to a multicellular form called a rosette in a process that is reminiscent of early embryogenesis in animals. To uncover how this multicellular transition is controlled in S. rosetta, we are establishing transgenic and genomic methods that will enable investigating how genes coordinate rosette development. These advances will provide essential tools for exploring the molecular biology of these ecologically and evolutionarily important organisms and potentially illuminate the earliest stages of animal evolution and development.

Piet Borst Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Laboratory of Biochemistry, University of Amsterdam

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Mitochondrial DNA

Margot Bowen

Radiation Oncology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California

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Consequences of p53 activation during development, with Laura Attardi

The p53 protein is a transcription factor that becomes activated in response to various cellular stress cues. Once activated, p53 induces target genes involved in apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, senescence and differentiation. Maintaining the correct levels of p53 is critical, since loss of p53 promotes cancer, while increased p53 activity promotes developmental defects and premature aging. To further define the consequences of increased p53 activity, the Attardi lab created a novel mouse model in which p53 is activated during embryogenesis. Intriguingly, this led to a variety of craniofacial and cardiovascular defects. This unique constellation of phenotypes is reminiscent of human CHARGE syndrome, which is caused by mutations in CHD7. I am now using our p53 mouse models to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which p53 promotes features of CHARGE syndrome. These studies will further our understanding of p53 as a mediator of developmental disease in addition to its role as a tumor suppressor.

Thomas J Braciale Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Washington University

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Cytotoxic T cell response to influenza virus

Engelbert Broda Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

First Chemical Laboratory, University of Vienna

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Metanolism of normal and neoplastic tissues

Breann Brown Frederic M. Richards Fellow

Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Elucidating the role of E. coli Lon protease N-domain in substrate recognition and discrimination, with Tania Baker

My primary research interest is studying the molecular basis of the diverse protein-protein interactions that underlie bacterial cell signaling. I am currently focusing on determining the various types of substrate interactions mediated by the E. coli Lon protease to understand how this critical regulator degrades certain proteins during cellular stress. Lon is one of the major proteases that mediates protein quality control via degradation of over half of the unfolded or misfolded proteins in the cell. Additionally, Lon degrades stably-folded regulatory proteins involved in response to several stresses such as DNA damage, heat shock, and oxidation. Using a combination of biophysical and biochemical assays, including electron microscopy, X- ray crystallography, analytical ultracentrifugation, and enzyme kinetics, my current goal is to identify the molecular interactions critical for Lon self-assembly and substrate recognition. With this detailed information, we can begin to understand in greater detail how Lon discriminates among various substrates to regulate critical cellular stress responses and survival.

Ahmad I Bukhari Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York

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Mechanism of Mu DNA insetion into the host chromosome

Henry Bunting Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Pathology

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Immunological and serological studies of tumors

Alejandro Burga- Ramos HHMI Fellow

Department of Human Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles

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A novel bulk segregant method to identify natural genetic variants underlying C. Elegans resistance to chemotherapy drugs, with Leonid Kruglyak

Highly effective and commonly used drugs in cancer therapy fail to elicit a response or cause adverse side effects in a significant number of patients. In order to improve the prognosis and treatment of individual patients, it is fundamental to understand the basis of such differences. Most human diseases and traits are influenced by genetic factors. Yet, little is known about the total number of loci underlying differential drug response and how genetic variants confer resistance. In order to gain insights into the genetic and molecular basis of differential response to chemotherapeutic agents, we propose the development of a novel bulk segregant analysis (BSA) strategy in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. This methodology will allow us to map with unprecedented speed the natural genetic variants underlying differences in drug response in the context of a whole-organism. Our approach will likely reveal physiologically relevant genetic variants, since it incorporates pharmacological variables such as drug absorption and distribution that cannot be studied in cell lines. To model the effects genetic variants present in populations, we will make use highly divergent C.

elegans wild isolates, thus making also an important step towards understanding phenotypic variation in natural populations.

Megan Burger HHMI Fellow

David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Investigating mechanisms of immune evasion in autochthonous lung tumors

Paul R. Burkholder Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fellow

Yale University, Department of Botany

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Mechanisms of induction of atypical growth in plants

Debi P Burma Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, Babaras Hindu University

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R Nases III and H of S. typhimurim

Harold S Burr Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy, Yale University

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Electrodynamic potentials in cancer

Harris Busch Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, Yale University

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Metabolism of tumors in vivo

Liang Cai

Department of Anatomy / University of California, San Francisco

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Actin cytoskeleton reorganization during tubulogenesis, with Keith Mostov

Current Research: The role of actin cytoskeleton remodeling during epithelial morphogenesis.

Prior to coming to the United States in 2003, I received bachelor’s degree in science from Fudan University in Shanghai, China. My undergraduate thesis topic was “characterization of bacteriophage T3 DNA ligase.” My graduate study was done under Dr. James E. Bear in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. My dissertation title was “Coronin 1B coordinates actin dynamics in lamellipodia.”  Currently, I am working with Dr. Keith Mostov in the Department of Anatomy at UCSF.  I really enjoy the life of doing research, and am looking forward to continuing my scientific journey. In my free time, I like to hike and ski.

Richard L Calendar Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Molecular Biolgoy, University of California, Berkeley

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Gene Expression

William A Carter Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Medicine, The John Hopkins University Rosswell Park, Memorial Institute

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Human intrerferon

Joseph Castellano Simons Foundation Fellow

Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California

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Effects of irradiation injury on systemic-neurogenic communication as targets for limiting cognitive dysfunction, with Tony Wyss-Coray

During my Ph.D. studies at Washington University, I worked with David Holtzman to show that ApoE e4 may increase Alzheimer’s disease risk by impairing Ab clearance from the brain, thus shifting the onset of its accumulation. My interest in neurodegeneration and aging motivated me to understand factors that regulate aging and brain health in unconventional ways. My project as a Jane Coffin Childs fellow in Tony Wyss-Coray’s laboratory has been to elucidate a novel systemic-neurogenic communication mechanism that appears to be disrupted in the context of brain irradiation therapy. Specifically, I am investigating the role of immune signaling molecules in mediating the neurogenic and cognitive dysfunction observed in the post-irradiation syndrome in pediatric brain cancer patients. Additionally, I am actively pursuing whether related blood-borne signaling molecules in young plasma may be sufficient to ameliorate age-related decreases in cognition and synaptic plasticity. To examine these complex mechanisms, I am leveraging various physiological methods, including plasma transfer and parabiosis.

Carol L Cech Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Chemistry, University of Colorado

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Transcriptional control

Julio E Celis Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, University of Chile

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Protein Synthesis

G. Roger Chalkley Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistty, University of Iowa

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Steroid hormones

Russell K-F Chan Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department Microbiology, University of Cincinnati

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Yeast mutants

Yi Chen

Department of Cancer Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

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The role of Kcnk3 and membrane potential in adipose tissue thermogenesis

My current research focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying adipose tissue development and metabolism.  In particular, I use genetic and biochemical approaches to identify the molecular differences between the energy-storing white fat and energy-dissipating brown/beige fat in the hope of using those differences to help design therapeutic strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity.

Brown and beige fat dissipates energy as heat in a process known as non-shivering thermogenesis. The transcriptional regulator Prdm16 was previously identified to facilitate thermogenesis; however, its relevant target genes remain incompletely known. Through ChIP-Seq and RNA-Seq, we have identified a number of potential Prdm16 targets. Among those, I focus on delineating the functions of a rectifying potassium channel Kcnk3 in thermogenesis. Kcnk3 is known to set the plasma membrane potential by generating potassium currents in neurons. I hypothesize that Kcnk3 sets the appropriate membrane potential in thermogenic adipocytes, which may be important for thermogenesis. I will test this hypothesis using fat-specific Kcnk3 knockout mice.

Feng Chen

Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Understanding liver bile duct formation to grow biliary tubes in vitro, with Holger Willenbring

Jia-Yun Chen

Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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Molecular dynamics of oncogene-induced senescence, with Galit Lahav

My current research focuses on the molecular dynamics of oncogene-induced senescence (OIS). By using a set of fluorescent reporters and single-cell time-lapse microscopy, I am trying to understand how variability in oncogenic activity, protein expression levels, etc. are linked to distinct cell fates, i.e., proliferation, transient cell cycle arrest and senescence.

My training began in my hometown, Taiwan, where I received my M.S. in molecular medicine and worked on programmed cell death in C. elegans. I then received my Ph.D. in Chemical and Systems Biology at Stanford supervised by Tobias Meyer. I combined single-cell image analysis, multi-parameter signal profiling, and high-content siRNA screening to understand how growth factor signals are translated by individual cells into a decision to proliferate or differentiate. I joined Galit Lahav’s lab at Harvard Medical School for postdoctoral training, and continue my long term interests in cell growth regulations. I expect that the knowledge gained from my postdoctoral work will allow us to understand how cell-to-cell variability at various levels contributes to the establishment of OIS, and explains how OIS is escaped in some cells. It can also be exploited for therapeutic utility to activate cellular senescence in cancer cells.

Jin Chen HHMI Fellow

Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco

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Systemic analysis of the relationship between incRNAs and translation

Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have recently emerged as key functional molecules in gene regulation, with increasing evidence pointing to a role for lncRNAs in human diseases such as cancer. While the importance of a subset of nuclear lncRNAs in epigenetic and transcriptional gene regulation is well established, lncRNAs are also found in the cytoplasm and may function in different cytoplasmic processes including translational control. In particular, lncRNAs may regulate the translation of other transcripts; or, they may be associated with ribosomes and translated to produce short regulatory “micropeptides”. However, studying the roles for lncRNAs in translation has been hindered by the lack of high-throughput methods to systematically identify lncRNA candidates and probe how lncRNAs act globally to impact translation. Here, I propose a research program that uses a repertoire of genome-wide techniques, combining CRISPR interference and ribosome profiling, to provide fundamental insights into the novel role of lncRNAs in translational control.

Yu-Chan Chen

Department of Biology, Stanford University

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Dissecting the protein folding mechanism by the TRiC chaperonin

Proteostasis is a central mechanism to regulate the health of the cellular proteome. Proteostasis dysfunction has been directly implicated­­ in age-related diseases, including cancer. A central but very poorly understood component of proteostasis network is the eukaryotic chaperonin, TRiC/CCT. TRiC is an essential chaperone that assists folding and assembly of many proteins fundamentally important to cancer, including the tumor suppressors p53, VHL, telomerase as well as other cell cycle regulators. It is, therefore, not surprising that mis-regulation of TRiC is also linked to numerous pathological conditions. Indeed, several TRiC subunits are highly up-regulated in cancer, and their up-regulation is linked to poor prognosis. The paucity of structural and mechanistic knowledge on this complex has hindered the development of therapeutic strategies targeting TRiC. Therefore, my research in the Frydman lab focuses on closing this gap by defining the molecular basis of human TRiC to fold the key disease-linked proteins. I am interested in combining biochemical and structural methods to elucidate the underlying principles by which TRiC recognizes and folds proteins. I anticipate the result of this work will provide mechanistic insights relevant to human diseases.

Geoffrey J Childs Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

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Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Gheorghe Chistol

Department of Biological Chemistry & Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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Probing the dynamics of the eukaryotic replicative helicase, with Johannes Walter

The eukaryotic helicase CMG (Cdc45+MCM2-7+GINS) is the molecular machine that unwinds dsDNA during replication. Although CMG plays a central role in replication, key aspects of its dynamics are poorly understood. It has been proposed that before activation, loaded MCM complexes can slide on dsDNA. However, this phenomenon has not been examined under physiological conditions and its functional significance remains unclear. In addition, how the CMG helicase operates under conditions of replicative stress is not understood.

To address these questions, I will perform single-molecule imaging of MCM2-7 complexes in completely soluble Xenopus egg extracts, which were pioneered in my sponsor’s laboratory.

In Aim 1 I propose to probe the dynamics of individual dsDNA-bound MCM complexes prior to replication initiation. In particular I seek to determine whether dormant MCM complexes can slide on dsDNA in physiological conditions. In Aim 2 I propose to investigate the fate of dormant MCM complexes upon their collision with oncoming replication forks. In Aim 3 I propose to study the dynamics of the helicase after its uncoupling from the replicative polymerase, and seek to determine how the helicase activity is regulated by the activation of the DNA damage checkpoint.

Sandipan Chowdhury Merck Fellow

Vollum Institute, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland Oregon

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Structure of the NR1-NR2 subtype of the NMDA receptor in the open state, with Eric Gouaux

Michel Chretien Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Clinical Research Institute of Montreal

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Chemical and physiopathological studies of pituitary hormones

Edward Chuong

Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

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Co-option of endogenous retroviruses for host immune responses, with Cedric Feschotte and Nels Elde

My current research is focused on the biology and evolution of transposons, which are DNA parasites that constitute over half of the human genome. Specifically,  I am investigating the long-standing hypothesis that transposon activity is a major mechanism underlying the evolution of gene regulatory networks.

I became interested in evolutionary biology as an undergraduate at UC San Diego, where I worked with Hopi Hoekstra studying the volatile history of rodent placental proteins. I continued studying placental evolution as a graduate student at Stanford University with Julie Baker, where we found that transposons may contribute to pregnancy-related adaptations by functioning as species-specific regulatory elements.  Inspired by the potential for transposons to drive rapid evolutionary change, I decided to do my postdoc in the laboratories of Cedric Feschotte and Nels Elde at the University of Utah, where I am studying the role of transposons in shaping the evolution of human innate immune responses. Outside the lab, I enjoy the vast outdoor recreational activities in Utah, including hiking, skiing, and canyoneering.

Damon A. Clark

Department of Neurobiology,  Stanford University Medical School, Stanford, CA

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Visual feedback modulation in behaving Drosophila, with Thomas Clandinin

Current research: I study the neural circuitry and computations involved in fruit fly vision.

I initially became interested in neuroscience by looking at gross brain anatomy and how microscopic computational requirements might influence the relative sizes of different brain regions. From there, I moved on to studying worms, an organism whose entire neural network is known, and examined how this small nervous system could sense and respond to environmental cues to navigate its environment. I now work on visual circuitry and computations in the fruit fly, an ideal model system for its genetics and behavior, and an ideal system to model. When I’m not in the lab, I like to get out hiking or biking, and in general enjoying the California sun.

Janet H. Clark Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Rochester School of Medicine, Department of Biological Sciences

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Janet H Clark Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Division of Biological Sciences, University of Rochester

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Mammary tumors and leukemia in mice

Phillip P Cohen Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Physiological Chemistry, University of Wisconsin

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Protein metabolism of tumors

Waldo E. Cohn Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Harvard University, Department of Medicine

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Waldo E Cohn Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Medicine, Harvard University

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Growth in relation to metabolism

Robert E. Collins

Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Yale University / New Haven, CT

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RabGDI displacement factors: mechanism and function in membrane traffic, with David Lambright

My research involves the engineering of protein binding modules from Tetratricopeptide repeats using both selection from randomized libraries and rational design. Our goal is to design low cost medical diagnostics, for example, a CD4 test practical for the management of HIV+ patients in the developing world. Early in my freshman year of college, I began my career in science working in laboratories, taking on projects ranging from the enzymatic bleaching of paper to the studies of pathogenic nematodes and complex carbohydrates. In graduate school at Emory University, mentored by Xiaodong Cheng, I focused on the structural biology of the “histone code.” At Yale, in the lab of Lynne Regan, I have turned to an engineering approach, using rational structure-based design and library selection to develop new, inexpensive diagnostics, and also to investigate fundamental questions of protein-ligand interaction. Long-term goals involve development of model systems to probe the molecular/structural evolution of novel interactions and their enhanced affinity and selectivity in directed evolution experiments.

Kim D Collins Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, Baylor College of Medicine

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Hormone metabolizing and binding proteins

Thomas Conway Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, University of Iowa

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Biological control of animation systems in E. coli

Joseph Cotruvo

Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California

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Intersection of nitric-oxide and copper-mediated signaling pathways in mammalian cells, with Christopher Chang

Nitric oxide (NO) is a ubiquitous gasotransmitter involved in vasorelaxation, neurodegeneration, apoptosis, and other processes, and linked to numerous pathologies, including cancer. A major mechanism of NO signaling is S-nitrosation, the oxidative modification of cysteine residues, but how this occurs in vivo is poorly understood. Copper ions catalyze Snitrosation in vitro, while recent data point to mobile pools of copper playing unknown roles in signaling pathways. This proposal aims to connect copper- and NO-mediated signaling, using the lipolysis pathway of adipocytes as a model system. Our preliminary data suggest copper and NO modulate the activity of phosphodiesterase (PDE) 3B. We propose that copper, bound to a protein or small molecule, catalyzes S-nitrosation of PDE3B, inhibiting the enzyme. We will test this hypothesis by altering cellular copper and NO levels via gene knockdowns, and assaying PDE3B activity in extracts. We will detect differences in PDE3B S-nitrosation under these conditions and determine the cysteine(s) modified. Finally, we will search for endogenous copper ligands and reconstitute the S-nitrosation system in vitro. These studies will yield insights into NO’s physiology, unravel a novel signaling role of copper, and motivate examination of copper signaling in other mammalian cell types.

Gilles H Cousineau Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Molecular Biology Laboratory, University of Montreal

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Macromolecular syntesis in sea urchin eggs

Edmund B. Cowdry Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Barnard Free Skin and Cancer Hospital

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Susan W Craig Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Physiological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University

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Thymic hormones

Richard L Cross Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, State University of New York Upstate Medical Center

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Energy transducing membrane systems

Michael R Culbertson Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Genetics, University of Wisconsin

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Frameshift suppressors in yeast

Victor M Cutter Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Plant Science, Yale University

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Endosperm nuclei

Lei Dai HHMI Fellow

Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, University of California, Los Angeles, California

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Forecasting evolution of drug resistance in hepatitis C virus, with Ren Sun and James Lloyd-Smith

I am broadly interested in the evolution of drug resistance. For example, how does the distribution of fitness effects influence the predictability of evolution? What is the role of epistasis in the adaptation to higher drug resistance? How can we integrate in vitro fitness data with in vivo models to design personalized drug therapy for patients?

To address these questions, I combine high-throughput in vitro fitness measurements with mathematical models of viral dynamics to predict the evolution of drug resistance in Hepatitis C Virus and HIV. Using deep sequencing, I perform high-throughput fitness assays for a library of mutant viruses to systematically explore epistasis and evolutionary pathways towards drug resistance. By combining empirical fitness landscapes with mathematical models of within-host viral dynamics and pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics, I build a quantitative framework to predict viral evolution and minimize the risk of drug resistance during therapy. The principles for rational design of antiviral therapy will inform patient-specific therapy of targeted cancer drugs.

Hai Dao

Department of Chemistry, Princeton University

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Defining the interactome of the acidic patch with chromatin effectors

Recent studies have revealed the nucleosome acidic patch as a nexus for chromatin interacting proteins. Understanding the regulation underlying these binding events is critical to understanding of how genetic material is packaged and accessed in eukaryotes and how misregulation can lead to disease. It is well established that post-translational modifications (PTMs) of the histone tails help choreograph biochemical outputs on chromatin. By contrast, much less is known about how PTMs regulate access to the acidic patch, even though several modifications are proximal to this region. My research will combine the specificity of diazirine-based photocrosslinking reaction with high-throughput mass spectrometry-based techniques to accelerate the investigations into these regulations. The applications will be showcased in ascertaining the binding site between chromatin-remodeling proteins and the acidic patch, and a large-scale study to define the interactome of the acidic patch and chromatin effectors as the function of PTMs.

Yunji Davenport Simons Foundation Fellow

Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School

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Molecular messages in algal-bacterial symbiosis

Jeffrey N Davidson Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, University of Glasgow, Scotland

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Nucleic acid metabolism

Bryan W. Davies

Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics / Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

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Mapping virulence regulatory and signaling networks in vibrio cholera, with Dr. John H. Mekalanos

I am mapping regulatory and signaling networks in Vibrio cholerae to identify factors and pathways that are required for virulence.

Improving the health of our world is a complex problem.  The balancing act between providing food and health care for the masses, protecting the environment,  and improving economies in developed and developing nations is often difficult.  I enjoy science because of the unlimited potential it offers to provide solutions to many of the problems inherent in creating this balance. The basic sciences provide answers to the inner workings of life.  These insights offer the possibility of developing new products to improve health care, decrease our environmental impact and improve food production, while simultaneously fostering the growth of new industries to bring products to those who need them.  And it can all start at the laboratory bench just by asking, “why?”

Noorbibi K Day Grantee - Jane Coffin Chlds Fund

Department of Pathology, University of Minnesota Hospitals

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The role of compement in disease

George de Hevesy Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Stockholm

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Plasma iron clearance rate

Reginald A Deering Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biophysics, Pennsylvania State University

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DNA repair mechanisms

Sebastian Deindl

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

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Current research: With a combination of novel single-molecule imaging approaches and traditional biochemical techniques I am investigating the mechanisms of ATP-dependent chromatin remodelers, a class of enzymes that dynamically alter chromatin structure.

I am intrigued by the notion that virtually all chemical reactions in our bodies are carried out by microscopic yet intricate molecular machines. For this reason, I decided to study the workings of these machines at a molecular level. John Kuriyan’s laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley was the perfect place for this work. There I studied the allosteric control of protein kinases and developed a passion for correlating protein structure with function. For my postdoctoral research I decided to venture into another important area of biology and study dynamic aspects of chromatin remodeling enzyme mechanisms using single-molecule imaging techniques in Xiaowei Zhuang’s laboratory at Harvard. Next to doing science, I enjoy windsurfing and surfing.

Benjamin Delatte HHMI Fellow

Division of Signaling and Gene Expression, La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology

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TET loss-of-function and R-loops-mediated genomic instability in cancer

The TETs (TET1, TET2, TET3) are epigenetic enzymes regarded as responsible for active and passive DNA demethylation, and are involved in a wide array of physiological and pathological cellular responses.

I have performed my Ph.D training in Prof. François Fuks’ laboratory in Belgium at the time that TET function was discovered by the team of Prof. Anjana Rao. Applying proteome and genome-wide approaches, we found that the most potent partner of TETs is the glycosyltransferase OGT (Deplus*, Delatte* et al., Embo, 2013), and I recently discovered that Tet is responsible for RNA hydroxymethylation in drosophila (Delatte et al., Science, 2016).

Therefore, I naturally couldn’t resist joining Anjana’s lab where I am now investigating the roles of TETs and hydroxymethylcytosine in genomic instability and cancer. I am also fascinated by the advances in next-generation sequencing, and am developing novel methodologies to map epigenetic modifications, but also identify diverse hallmarks of cancer such as DNA breaks or aberrant DNA:RNA structures.

Outside of the lab, I enjoy surfing, hiking, and particularly love watching movies with friends.

Edward DeMaeyer Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Virology, University of Louvain, Belgium

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Faculte' des Sciences, France Intergeron

Millislav Demerec Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Long Island Biological Association, The Biological Laboratory

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Millislav Demerec Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

The Biological Laboratory, Long Island Biological Association

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Mutagenic potencies of carcinogens

Morgan DeSantis HHMI Fellow

Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California, San Diego

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Investigating dynein-mediated viral transport, with Samara Reck-Peterson

I am interested in cellular transport, or in other words, how things, like organelles, mRNA, and viruses are shuttled around the cell. In the Reck-Peterson lab, we study the microtubule-associated motor protein, dynein. Dynein is a large, muti-subunit complex that walks towards the center of the cell along microtubule tracks. I am particularly interested in understanding how other proteins, referred to as dynein-adaptors, regulate dynein function and specificity for cellular cargo.  In our lab, we take a two-pronged approach to understanding dynein biology. First, we use techniques like single molecule-fluorescence microscopy and electron microscopy to study dynein function on a mechanistic level. Secondly, we use mass spectrometry to conduct proteomic screens to identify novel proteins that interact with dynein.

Thomas F Donahue Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Molecular Biology, Northewesten University

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Gene expression in eukaryotes

Ralph I. Dorfman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology

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Ralph I Dorfman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology

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Steroid hormones

Jurgen Drew Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Medicine, University of Heidelberg, Germany

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Regulation of RNA synthesis

Ines Drinnenberg

Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington

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Causes and consequences of a non-canonical H2A variant in flies, with Harmit Malik

My research focuses on the evolutionary diversity of centromeric architectures. Faithful chromosome segregation in all eukaryotes relies on centromeres, the chromosomal sites that recruit the kinetochore protein complex to mediate spindle attachment during cell division. Yet, despite this essential function centromeres are remarkably diverse. Most chromosomes are monocentric i.e., kinetochore assembly is restricted to a defined chromosomal region. In contrast, holocentromeres have kinetochores attached along the entire length of chromosomes. Holocentric chromosomes have evolved multiple times independently from monocentric ancestors. Yet, despite their dramatically different centromeric architectures, the transition to holocentric chromosomes has remained enigmatic.

I performed a computational survey for centromere and kinetochore components in mono- and holocentric insect orders. This study revealed the unexpected finding that the centromere specific histone variant, CenH3 – known to be essential for centromere function in most eukaryotes – was lost on all four lineages that are associated with independent transitions from mono- to holocentric chromosomes. Expanding my analyses to other kinetochore components I found that homologs of many inner kinetochore proteins are still present, suggesting that holocentric insects utilize alternative ways of initiating kinetochore assembly on chromatin. Currently I am in the process of determining the CenH3-independent kinetochore assembly pathway as well as the molecular architecture of the insect holocentromere.

Robert Driscoll

Clark Center Stanford University School of Medicine / Stanford, CA

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Molecular dissection of the replication checkpoint, with Karlene Cimprich

My current research involves analysis of the cellular response to replication fork stress.

After finishing my undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds in the UK, still pretty clueless as to what I wanted to study, I worked in the lab of E. Peter Geiduschek at the University of California, San Diego, as a research technician. There, I developed a fascination with DNA metabolism. I continued pursing this interest  by studying DNA repair in the lab of Steve Jackson at Cambridge University for my doctoral studies, and am now studying DNA replication. I greatly enjoy the challenge of independent academic research but also the fact that it is a very social endeavor. When I’m not in the lab, I’m usually hiking and camping in California or enjoying its excellent food and beverages.

Francisco Duran-Reynals Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Microbiology, Yale University

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Relation of viruses to tumors

Vinay Eapen

Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School

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Systemic analysis of the mammalian selective autophagy cargo network

The 2016 Nobel laureate Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi remarked, “ Life is an equilibrium state between the synthesis and degradation of proteins”. My research focuses on Autophagy, a process whereby proteins are marked for destruction in cells by the lysosome. I became interested in autophagy during my PhD in Dr. Jim Haber’s lab at Brandeis University, and have been hooked on it ever since!

The autophagy-lysosome system targets the degradation of a specific cohort of proteins via “selective autophagy”. The dysfunction of this phenomenon has been linked to a myriad of human disorders. We have only scratched the surface of the known targets of this fascinating biological process. Under the guidance of my mentors, the aim of my research will be to comprehensively catalog the list of selective autophagy substrates by employing quantitative mass spectrometry of the autophagy-lysosome system. An overarching goal of my research is to obtain knowledge of the selective autophagic targets in cancer, which may present opportunities for the specific targeting of this process

I grew up in New Delhi, India.  After completing my undergrad program in Biotechnology at the Vellore Institute of Technology in South India, I moved to the U.S.  (Brandeis university, MA)  for graduate studies.  In my spare time, I am whittling down all of the 48 four thousand feet peaks in the White Mountain range while assiduously taking guitar lessons in the hope of one day playing lead guitar for a major rock band.

John Barry Egan Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, University of Adelaide, South Australia

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Genetics of Staphylococcus aureus

Gudmundur Eggerston Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Institute for Experimental Pathology, Iceland

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tRNA-genes and tRNA suppressors in E. coli

Melanie Ehrlich Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, Tulane University

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Unusual sugar derivatives in the DNA of SP-15 bacteriophage

Sarah Elgin Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

The Biological Laboratories, Harvard University

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Nonhistone chromosomal proteins of Drosophila and gene activation

Andrew E. H. Elia (HHMI Fellow)

Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

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Study of regulatory protein modifications in the DNA damage response, with Dr. Stephen J. Elledge

The cellular machinery of the DNA damage response (DDR) consists of a dynamic network of multiprotein complexes whose hierarchical assembly relies upon an array of posttranslational modifications. Dr. Elia is studying novel mechanisms by which such post-translational modifications regulate the DDR.

Dr. Elia attained his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Stanford University before entering an MD/PhD program at Harvard Medical School, where he attained his PhD in the laboratory of Lewis Cantley.  He recently completed his residency in Radiation Oncology at Harvard and is now working in the laboratory of Stephen Elledge. Dr. Elia is interested in genomic instability and how it influences the progression and treatment of cancer.  Numerous cancer susceptibility syndromes arise from the mutation of DNA repair genes, whose loss undermines genomic integrity. The modulation of such DNA repair pathways can also affect tumor sensitivity to radiation and chemotherapy.  Dr. Elia is interested in studying how synthetic lethal interactions between such DNA repair pathways might be exploited in the treatment of cancer.

Laura A.B. Elias

Pathology Department / Howard Hughes Medical Institute Stanford University / Stanford, CA

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ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling in dendritic morphogenesis and targeting, with Dr. Gerald R. Crabtree

My work in Gerald Crabtree’s laboratory focuses on elucidating how structural changes in the packaging of DNA, otherwise known as chromatin, contributes to the acquisition of cellular identity. Specifically, I am investigating the mechanism by which subunit switches in an ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complex promote the development and maturation of neural progenitor cells into fully functional neurons.

I have been driven throughout my training by a passion for discovery and appreciation for a scientific, analytical approach to problem-solving. I majored in biology at Swarthmore College and earned my PhD in the Neuroscience Program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). My thesis in Arnold Kriegstein’s laboratory at the UCSF Institute for Regeneration Medicine focused on elucidating the mechanism by which newborn neurons migrate from their places of origin to specific cortical regions, where they integrate into the brain’s circuitry.  During my postdoctoral fellowship, I have expanded my studies to include genomics, proteomics and biochemistry to probe the role chromatin structure plays during neural development.   I aspire to use my training to have a broad impact on the global scientific community, and influence the incorporation of scientific innovation into society.

Lewis L Engel Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Massachusetts General Hospital

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Urinary steroid metabolites in cancer

Julius Englebreth-Holm Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Institute of Pathology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

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Induction of malignant tumors by carciogens

Boris Ephrussi Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Centre de Genetique Moleculaire France

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Regulation of gene activity

Michael A Epstein Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Middlesex Hostpital Medical School, England

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Burkits lymphoma

Myron E Essex Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Microbiology, Harvard School of Public Health

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Feline oncornavirus-associated cell membrane antigen complex

Alfred S Evans Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Deparment of Epidemiolgy, Yale University

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Epstein Barr virus in lymphomas

Ellen J. Ezratty

Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, The Rockefeller University, New York

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Stem Cell migration during wound-induced reepithelialization, with Elaine Fuchs

In my research with Elaine Fuchs, I am studying how the primary cilium regulates the function of epidermal stem cells during embryonic development and wound healing.

I was introduced to nature by my grandmother, who instilled in me a sense of awe for living things as we explored the forests near where I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania, collecting roots, mushrooms and bugs.  My childhood fascination with nature led me to study biology.

I am interested in how cells interact with and respond to their environment.   In my doctoral research, I tried to understand how the microtubule cytoskeleton controlled the ability of cells to regulate focal adhesions, structures that allow a cell to communicate with its environment during cell migration. For my post-doctoral work, I maintained this interest, but also became fascinated with how stem cells in a tissue are able to “sense” the environmental developmental signals that lead to proper differentiation — leading me to study the function of the primary cilium in the epidermis. Primary cilia are evolutionarily conserved sensory organelles which act as a cellular antenna, allowing the cell to sample its extracellular environment and process signals that are essential for proper cell growth, development and differentiation.

Ronald B Faanes Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Sloan-Kettering Institute

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Antigenicity of mammalian cells

Dina Faddah HHMI Fellow

Laboratory of Genetics, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

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Developing glial models in Parkinson's disease

Rosann A Farber Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Microbiology, University of Chicago

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Control of chromosome replication

Jeffrey Farrell

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts

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Novel signaling peptides in zebrafish development, with Alexander Schier

The goal of my project is to identify and characterize novel signals regulating development. Many of the processes taking place during development are controlled by a handful of well-characterized signaling pathways. This observation has led to the belief that most, if not all, of the major developmental signals are known. However, recent genomics projects have identified numerous uncharacterized genes, several of which encode short secreted peptides. A zebrafish mutant generated in one of these peptides, EndE, has a dramatic developmental phenotype, where the embryo forms little or no heart tissue. This suggests that EndE regulates the specification and/or migration of cardiac precursor cells. I will investigate the role of EndE in cardiac development and identify its receptor (Aim 1). Additionally, I will generate mutants for several other novel secreted peptides and analyze their phenotypes (Aim 2). My project will elucidate the role of a novel regulator of heart formation and identify new developmental signaling molecules.

Louis F. Fieser Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Harvard University, Department of Chemistry

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Louis F Fieser Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Chemistry, Harvard University

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Carcinogenic compounds

Stuart C. Finch Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Medicine

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Stuart C Finch Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Medicine, Yale University

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Immunologic mechanisms in leukemia

David J Finnegan Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh

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DNA sequence arrangement

Jeffrey A Frelinger Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Microbiology, University of Southern California

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Ia (Immune Response) antigens

Nathan B Friedman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Division of Laboratories, Cedars of Lebanon Hospital

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Cellular dynamics in intestinal mucosa

H Hugh Fudenberg Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Section of Hematology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco

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Antigenic hererogenecityof IgA myeloma protein

Bernard K-K Fung Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Radiation Surgery, University of Rochester

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Cell surface receptors

Jacob Furth Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Cornell University

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Kazimiera Gajl-Peczalska Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Minnesota

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Differentiation of established human B cell lines

Enrico Gallucci Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Insitute of Genetics, University of Milan, Italy

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Mechanism of protein biosynthesis

William U Gardner Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy, Yale University

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Hormonal imbalances in experimental tumorigenesis

Laura Gaydos

Division of Clinical Research, Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington

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The role of fructose in breast cancer growth by investigation of transcriptional regulation

With a high prevalence of sugar in our society, especially in the form of sugar-sweetened drinks, it is important to understand the relationships between sugar metabolism and critical events in cancer progression.  Recent research shows that sugar metabolism can promote oncogenesis in cell culture models of breast epithelial cells.  This research was done with the sugar glucose, but breast cancer cells also have the unique ability to uptake fructose, while normal breast epithelial cells do not.  Fructose and glucose are both simple sugars that are present in equimolar amounts in most of the food we eat.  Although fructose is naturally found in fruits and vegetables, it is also added as high fructose corn syrup to many drinks and processed foods.  More research needs to be done on how cancer cells respond to conditions with fructose and glucose.  I am using breast cancer cell culture models to investigate the effects fructose and glucose have on cancer cell growth.  By focusing on differences in regulation of gene expression with exposure to different sugars, we aim to discover the mechanisms fructose uses to fuel cancer cell growth.  We hope this work will lead to better informed dietary recommendations for breast cancer patients and those with an increased risk for breast cancer.

William H Gaylord, Jr. Grantee - Jane offin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy, Yale University

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Immunological and serological studies of tumors

Malcolm L Gefter Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs

Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University

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Bacteriophage induced RNA

Walter Gehring Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy, Yale University

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Cell determination in Drosophila

Thomas D Gelehrter Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Medicine, Yale University

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Regulation of gene expression

John G Georgatsos Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Laboratory of Biochemistry, Theagenion Cancer Institute, Greece

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Mitochondria DNA

Susan A Gerbi Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Division of Biological and Medical Sciences, Brown University

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Structural aspects of two genetic loci

John A Gladysz Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Chemsitry, University of California, Los Angeles

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Cage compounds for cancer diagnosis

Gabriel C. Godman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Surgery, Columbia University

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Cytochemical studies of nucleic acid

Jose Gomez

Department of Pathology & Developmental Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California

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Characterization of a novel 4 MDa oncogenic complex, with Gerald Crabtree

Recent genome-wide sequencing studies have revealed that genes encoding subunits of SWI/SNF-like BAF complexes are among the most frequently mutated in human cancers. Indeed over 20% of all human cancers have mutations in the subunits of these complexes. I have found that oncogenic subunits of this complex also form a much larger 4 MDa assembly that has been unappreciated to date, raising the question of which assembly is mediating tumor suppression by these complexes. I have also found that this larger complex is characterized by the specific assembly of three subunits, which will allow me to specifically characterize this 4 MDa complex at a biochemical and genetic level. One of these subunits is BAF180 (PBRM1) and my initial results indicate oncogenic mutations in this complex dominantly interfere with the oligomerization of the complex, raising the intriguing model that BAF180 is the keystone subunit of this oncogenic complex. The hypothesis that the 4 MDa complex targets a unique repertoire of chromatin-mediated, tumor suppressor processes will be tested by mass spec and genome-wide analyses. The work I propose will lead to a mechanistic understanding of cancer susceptibility genetics in the context chromatin-mediated control of gene expression.

Daniel Goodman

Hormone Institute and Diabetes Center, University of California San Francisco

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Mapping and manipulating T-cell plasticity via synthetic receptor libraries

Immune dysregulation is implicated in a variety of diseases, and modulation of immune cell signaling has shown remarkable promise in the treatment of allergy, autoimmunity, and cancer. At the surface of each immune cell, hundreds of different receptors serve as the gateways through which information is recognized and integrated. These receptors are surprisingly modular and can be mutated and composed to rewire cellular inputs and outputs, as showcased by the success of cell-based genetic therapies like Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy.


My work combines computational protein design, chemical DNA library synthesis, and high-throughput pooled screening of millions of genetically modified primary human immune cells, each with different synthetic receptors. We are measuring these cells for differences in proliferation, differentiation, activation, and localization, both in vitro and in animal models. A better understanding of the relationship between receptor sequence, signaling outcome, and cellular phenotype will lead to next-generation cell-based genetic therapies which manipulate the immune system to combat a variety of diseases.


Louis S. Goodman Grantee - Jane Coffin Chids Fund

Department Pharmacology and Medicine, University of Utah

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Nitrogen mustards in therapy of lymphomas

Aubrey Gorbman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Zoology, Barnard COllege

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Atypical growth in the thyroid gland

Malcolm W Gordon Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Living, Hartford

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Adaptive enzyme formation in the embryo chick

Robert M Grainger Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biology, Universtiy of Virginia

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Chromatin of a single gene in Physarum

Adam Granger HHMI Fellow

Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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Multilingual neurons: GABA corelease from cholinergic basal forebrain neurons, with Bernardo Sabatini

Neurons are typically thought to release a single fast neurotransmitter, though a growing number of examples of neurotransmitter corelease are being discovered. Our lab has found preliminary evidence that the acetycholine (ACh) releasing neurons of the basal forebrain (BF) also release GABA. The BF is the primary source of Ach neurotransmission throughout the central nervous system, and is responsible for modulating attention, arousal, and the cognitive deficits that underlie Alzheimer’s disease. In this proposal, I outline a research plan to characterize the extent of GABA/ACh corelease from BF neurons throughout the cortex. I will then explore the presynaptic mode of ACh/GABA corelease to determine if they are released from the same or separate populations of synaptic vesicles. Finally, I will test the functional importance of this projection in shaping cortical activity by performing in vivo recordings from the cortex awake, behaving mouse during optogenetic activation of ACh-releasing BF neurons. The contribution of GABA will be explored by comparing recordings from wild-type mice with mice that lack GABA release specifically in ACh-releasing BF neurons. The results of these experiments will provide novel insight into the role of GABA/ACh corelease for BF function.

Frank O Green Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Unit of Radiobiology, Mount Vernon Hospital, England

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Synthesis of radioactive precursors involved in desoxyribonucleic acid

Ethan Greenblatt

Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Baltimore, Maryland

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Understanding the nuclear aging in the Drosophila follicle stem lineage, with Allan Spradling

Aging is characterized by a progressive decline in tissue physiology. The reasons for this decline, whether antagonistic pleiotropy, error catastrophe, or developmental programming, have been difficult to pinpoint. Likewise, which cell types and subcellular components are the most important targets of decline remain hotly debated. I have long been interested in aging despite its acknowledged difficulty as a research topic. The submitted proposal describes my strategy for testing ideas and approaches that I believe have the potential to greatly advance this field, and to launch my career as an independent investigator. My approach involves a novel system in which to study aging – the Drosophila follicle stem cell lineage, and a novel hypothesis regarding a primary target of the aging process – the epigenetic system of the cell nucleus.

Harry S N Greene Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Yale University

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A biological study of cancer

Arno L Greenleaf Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemsitry, Duke University

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RNA Polymerase

Liangcai Gu (HHMI Fellow)

Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA

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Developing cell-free platform for biosynthesis and metabolic engineering of cancer therapeutics, with Dr. George M. Church

Current research: Developing a next-generation protein display technology which allows high-throughput screening of gene functions and protein-protein interactions by coupling the cell-free protein synthesis, high-resolution imaging and next-generation DNA sequencing technologies.

I received my B.S. in chemistry and my M.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology in my home country of China, and my Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry in 2008 from the University of Michigan. Between 2004 and 2009, working with Professor David Sherman, I identified and characterized a whole set of novel enzymes involved in the curacin A biosynthesis. Currently, I am learning DNA tricks in Professor George Church’s lab. I am deeply interested in both technology development and answering fundamental biological questions, and look forward to a synergy between them in my future career.

Gregory M Guild Grantee - Jane Coffin Chlds Fund

Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania

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Molecular analysis of eukaryotic developmental genes

Shawna Guillemette

Department of Genetics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

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The role of SASP regulator GATA4 in senescence and cancer, with Stephen Elledge

The majority of cancer therapeutics currently used result in DNA damage that can trigger cell death or senescence in cancer cells and in healthy neighboring cells.   Understanding how transformed cells and otherwise healthy cells induce or evade senescence pathways in response to cancer therapies is the major interest of my research in order to better understand therapeutic resistance mechanisms.

I was born and raised in New Hampshire and received my BS in biochemistry from the University of Vermont.  My research career started in Jim Vigoreaux’s lab where I investigated mechanisms of energy transport in Drosophila flight muscle. As a graduate student in Sharon Cantor’s lab at the University of Massachusetts Medical School I studied DNA repair pathways and mechanisms that lead to chemo-resistance in hereditary forms of ovarian cancer.  Currently, I am working with Dr. Stephen Elledge in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. Here I aim to elucidate the molecular circuitry that controls cellular senescence.

Monica Guo HHMI Fellow

Department of Biology Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Quantitative dissection of how genome organization impacts gene expression with Michael Laub

Theodore Gurney JR Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley

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Mechanism of contact inhibiation of growth

Alexander Haddow Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Chester Beatty Research Institute, England

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Mechanisms of carcinogenesis and mutagenesis

Christine Hagan Merck Fellow

Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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Biochemical studies of the membrane-associated steps in the Wnt signaling pathway, with Marc Kirschner

Signaling between cells through the Wnt pathway critically affects cell fates during embryonic development and in disease states, such as cancer. Many of the components of the Wnt pathway have been identified, and it is known that activation of the pathway ultimately leads to the cytoplasmic accumulation of beta-catenin, which then promotes transcription of a set of target genes. However, the molecular mechanism of signal transduction that leads to the increase in beta-catenin is not clear. I propose to identify the specific roles of the upstream components of the pathway in regulating its activity by determining the sequence of protein recruitment, phosphorylation, and oligomerization events that occur on the Wnt membrane receptors in vivo by immunoprecipitation and blue native gel assays. This part of the pathway will then be reconstituted in vitro with purified membrane receptors and cell extracts so that the individual protein binding and phosphorylation steps can be separated by removing or mutating components, and their effect on beta-catenin degradation can be directly assessed. These experiments will thereby elucidate how the different proteins contribute to initiating or modulating the Wnt signal and may identify ways of interfering with the pathway that would be therapeutically useful.

Tina Han Simons Foundation Fellow

Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Dynamics of RNA granule assembly in temperature synchronization of clock rhythms, with Lily Jan

I study the role played by TMEM16F, a phospholipid scramblase, in the generation of extracellular vesicles. TMEM16F is a transmembrane protein found in a family of calcium-activated chloride channels (CACCs). Mutations in TMEM16F cause a rare bleeding disorder called Scott Syndrome in which patients are deficient in platelet coagulant activity. Interestingly, 16F and four other members in this family have been implicated as phospholipid scramblases by disrupting plasma membrane asymmetry upon calcium activation. This is presumed to be a prerequisite step in the generation of extracellular vesicles, which are believed to deliver RNA and protein cargo as a form of cell-to-cell communication. It is also unclear whether TMEM16 proteins are themselves scramblases or how the protein might achieve bilateral phospholipid transport.

Angelika Harbauer HHMI Fellow

F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center, Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston, Massachusetts

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Mechanism for activating the clearance of damaged axonal mitochondria, with Thomas Schwarz

One crucial pathway that marks damaged mitochondria for removal involves constant mitochondrial import and degradation of the PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1), a protein compromised in a hereditary form of Parkinson’s disease. My current research focuses on how the PINK1 pathway is activated in the axonal compartment of neurons.

Growing up as the daughter of two math and science teachers my curiosity for science was nurtured from the very beginning. I pursued my interest for the workings of the cells in our body by studying Molecular Medicine in Freiburg/Germany, finally joining the lab of Nikolaus Pfanner and Chris Meisinger. During my PhD there I demonstrated that mitochondrial functions such as energy production and metabolite transport could be controlled by phosphorylation of the import pathway for mitochondrial proteins.

Having fallen in love with mitochondria, I am continuing my research as a Post-Doc in the lab of Tom Schwarz and am extending my research on protein import towards transport of mitochondria, mitochondrial proteins and RNA in neurons and implication of transport in Parkinson’s disease.

Elizabeth S. Harris

W. James Nelson Laboratory / Stanford University, Stanford, CA

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Role of the APC multi-protein complex in regulating microtubule function at the membrane, with W. James Nelson

My current research focuses on understanding the relationship between the signaling and cytoskeletal functions of adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), a ubiquitously expressed tumor suppressor commonly mutated in cancers.

I developed curiosity and enthusiasm for science at a young age. My father and I spent many hours performing “experiments” at home, such as making soap-powered boats to explore the principals of surface tension, and building potato clocks to learn about redox reactions. These experiences sparked my passion for science and led me to pursue a career in research. I went on to receive my B.S. in biology from the University of New Hampshire, and my Ph.D. in biochemistry from Dartmouth Medical School. In addition to research, I enjoy teaching and mentoring young people. Outside of the laboratory I love to garden, cook, and hike with my dog.

Arhtur J Harris Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

The Salk Institute, San Diego

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Differentiation and cell division

John H Harrison Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Chemistry, University of North Carolina

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Physiochemical investigation of properties of enzymen isocitrate dehydrogenase isolated from bovine heart

Daisuke Hattori

Department of Neuroscience Columbia University / New York, NY

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Current research: The architecture and function of a neural circuit governing behavioral plasticity.

I became absolutely fascinated when I learned in my high school molecular biology class that I am made up of molecules and that even my thoughts, and behaviors derive from the intricate functioning of these molecules. This notion, rather surprising to me at the time, is at the root of my interest in neuroscience research. As an undergraduate at the University of Tokyo, I studied molecular mechanisms underlying early neural development of Xenopus in Masanori Taira’s lab. I then moved to Los Angeles,  where I did my PhD study on the role of molecular diversity of Drosophila Dscam in wiring neural circuits at Larry Zipursky’s lab at UCLA. Currently I work on the function of neural circuits mediating plastic behaviors in  Richard Axel’s lab at Columbia University.

Osamu Hauaishi Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Medical Chemistry, Kyoto University Japan - Department of Phsysiological Chemistry, University of Tokyo, Japan

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Enzymatic studies on biosynthesis of cyclic AMP

Geoffrey Haughton Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, University of North Carolina

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Immune response

France L Haven Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, University of Rochester

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Metabolism of fat in tumor bearing animals

Gary T Heberlin Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biology, New York University

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Genetics and biochemistry of crown-gall tumor induction

Murray Heimberg Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Physiology, Vanderbilt University

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Effect of homrmones on the metabolism and growth of Ehrlich ascites tumor cells and Hela cells

Jack Henkin Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Texas

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Photaffinity labeling of folate enzymes

Heinz Hermann Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Colorado, Department of Pediatrics

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Heinz Herrmann Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado

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Radioactive tracer substances into frations of developing muscle tissue

Hans-Martin Herz

Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, Missouri

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Histone H3K79 methylation in development and cancer pathogenesis with Dr. Ali Shilatifard

Current research: Identification of the machinery involved in H3K79 methylation and development of small molecular inhibitors against H3K79 methylation.

My interest in biology was awakened during my childhood, mainly through my grandfather who introduced me, through books, to the animal world. Through hobbies like fishing this interest was enforced and carried over into my adolescence. After high school, I started to study classical biology but realized early that I had a more pronounced interest in molecular biology. Starting to make fly food as an undergrad in a lab at the University of Heidelberg in Germany ultimately got me involved in the field of Drosophila genetics and development, and served as the springboard for my decision to move to Houston for my graduate studies. Part of my PhD work was to perform genetic screens to identify cell death regulators inDrosophila. One of the identified candidates turned out also to play a role in the regulation of chromatin. To further expand my experience in biochemical research I joined the lab of Ali Shilatifard in Kansas City. My work here is focused on better understanding the mechanisms by which certain factors regulate transcription through chromatin modification.

Max Herzberg Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan, University Israel

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SV-40 genetic map

Howard H Hiatt Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Medicine, Harvard University

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Intermediate metabolism of carbohydrate by tumor tissue

Frederick C. Hickey Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Medical Research Laboratory, Providence College

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Metabnolism of sterols

Norbert Hill

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California

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Illuminating novel actin cytoskeletal dynamics through a bacterial pathogen, with Matthew Welch

An array of actin modulators promotes actin filament assembly, disassembly, and organization. However, a detailed understanding how this vast network of factors work in concert to precisely regulate actin dynamics is at best incomplete. Many insights into actin regulation have been derived through examining how microbial pathogens manipulate the actin cytoskeleton during infection. The bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium marinum, a close relative of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, has the rare ability to stimulate actin-based motility in the host cytoplasm. However, the bacterial and host factors that contribute to this phenomenon are largely unknown.

Circumstantial evidence suggests M. marinum recruits the actin nucleation promoting factors WASP and N-WASP through an unusual ability to synthesize phosphorylated phosphoinositol (PIP) lipids. Subsequently, M. marinum activates WASP and N-WASP to nucleate actin filaments through an unfamiliar pathway. The goal of this work is to define M. marinum actin-based motility to further illuminate actin regulation at cellular membranes.

Carlos B Hirschberg Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, St. Louis University

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Mechanism of density dependent synthesis of glycolipids

Henry D Hoberman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fellow

Yale University, Department of Physiological Chemistry

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Rates of formation of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins

Tasuku Honjo Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Physiological Chemistry, University of Tokyo, Japan

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Organization of immunoglobulin genes

Charles W Hooker Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy. Yale University

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Testicular tumors in mice

Nancy H Hooker Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Center for Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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C-type virus cultured mouse cells

Tadao Horichui Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Chemistry, National Institute of Health of Japan

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Repressor controlling enzyme formation

Kazyumasa Hoshino Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy, University of Western Ontario

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Mammary carcinogenesis in mice

Verne D Hospelhorn Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Medicine, University of Kansas

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Isolation and characterization of neutral polysaccharides

Wei-Hsiang Huang HHMI Fellow

Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California

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Spatiotemporal dissection of BDNF/TrkB in circuit assembly, with Liqun Luo

My passion in understanding the transcriptional mechanism underlying neurological disorders was inspired by my Ph.D. mentor, Dr. Huda Zoghbi, at Baylor College of Medicine. Currently, I work with Dr. Liqun Luo at Stanford University and focus on exploring the neurobiology of Rai1, a dosage-sensitive gene responsible for most phenotypes in Smith-Magenis syndrome (SMS). SMS is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by multiple congenital anomalies and many autistic features. Little is known about how Rai1, a putative transcriptional regulator, causes the neurological symptoms. I will create several mouse models to dissect the function of Rai1 in the mouse brain, and explore the possible therapeutic strategy for SMS.

Charles Huggins Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Ben May Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Chicago

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Hormonal control of human cancer

Alex Hughes Merck Fellow

Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Within and between-cell effects of driver mutations on breast tumor fitness, with Zev Gartner

I am applying quantitative engineering approaches to study collective cell phenomena in cancer. Different cells in tumors develop different sets of mutations over time, creating a range of cell “clones”. One view of the role of cancer mutations is that they enable a small number of progressively malignant clones to take over the tumor one after another. However, mutations can have more complicated effects on tumor progression because their outward effects on the growth of a clone can depend on who their neighbors are. Therefore, I want to understand how cancer mutations affect the overall “fitness” of tumors by directly measuring it, not just in the cells that contain mutations, but also in neighboring cells. My research aims to shed light on how benign tumors make the transition to proliferative, invasive tumors; perhaps uncovering an Achilles heel to the manipulation of normal cells by mutant ones, leading to new types of cancer therapies.

Ruei-Jiun Hung

Department of Genetics, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts

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The role of organ communications in stem cell aging, with Norbert Perrimon

Adult stem cells are critical for maintaining homeostasis by repairing damaged tissues; however, this regenerative capacity of stem cells is affected with age, resulting in tissue degeneration. Age-related perturbations in stem cells are caused by changes in the intrinsic properties of the stem cells, in their niches and in the systemic milieu. In recent years, much has been learned about the pathways that control stem cell fate, lineage and proliferation. However, we know little about the mechanisms underlying age-related changes in stem cells. During my postdoctoral studies, I will investigate the mechanisms influencing the aging process of Drosophila midgut stem cells. In Aim1, I will determine the translatome of stem cells and their progenies during aging and regeneration. In Aim2, I will investigate the roles of inter-organ communication in stem cell aging and identify muscle-derived factors that coordinate gut stem cells aging with systemic aging. Finally, in Aim3, I will perform an unbiased genetic screen using transgenic RNAi lines to identify muscle-derived factors that influence gut stem cells aging. Together, these studies will identify regulatory networks affecting stem cell aging and provide novel insights for age-related diseases such as cancer.

James R Hunsley Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, St. Louis University

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The function of messenger RNA in developlment

Thomas E Hunt Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy, University of Alabama

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Mitotic activity of tumors

Maurizio Iaccarino Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

International Laboratory of Genetics and Biophysics, Italy

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Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases

Yohei Ito Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Aichi Cancer Center, Research Instiute, Japan

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Viral and subviral carcinogenesis

Olav H Iverson Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

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Epidermal carcinogenesis

Francois Jacob Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Insitute Pasteur, France

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Bacterial genetics

Rishi Jajoo

Department of Biological Chemistry, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine

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Using synthetic biology to study the mitochondria

The mitochondrion is a subcellular organelle that is the center of energy production, calcium signaling, apoptosis and redox balance for the cell. Therefore, many diseases and normal aging run their molecular course through the mitochondrion. Uniquely, the mitochondrion contains its own DNA and makes RNA and proteins independently from the rest of the cell.  This orthogonal system had presented a problem for studying the mitochondrion as the usual genetic tools of the nuclear genome are not available.  However, I am using the tools of synthetic biology to allow specific interrogation of mitochondrial protein synthesis in healthy and diseased human cells.

In addition to studying mitochondrial protein synthesis, I am developing the yeast mitochondrion as a platform for synthetic biology in order to greatly expand the genetic code and to speed up laboratory evolution. These tools will allow creation of novel therapeutic biopolymers and proteins.

John R. James

Howard Hughes Medical Institute University of California, San Francisco / San Francisco, CA

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Defining the role of the actin cytoskeleton in plasma membrane organization during T-cell activation, with Ronald D. Vale

My research involves the reconstruction of the T-cell antigen receptor signaling pathway in an orthogonal cell line to piece apart the molecular details of immune cell triggering, and how the system’s specificity and sensitivity can be genetically encoded.

I am originally from England and did both my undergraduate biochemistry degree and doctoral work at the University of Oxford. Throughout this period, my thoughts became increasingly focused on how signals are transmitted across the impermeable cell membrane, especially where the receptor responsible has no enzymatic activity of its own. For me, this area of research combines cell biology, biochemistry and systems analysis into one very exciting topic which, when applied to cells of the immune system, can have clear implications for new points of therapeutic intervention. Relocating to San Francisco for my postdoc has also provided me with great insights into the similarities and differences between approaches to scientific research on opposite sides of the Atlantic. I hope to combine the best of both worlds when starting my independent career in the near future.

Claudia Janda

Departments of Molecular & Cellular Physiology, and Structural Biology Stanford University School of Medicine / Stanford, CA

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Working in the lab of K. Christopher Garcia, I am studying the assembly and three-dimensional structures of Wnt-receptor complexes in order to understand Wnt signaling mechanisms, and facilitate development of new strategies to clinically target Wnt-associated diseases.

I have always enjoyed studying biological problems, particularly using structural and biochemical methods to understand underlying molecular mechanisms.  I am most fascinated by fundamental and hard problems that require creativity, tenacity and dedication to solve.  After having studied fundamental aspects of protein translocation, I now wish to examine receptor-ligand interactions with high relevance to human disease. Wnt signaling is important in many developmental and regenerative processes, and in a variety of human diseases, including many types of cancers. However, due to major technical difficulties, there is a complete lack of extracellular structural information about Wnt signaling activation and inhibition. We are using traditional and novel methodologies to obtain structural information that can ultimately facilitate the development of new strategies to therapeutically target Wnt signaling. Most of my spare time is spent running over the hills behind Stanford to train for a marathon, relax from hard work, and think about new ways to approach scientific problems.

Alyssa Johnson

Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Mechanisms of VCP-mediated cellular degeneration, with Graeme Davis

I am exploring links between the genetic and molecular causes of neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  A common hallmark of almost all degenerative diseases is the progressive accumulation of protein aggregates.  Autophagy-lysosome mediated degradation is the major pathway that clears aggregates from the cytoplasm and autophagy defects are associated with many degenerative diseases.  Using Drosophila as a model system, I am studying how the autophagy-lysosome pathway functions normally and how this pathway is affected by degenerative disease causing mutations in both neurons and muscles.  Additionally, I am studying how extrinsic factors, such as sleep deprivation, affect the autophagy-lysosome system in the context of neurodegenerative diseases.

Zachary Johnson HHMI Fellow

Laboratory of Membrane Biology and Biophysics, The Rockefeller University

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Structural and mechanistic studies of multidrug resistance mediated by MRP1

Resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs is a major obstacle in the successful treatment of many different forms of cancer. This so-called multidrug resistance is often mediated by a class of proteins known as ABC transporters. These proteins reside in the plasma membrane and actively pump molecules out of the cell by utilizing the energy of ATP binding and hydrolysis. Some ABC transporters recognize and extrude anticancer compounds before they are able to kill the cancer cells, leading to drug resistance and treatment failure.

My project seeks to gain a better mechanistic understanding of these transporters and their role in multidrug resistance by utilizing a combination of structural and functional studies. My focus will be on the ABC transporter known as multidrug resistance protein 1 (MRP1). If we can better understand how these proteins are able to recognize and transport their drug substrates, we will be able to develop ways to block or circumvent their function during cancer treatment. If successful, these studies will not only further our knowledge of ABC transporter biology, but they will also lay a framework for combating multidrug resistance in cancer patients.

Edward M Johnson Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

SLoan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research

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Cyclic nucleotides in nucleus of normal & leukemic lymphocytes

Martin Kampmann

Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology University of California, San Francisco / San Francisco, CA

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I am developing a method for comprehensive and quantitative mapping of genetic interactions in human cells. I will use this method to elucidate cellular pathways that are hijacked by pathogenic bacteria and viruses.

I have always both been fascinated by the complexity of the living world, and partial to the precision and elegance of mathematics and physics. Therefore, I am striving to apply a quantitative and systematic approach to biology. As a graduate student with Günter Blobel at Rockefeller University, I characterized the structure and dynamics of components of the nuclear pore complex, the molecular device that controls transport into and out of the nucleus of cells. With Jonathan Weissman at UCSF, I am working on a method for the quantitative mapping of pathways in human cells, which I will use to elucidate how bacterial toxins exploit trafficking pathways in the host cell. Besides my passion for science, I love music. I enjoy going to concerts and the opera, and I have been a singer since high school. I have performed with different ensembles, including an all-biologist a cappella group I co-founded in New York, named “Darwin’s Finches.”

Henry S Kaplan Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Radiology, Yale University and Stanford University,

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Tumor induction by radiation

Avnish Kapoor HHMI Fellow

Department of Cancer Biology, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas

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Delineate mechanisms of oncogenic KRAS independent effector pathways of pancreatic cancer, with Ron De Pinho

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is among the most lethal cancers with a 5-year survival rate of ~5%.

Mutational activation of KRAS is the most frequently detected genetic lesion in PDAC but it still remains undruggable.

This has resulted in efforts to identify and target Kras effector or alternate signaling pathways in PDAC. Recently the DePinho laboratory using a novel inducible PDAC mouse model demonstrated a critical role of oncogenic Kras in tumor maintenance. I propose to use this model for identification and characterization of the mechanisms of Kras independent growth and subsequently validate these findings in human cell lines and patient derived xenografts. Preliminary data I have generated shows Kras extinction in established tumors initially results in tumor regression, but subsequently relapse (in the absence of Kras) does occur. A major goal of this proposal is using integrative proteomic and genomic analysis to identify key signaling and genetic alterations that permit these tumors to relapse independently of Kras expression. I propose that this multi-dimensional approach will not only provide novel insights into mechanisms of PDAC progression but also identify therapeutic targets (for more effective cancer therapies) that can be exploited for understanding MEKi/PI3Ki therapy now entering the clinic.

David Kastner HHMI Fellow

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco

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Neural activity underlying individual variability in spatial decisions

Memory informs how animals interact with the world. It provides an expectation of the future based upon past experience. With navigation, animals draw upon a memory of their surroundings to inform their decisions. The hippocampus is critical for spatial decision-making by providing multiple ways to recall surroundings. Yet, why the hippocampus has multiple recall strategies remains unknown. To test the hypothesis that different recall strategies provide the substrate for individual variability, I will explore the behavior and hippocampal neural activity of both male and female rats during different spatial tasks. Beyond just recording the differences between animals, I will also specifically block hippocampal recall activity to determine their necessity for individual behavior. Studying individual decision-making will explore the range of neural computations that are consistent with normal functioning, and further our understanding of the complex relationship between the internal representation of the world and its external manifestations

Alexander Katsov

Bargmann Laboratory Rockefeller University, New York, NY

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How do individual cells arrive at cohesive function as an organ in the course of development? We study this question by tracking functional maturation of the nervous system in the nematode C. elegans.

My first steps in research brought me to J.W. Hastings’s lab at Harvard to work on bioluminescence, and subsequently to Michael Greenberg’s lab at Children’s Hospital Boston, where I worked on the signal transduction of apoptosis and wrote an undergraduate thesis.  A seminar on systems neuroscience in my senior year lighted a path of questions that, along with additional training in the labs of Bill Newsome and Krishna Shenoy at Stanford, led to graduate work with Tom Clandinin to initiate a genetic dissection of neural circuits that inform visual behavior.  My current work aims to understand the developmental steps that shape circuit function in a complete, mature nervous system.

Jon R Katze Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Deparment of Microbiology, University of Southern Califronia

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Relation of tRNA's to oncogenesis

Yohimi Kawade Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Institute for Virus Research, Kyoto University, Japan

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Regulation in infection with RNA viruses

Ernest L Kennaway Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Chester Beatty Research Institute, England and St. Bartholomew's Hospital England,

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Statistical studies of cancer

John G Kidd Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Cornell University

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Tumor causation

Hyun-Eui Kim

Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA

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Study of relationship between metabolism and protein homeostasis in neurodegenerative diseases, with Andrew Dillin

In the lab of Andrew Dillin, I study the mechanism of proteotoxicity in age-onset neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. To better understand how protein homeostasis plays a role in these diseases, I use animal model systems — such as c. elegans and mice — that express toxic proteins including the amyloid beta peptide (Alzheimer’s) or poly-glutamate protein (Huntington’s).

I was born in Seoul, Korea. My desire to become a  good scientist outweighed anxiety over separating from my family, so I moved to the U.S, obtaining my PhD in biochemistry at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center. There, I studied the mechanism of cell death and apoptosis, in particularly in various cancer cells. For my postdoc career, I wanted to try new systems to learn more of biology and use my biochemistry expertise. I chose a genetics lab where I can work with live animals and develop a better understanding of pathology in animal model systems, rather than just in groups of cells. I am hopeful that my basic science findings can turn into therapeutic tools. Outside of work, I play piano and paint, and enjoy walking my little dog on the beautiful San Diego beach.

Donald W King Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Yale University

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Transformation in mammalian cells

Hadley Kirkman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy, Stanford University

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Tumor induction

Arthur Kirschbaum Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy, University of Minnesota

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David Kiszkiss Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Anatomy, University of Minnesota

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Antigen receptors by affinity labelling

Matthew Phil Klassen

Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco / San Francisco, CA

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My research investigates the assembly and functional organization of neural circuits, using neurons innervating the Drosophila heart as a model system.

I am a scientist because doing science allows one to pursue aspirational questions without predilection for particular answers. With perseverance, each discovery opens doors to greater, albeit sometimes unexpected, understanding. Through this process scientists strive to improve the human condition, a pursuit I feel privileged to play a small part in, and in which I hope to inspire others to participate. In my free time I have transitioned from an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer and fancier of tribal art, to a father who is amazed by the richness of life that can be appreciated closer to home.

George Klein Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of tumor biology, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

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Burkitt lymphoma

Morton Kligerman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Radiology, Yale University

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Development of research program in radiobiology at Yale

David M Knipe Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School

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Herpes simplex virus reiterated DNA sequences

Akira Kobata Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, Kobe University, Japan

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Cell surface structure and transformation

Suzanne K. L. Komili (HHMI Fellow)

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Investigation of the role of chromatin dynamics in programming gene expression noise, with Dr. Hiten Madhani

I am studying genetic determinants of non-genetic variability, or “noise,” in gene expression using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

I started college fully intending to become a physician. However, an excellent first-year interdisciplinary course exposed me to the excitement of research science, and demonstrated the power/utility of using tools from one discipline to study problems in another. I pursued a degree in physics, with the intention of applying the quantitative tools and techniques that I had learned to study biology.

My graduate studies were supervised by both Pam Silver, a molecular and cellular biologist, and Fritz Roth, a statistician and computational biologist. Their joint tutelage allowed me not only to learn fundamental molecular biology and genomics, but also how to analyze data I generated in high-throughput and computational studies. My post-doctoral research on noise in gene expression provides another opportunity to apply mathematical and computational techniques to high-throughput datasets that I am collecting myself. I hope that these studies will provide new insight into problems as fundamental.

David Korn Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Stanford University

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DNA replication

Sharon S Krag Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biochemistry, The Johns Hopkins University

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Biosynthesis and function of glycoproteins and other membrane proteins in mammalian cells

Henry A Kubinski Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Division of Surgery, University of Wisconsin

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Ribonucleotide clusters in RNA

Claus-Dieter Kuhn

W. M. Keck Structural Biology Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York

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Structure and function of Piwi proteins in planarians essential for regeneration and stem cell differentiation, with Leemor Joshua-Tor

I am studying the functional importance of small RNAs in the regeneration of freshwater flatworms. My hope is that dissecting the importance of PIWI proteins in that process by X-ray crystallography and biochemical techniques will lead to a better understanding of regeneration in general and its applicability in human disease.

I grew up in southern Germany, interested in languages, music, and biochemistry. I decided to focus on science in college, studying biochemistry at the University of Regensburg. Drawn mainly by my love for nature, I moved to Sweden to complete my master’s degree at the University of Stockholm.  For my PhD I returned to Germany. At the University of Munich, I worked mainly on protein crystals; however, in case crystals didn’t grow happily, I developed my interest in other structural techniques, like cryo-electron microscopy.

For postdoctoral work I joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, known for its impact in small RNA biology. After an excursion into biotech industry, where I was working for proteros biostructures in Munich, I am back in the US, working on the involvement of small RNAs in planarian regeneration, employing structural techniques combined with genetic and biochemical tools.

Richard G Kulka Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Biological Chemistry, The Hebrew Univesity, Israel

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Hormone-dependent differentiation

Anita Kulukian

Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, Rockefeller University, New York, NY

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I am researching the connection between centrosome function and asymmetric cell division.

Science was always the subject that intrigued me the most. Biology in particular had always captivated me, and so I majored in molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley as an undergraduate.  However, not until I was a graduate student in Don Cleveland’s lab at the University of California, San Diego did I realize how fascinated I was by the molecular processes regulating cell division, the outcome that division can have on the developing and adult organism, and the connections between aberrant division and human disease. We have so much yet to learn about this essential process, which is why I chose to continue in this area of research for my postdoctoral studies.

Prabhat S. Kunwar

Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

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Genetic dissection of amygdala neuronal circuitry underlying fear and anxiety in mice, with David Anderson

My research in the lab of David J. Anderson focuses on genetic dissection of neuronal circuitry underlying defensive and offensive behaviors in mice. We use the latest genetic techniques of neuronal marking, mapping and manipulation in order to explain the neuronal basis of these behaviors.

I was born into a middle-class family in a small town in southern Nepal. After finishing high school in my hometown, I began my undergraduate studies in the biology program of Tri-Chandra College in Kathmandu, Nepal.

I considered scientific research early on, as I realized its power both to explain the natural world and our existence, and to bring practical benefits to society. Soon, I became captivated by the spectacular progress in genetics and biomedical sciences. Not seeing any further academic opportunities in the biomedical sciences in Nepal, I came to the U.S., obtaining my undergraduate degree in biotechnology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I then did my PhD under the supervision of Ruth Lehmann at New York University Medical Center. I enjoy traveling, and am also involved in promoting biomedical research and education in Nepal via a biomedical society formed by a group of Nepali scientists.

Karoly Lapis Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Pathology, Postgraduate Medical School, Hungary

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Effect of chemotherapeutic agents on the ultrastructure of tumor cells

Sean M Lavelle Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Experimental Medicine, University College, Ireland

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Carcinogenic effects of transferred intracellular MCA

John H Lawrence Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Radiation Laboratory, University of California Berkeley

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Metabolic and therapeutic studies

Edwin A Lawrence Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Surgery, Yale University

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Chenmotherapeutic agenst in treatment of lymphomatous disease

Soo Hee Lee

School of Public Health Yale University, New Haven, CT

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Mechanism for translational regulation of HMG CoA reductase, with Russell DeBose-Boyd

I am trying to figure out what an Argonaut-like protein is doing in the mitochondrion of the sleeping sickness parasite, Trypanosoma brucei.

I did my graduate work at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in the Department of Biological Chemistry, where I worked on trypanosome fatty acid synthesis.  Protozoan parasites that cause human disease—i.e. malaria, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, and sleeping sickness—are not only relevant medically, but often have surprising and unusual biologies that fill pieces of the larger picture of our own evolution.  For example, GPI anchors were first discovered in T. brucei and have a specific role in parasite evasion of the host immune system.  Besides my fascination with the biology of the bizarre, I enjoy living in New Haven with my dog Jack.

Chia-Hsueh Lee

Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology and Biophysics, The Rockefeller Universiy

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Structural and mechanistic principles of the HCN pacemaker channel

Chuan-Pu Lee Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

The Johnson Research Foundation, University of Pennsylvania

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Cellular energy metabolism

Sarah Leinwand

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley

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Maturation of neural circuits for memory

Adult behavior is the product of neural circuits that are wired during development and modified by experience. However, the mechanisms by which neural activity in early development affects circuit maturation to shape behavior remain poorly understood. My research investigates how neural activity in circuits for memory matures and sculpts learned behaviors. Using in vivo calcium imaging, genetic techniques and behavioral analyses in the Drosophila model system, I am characterizing developmentally regulated spontaneous neural activity in brain regions critical for learned behaviors and investigating how this activity shapes mature learned behaviors. I aim to identify molecular changes that trigger the maturation of memory circuitry and behavior. This research will increase our understanding of a fundamental mechanism relevant for normal brain development and may provide insights for translational research into its pathological misregulation in disorders of the nervous system.

Duncan Leitch Simons Foundation Fellow

Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Using unique crocodilian physiology to probe somatosensation, with David Julius

The somatosensory system transduces physical and chemical stimuli from the periphery to the CNS to mediate the senses of touch, temperature, proprioception, and pain. However, there is little information regarding the molecular signaling mechanisms of various mechanical stimuli. Activation of mechanosensitive fibers by injury represents a major source of pain, and thus a greater understanding of how these fibers are activated under normal (acute) and pathophysiological (chronic) pain states is an important goal at both basic and translational levels.

To address this important problem, I shall exploit an unconventional model system with exceptionally acute mechanosensation: the crocodilians, whose jaws are covered in discrete tactile receptors. Recent physiological work suggests the receptors mediate a sense of touch exceeding that of human fingertips, providing a high-resolution tactile portrait of surrounding environments. Following recent work in the sponsor’s lab identifying novel, highly-sensitive infrared (heat) ion channel subtypes in rattlesnakes and vampire bats, we propose to exploit state-of-the-art transcriptome profiling to uncover molecules that endow crocodilian sensory ganglia with exquisite mechanosensitivity. Identified molecules will be examined in more tractable genetic systems (e.g. mice) for further functional analyses, with the goal of uncovering molecular mechanosensory mechanisms in mammals under normal and/or pathophysiological pain states.

Manuel Leonetti HHMI Fellow

Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Understanding sphingolipid homeostasis in human cells: function and regulation of ORMDL proteins, with Jonathan Weissman

Sphingolipids are essential membrane components and signaling messengers central to many cellular processes, in particular apoptosis. Consequently, sphingolipid levels are dysregulated in many diseases, in particular cancer. However, how cells sense and regulate their sphingolipid content is still poorly understood. The ORM membrane protein family, conserved from yeast to humans, is a key sphingolipid homeostatic sensor: the Weissman laboratory established that ORM proteins mediate a feedback response between cellular needs and de novo sphingolipid biosynthesis. While the molecular details of this response have been elucidated in yeast, how sphingolipids regulate the function of the mammalian orthologs (ORMDL) is completely unresolved. I propose to use a combination of biochemical and cellular biological approaches, together with a transformative genetic interaction mapping strategy, to characterize the mechanisms linking ORMDL function to sphingolipid homeostasis in human cells. Combining the expertise of our laboratory with my own background in membrane protein biochemistry, I will elucidate how the functional properties of ORMDL are modified by specific sphingolipid species and how ORMDL activity in turn modulates sphingolipid biosynthesis. My results will give substantial insights into the mechanism of sphingolipid homeostasis in humans and could open the way for new strategies for the therapeutic tuning of sphingolipid metabolism.

Aaron B Lerner Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Medicine, Yale University

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Malignant melanocytes

Ang Li

Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

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Dissecting the molecular crosstalk that governs melanocyte stem cells in their niche, with Elaine Fuchs

Elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of stem cells (SCs) is of great importance for their clinical applications in regenerative medicine, cancer therapy, and aging. SCs are regulated by communication with their specialized microenvironment known as the niche. The bulge niche of the mammalian hair follicle holds Epidermal SCs (EpSCs) and melanocyte SCs (McSCs). While their behavior is tightly coordinated, little of the crosstalk involved is known. My objective is to understand how these two SC populations can remain in quiescence and become activated and differentiate synchronously to generate pigmented hair. I have therefore devised a novel and rapid screening strategy, which combines the powers of mouse genetics with in utero lentiviral shRNA delivery to EpSCs. I will identify EpSC factors, including secreted and cell-to-cell interactions, which govern the differentiation, survival and/or quiescence of embryonic and adult McSCs. My strategy should also uncover genes required for EpSC survival and/or melanin uptake by transit-amplifying SC progeny within the hair bulb. Since my strategy is to screen for factors that uncouple McSC from EpSC behavior, the potential targets could be useful in designing drugs for treating melanomas and pigment disorders.

Wanhe Li HHMI Fellow

Laboratory of Genetics, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

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Decoding neuromodulatory control of sleep and wakefulness in Drosphila, with Michael Young

The application of Drosophila as a model system has led to many fundamental discoveries concerning the regulation of sleep and wakefulness, including conserved molecular pathways and neural circuits that parallel human studies. Superimposed on the neural circuit wiring diagram are the neuromodulators – biogenic amines and neuropeptides, which are key mediators of the opposing states of sleep and wakefulness. Preliminary research has suggested a novel neuromodulatory circuit in Drosophila that signals arousal and antagonizes sleep. In this proposal, a set of circuit tracing experiments is planned to map this circuit and a novel imaging tool will be developed to visualize peptidergic modulation during states of sleep and wakefulness. In addition, whole-genome transcriptional and translational profiling experiments are proposed to investigate the molecular features of brains under neuromodulatory control. The long-term goal of this proposal is to gain a deep understanding of neuromodulatory processes on genetic, circuit and molecular levels that affect sleep/wake regulation. These studies may also shed light on broader principles of brain function, such as consciousness and memory.

Brian Liau

Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

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Activity-based profiling of lysine-specific demethylase 1, with Bradley Bernstein

My research interests lie at the interface of chemical biology with cancer epigenetics and chromatin biology. In Brad Bernstein’s lab, I am currently studying the function of histone demethylases in epigenetic-mediated mechanisms of drug persistence in glioma stem cells. We found that a subpopulation of glioma stem cells indefinitely persist in the presence of potent receptor tyrosine kinase inhibition by entering a slow-cycling state that recapitulates transcriptional and epigenetic features found in primary tumors. In particular, this slow-cycling state is characterized by high histone demethylase expression and widespread chromatin remodeling. We hypothesize that these demethylases may serve as key enablers of epigenetic plasticity in quiescent glioblastoma cells through the removal of chromatin barriers, thus catalyzing the transition to new epigenetic states that promote adaptation, survival, and disease recurrence. We hope to uncover the functions of histone demethylases in glioma and address the potential of attendant therapeutic strategies in neuro-oncology.

Louisa Liberman

Biology Department and Center for Systems Biology Duke University, Durham, NC

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My current research involves investigating cell-type specific growth regulation in response to cross-kingdom communication in Arabidopsis thaliana.  I am interested in learning about the signaling that occurs between plants and microbes in the soil resulting in developmental and physiological changes in the plant.

Raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, I attended Mount Holyoke College, from which I graduated with a double major in biological sciences and Spanish.  I received my PhD working with Angelike Stahopouolos at the California Institute of Technology.

I have always loved puzzles and nature.  Being a scientist means that I have the opportunity to ask questions and learn about how organisms develop and adapt to their environments.  I was drawn to a career in biology because it appeals to my curiosity and provides exciting possibilities to explore what we do not know about nature. When not engaged in my research, I like to spend time outdoors, particularly gardening.  I also enjoy running, biking, skiing, and swimming.

Averill Liebow Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Pathology

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Wen-Hui Lien

Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development Rockefeller University, New York, NY

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Current research: Understanding differential roles of Wnt signaling — beta-catenin-Lef/TCF complex in regulation of epidermal homeostasis, hair follicle stem cell maintenance and activation.

My interests in science started in elementary school in my home town of Tapei, Tawain. Later, when my beloved grandfather died of cancer, I was inspired to understand cancer biology.

At Kaohsiung Medical University I did research in molecular biology, for which I received the Undergraduate Innovative Research Award from Taiwan’s National Science Council. During my graduate research at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in National Chung Kung University, I became interested in understanding how tumor cells escape from different cancer therapies.

When I came to the U.S., I spent a year at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle, where my research was to identify novel genes that inhibit myc-induced apoptosis.   My PhD dissertation research at the University of Washington / FHCRC focused on understanding underlying mechanisms and physiological significance of the cell adhesion protein, aE-catenin. After obtaining my PhD in 2008, I received the 2009 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award.  In April, 2009 I joined the laboratory of Elaine Fuchs at Rockefeller University.

Anthony Lien HHMI Fellow

Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, The J. David Gladstone Institutes, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Contribution of basal ganglia-recipient thalamus to cortical motor plans, with Anatol Kreitzer

The proper execution of voluntary movements is a critical function of the nervous system. In mammals, the activity in the motor cortex that drives voluntary movements is thought to be controlled by a neuronal circuit in which excitatory thalamic inputs to motor cortex are regulated by inhibition from the basal ganglia. While the basal ganglia are implicated in motor function due to severe motor deficits following basal ganglia degeneration, the function of basal ganglia remain controversial, with some theories suggesting a role in action selection and others indicating a role in controlling the amplitude or “gain” of movements. As such, contributions of the basal ganglia-recipient thalamus (BGThal) to movementrelated activity in motor cortex are poorly understood. I propose to characterize how activity is organized in BGThal and motor cortex by recording from these structures in mice performing a forelimb movement task. Next, I will use recently developed optogenetic tools to selectively suppress BGThal activity to see how BGThal contributes to the magnitude and temporal precision of movement-related activity in the motor cortex. These experiments will help us begin to understand at a mechanistic level how the basal ganglia, thalamus, and motor cortex work together to produce voluntary movements.

Alexander Lipschultz Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Instituto Nacional del Radium, Chile

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Clarence C. Little Grantee - Jane Coffin Chidls Fund

Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory

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Oliver W. Liu (HHMI Fellow)

Biology Department, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Stanford University / Stanford, CA

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Immunoglobulin-domain proteins and synaptic specificity, with Dr. Kang Shen

Dendrites of neurons often adopt complex and morphologically diverse branched arbor structures. The development and organization of these arbors fundamentally determine the potential input and connectivity of a given neuron.  My research in the laboratory of Kang Shen has focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms that regulate branching and morphogenesis of neuronal dendrites using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system.

Previously, as a graduate student at the University of California, San Francisco,  I worked in the laboratory of Hiten Madhani, where I developed large-scale systematic genetic approaches to identify genes involved in pathogenesis by the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans.  As an undergraduate at Harvard University, I worked in the laboratory of Ed Harlow where I studied the mechanisms of transcriptional repression by the tumor suppressor protein pRB.

Xin Liu

Department of Structural Biology Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA

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Structural and biochemical studies of transcription initiation by RNA polymerase II and its associated transcription factors, with Roger Kornberg

My current research uses a combination of X-ray crystallography, biochemistry, and chemical biology to address the molecular mechanism of transcription preinitiation and initiation by RNA polymerase II. Specific topics include the assembly of the  transcription preinitiation complex, transcription start site selection, and abortive initiation.

My biomedical research training started at Nanjing University, China, where I majored in biochemistry as an undergraduate.  In 2007, I received my PhD in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, where I did my thesis study in the laboratory of Ronen Marmorstein at The Wistar Institute. My graduate work centers on the structural and functional studies on the retinoblastoma and p300/CBP tumor suppressor proteins and their regulation by viral oncoproteins. During my graduate study I became fascinated by the broad field of transcription, epigenetics and chromatin, given its enormous impact on human diseases. I joined the laboratory of Roger Kornberg at Stanford University in 2008 and, since then, I have been studying the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription by RNA polymerase II.

Siqi Liu HHMI Fellow

Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

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Exploring the mechanism of skin stem cell regulation in skin wound repair, with Elaine Fuchs

Xing Liu HHMI Fellow

Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

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Regulation of cullin-RING ubiquitin ligases by Cand1, with Raymond Deshaies

Protein function and stability can be modulated by attachment of ubiquitin, which is achieved by three sequentiallyoperating enzymes, of which the last enzyme in the cascade, ubiquitin ligase (E3), confers substrate recognition and ubiquitination. The Skp1–Cul1–F-box (SCF) complex is one type of cullin–RING ubiquitin ligase (CRL), and its substrate specificity is determined by which one of the 69 different F-box–Skp1 substrate adaptors is recruited to the Cul1 scaffold. Cul1 also binds Cand1 in a manner that is mutually exclusive with F-box–Skp1. Current studies have revealed that Cand1 is a novel exchange factor that equilibrates Cul1 with the total cellular pool of free F-box–Skp1 complexes. However, the mechanism and regulation of the Cand1-mediated protein exchange process and the impact of Cand1 on the cellular ubiquitinated proteome remain elusive. This proposal aims to provide insights into the mechanism and significance of Cand1 function through 1) analyzing Cand1-SCF interactions and effects of substrates at millisecond timescales, 2) investigating effects of Cand1 on Cul1 modifications, 3) evaluating changes in CRL assembly and activity in Cand1-depleted cells. These studies will deepen understanding of the biological role of Cand1 and how the repertoire of CRLs is sustained and regulated.

Nian Liu

Department of Chemical and Systems Biology, Stanford University

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Prion dynamics of transcription factors control cellular differentiation

I am interested in the prion dynamics of transcriptional regulators during human cell development. Lots of transcription factors contain low-complexity domains, which can drive the prion/granule formation. However, little is known about the prion functions or mechanisms of human transcriptional regulators. In our preliminary results, I found that some transcription factors form prions/granules at specific stages of the human neural crest differentiation process and the prions disappear rapidly afterwards. Neural crest cells are a temporary group of cells unique to vertebrates that arise from the embryonic ectoderm cell layer, and in turn give rise to a diverse cell lineage. We hypothesize that the observed prion dynamics of transcription factors are crucial to the neural crest differentiation. As a postdoc in the Wysocka lab at Stanford, I will investigate the regulation factors of the observed prion dynamics as well as the molecular and developmental roles of these prions related to transcription regulation.

Ding Liu HHMI Fellow

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University

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Neural control of social motivation

Social grouping offers social animals unique advantages to survive by decreasing energy consumption, reducing the risk of predation and promoting cooperation. Conversely, social disconnection or isolation can cause negative mental and physical results that motivate animal to re-engage in group. But how social motivation is encoded and regulated in neural circuit remains unclear. In this proposed project, I will identify the brain regions and cell types that are activated during social isolation and re-grouping. Utilizing cell-type targeted calcium imaging, I will monitor the neuronal dynamics during distinct social motivation states and specific social behavioral events. To further investigate underlying circuit-level mechanisms, I will examine the synaptic connections between regions associated with isolation and grouping, and how synaptic strength changes during social isolation. Finally, cell-type and projection specific optogenetic manipulations will be conducted to regulate social motivation and alter the relevant social behaviors. This project will shed new light into the regulation of social motivation both at the cell-type and circuit-levels.

Wan-Lin Lo

Department of Medicine and Rheumatology, University of California, San Francisco, California

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The role of T Cell receptor-induced sulfenylation in CD4+ T Cell differentiation, with Arthur Weiss

The production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is required for T cell activation and expansion. Dysregulation of ROS-producing NADPH oxidase or mitochondria causes the alteration of T cell function in several clinical diseases, including cancers. ROS modifies T cell receptor (TCR) signaling cascades, in part, through a post-translational modification known as protein sulfenylation. Deprivation of ROS-mediated sulfenylation impaired T cell proliferation and activation, yet elevated ROS rates in tumor microenvironment also suppressed T cell mediated anti-tumor responses. Though the importance of ROS in TCR signaling and hematopoietic malignancies is apparent, little is known about the roles of ROS-mediated sulfenylation in T cell signaling. We propose to introduce a new chemical probe to detect changes in protein sulfenylation directly in primary T cells. We will elucidate how the sulfenylation of key substrates is controlled by ROS generation and TCR stimulation, and also explore biological impacts of non-sulfenylateable key substrates in T cell function and TCR signaling.

Leo Loeb Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Washigton University, Department of Pathology

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Chittenden N.H. Long Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Physiological Chemistry

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Christopher Lopez Simons Foundation Fellow

Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

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Defining the clostridium difficile responses to zinc limitation

Clostridium difficile is an anaerobic Gram-positive bacterium responsible for nearly half a million intestinal infections in the U.S. annually leading to approximately 29,000 deaths. C. difficile infections (CDI) are most commonly triggered after disruption of the resident microbiota through antibiotics or chemotherapy, which allows C. difficile to subsequently colonize the intestines. CDI can manifest as a spectrum of disease, from mild diarrhea to pseudomembranous colitis or death. Even in situations where patients are treated, recurrent infections are common. While many of the risk factors for CDI are known, there is a general lack of understanding of why CDI presents as such a wide spectrum of disease and what the predictors are for recurrent CDI. My research is aimed at defining how C. difficile adapts to survive in the intestines to cause disease. By understanding the fundamental biology governing C. difficile interactions with the microbiota and the host in the context of infection, we can determine the predictors for disease severity or recurrence and guide the design of effective therapeutics.

Vicki P. Losick

Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institute of Science, Baltimore, MD

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Drosophila melanogaster spermatheca: a new model for the prostate gland, with Dr. Allan C. Spradling

Identifying cellular mechanisms of tissue repair is critical to our understanding of the normal wound healing process.  I am studying the cellular mechanisms tissues use to respond to damage or injury in the adult Drosophila melanogaster.

As a postdoctoral fellow in Allan Spradling’s laboratory, I am working to combine my former? research expertise in microbiology and innate immunity with the study of cellular processes of tissue repair in the adult fruit fly.  My interest in biomedical research began in college, with an undergraduate research project on viral protein stability.  A particularly influential moment was seeing first-hand the impacts of infectious diseases like malaria during a semester abroad in Kenya.  This experience led me to pursue graduate thesis work at Tufts University. In the laboratory of Ralph Isberg, my project involved characterizing mammalian host cell signaling pathways required for the growth of Legionella, a human pathogen known to cause severe pneumonia.  As part of my professional life, I enjoy mentoring and teaching young scientists. Outside of the lab, I’m an aspiring amateur golfer, jazz enthusiast, and cook.

Balduin Lucke Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Pennsylvania, Department of Plant Science

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Charles C. Lund Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Harvard University, Deparment of Bacteriology and Immunology

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Frank Lundquist Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Institute of Legal Medicine, Denmark, Biochemistry Division

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Basil J. Luyet Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Saint Louis University, Department of Biology

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Dan Ma

Department of Biological Structure, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Structural study of porcupine, a membrane protein essential to Wnt function, with Wenqing Xu

I’m trying to investigate three dimensional structures of proteins those play important roles in Wnt signaling pathway. Aberrant regulation of Wnt proteins and their signal-transduction cascades are associated with the development of many diseases including some cancers. The aims of my research are to explain the molecular mechanism for Wnt secretion and downstream regulation.

I’m from China, and I got my PhD degree at Tsinghua University.  I used to be a structural biologist, and now I’m still a structural biologist, because I think this is a good way for me to understand many biological processes at molecular level.  I mainly focus on structural and biochemical studies of important proteins related with human diseases, and I really hope my research will help people better understand and fight with diseases. Now I’m working as a postdoc in Seattle, a beautiful and romantic city, and I think I will enjoy my research and enjoy my life!

William G. MacCallum Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

The Johns Hopkins University, Department of Pathology

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John Maciejowski Merck Fellow

Laboratory of Cell Biology & Genetics, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

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Can telomere attrition initiate chromosome shattering?, with Titia de Lange

I am researching the causes of complex, chromosome rearrangements and hypermutation in cancer genomes. Recently uncovered by next generation sequencing, these catastrophic phenomena are understood to play a major part in cancer progression, but the instigating mechanisms are not clear. Telomere crisis occurs during tumorigenesis when depletion of the telomere causes chromosome to chromosome fusions. These fusion events result in the formation of dicentric chromosomes, which are known to be destabilized during cell division. I hypothesize that these fusion events can precipitate chromosome fragmentation and thus fuel more complex chromosome rearrangements and hypermutation. I am using genetic and cell biological techniques, including high resolution time-lapse imaging, to investigate the immediate fate of these fused chromosomes, as well as next generation sequencing to identify the genomic consequences of their ultimate resolution.

Lindsey J. Macpherson

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Columbia University, New York, NY

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Molecular characterization of gustatory labeled lines, with Charles Zuker

I’m investigating how taste information is encoded at the first relay between taste receptor cells and the gustatory neurons which innervate them., As a third-generation San Diegan who went to the University of California, San Diego as an undergrad and The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla for graduate school, and who started a postdoc at Charles Zuker’s lab at UCSD, I thought I might have beaten the odds and would be able to complete my scientific training in my beloved native city.  Although I had been open to the possibility of moving, I considered myself lucky to be able to live so close to friends and family while pursuing my scientific career at such highly regarded research institutes. So you can imagine my shock when Charles announced his intention to move the laboratory to Columbia University in New York City!  It’s been a year since the move, and while I’m still a San Diegan at heart, New York has given me a fresh perspective on life and science.

Nadja Makki

Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, University of California, San Francisco

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My current research aims to explore how DNA regulatory elements influence human development and disease. I am particularly interested in identifying novel enhancers that regulate brain development and identifying mutations within them that lead to neurodevelopmental diseases.

I was born in Germany, where I studied Biology at the University of Goettingen and the University of Kiel. I then came to the US to pursue my Ph.D. in Human Genetics at the University of Utah. My graduate research in the lab of Dr. Mario Capecchi involved examining the role of Hoxa1, a homeobox transcription factor, in early brain development. This sparked my interest in the field of neuroscience and especially in development of the nervous system. I performed a postdoc in Dr. Liqun Luo’s lab at Stanford to study the connectivity of individual neurons in the brain. For my current postdoc in Dr. Nadav Ahituv’s lab at UCSF, I am focusing on identifying gene regulatory elements that are involved in brain development and examining how changes in the genomic regulatory code can lead to specific phenotypes. Outside the lab, I enjoy the various outdoor activities that the Bay Area has to offer.

Nicole Martinez

Department of Biological and Biolomedical Sciences, Yale University

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Defining the landscape and function of pseudouridines in pre-mRNA

Ralph W. McKee Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Physiological of Chemistry

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Valy Menkin Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Harvard University, Department of Pathology

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Florian T. Merkle

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA

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Generation of hypocretin Neurons from narcoleptic patients, with Alexander Schier

The sleep disorder narcolepsy is caused by the degeneration of hypocretin neurons. The goal of my research is to derive hypocretin neurons from narcoleptic patients to study the cause of hypocretin neuron loss.

I was born in Konstanz, Germany and moved to Minnesota at an early age. As a teenager, I decided I wanted to become a neurosurgeon and spent my summers in a neurosurgery laboratory. I discovered I preferred working at the bench and, as an undergraduate at Caltech, I explored different fields of neuroscience. I was most fascinated by the problem of how the brain develops, and studied the lineage and organization of neural stem cells and their progeny in the postnatal brain. My current work combines my interests in cell type specification, the connection of circuitry to behavior, and developing in-vitro models of human diseases. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, cycling, cooking, and bartending.

Kailin Mesa HHMI Fellow

Skiball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine New York University Langone Health Center

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Uncovering the role of the inflammatory response in digit tip regneration

Several vertebrate species have the astonishing ability to regenerate their limbs following amputation. In mammals, including both mice and humans, this regenerative capability has been restricted to the digit tip. Both digit tip and complete limb regeneration follow a stereotypic process termed epimorphic regeneration where a population of progenitor cells, termed the blastema, form at the injury site to replace the multiple tissues lost (including blood vessels, nerves, bone, etc.). Several studies have demonstrated that macrophages are essential for epimorphic regeneration. However, it remains largely unknown how macrophages facilitate blastema rather than scar formation. Utilizing the mouse digit tip, which displays regenerative or scarring outcomes dependent on amputation site, we are functionally testing which immune cell types uniquely contribute to epimorphic regeneration. Furthermore, by combining diverse genetic tools with intravital imaging, we are beginning to understand how injury-induced inflammation yields a permissive tissue environment for epimorphic regeneration in mammals.

David G. Mets (HHMI Fellow)

Brainard Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Identification of genetic constituents of learning in songbirds through a new system for molecular marker development, with Dr. Michael

Yuxuan Miao

Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, The Rockefeller University

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Dissecting the immune evasion mechanisms of tumorigenic stem cells

My research interest is to harness the power of immune system to combat cancer. This goal requires sophisticated understanding in both immunology and cancer biology. My prior graduate training has equipped me with extensive knowledge in immunology, and showed me how the immune system evokes robust and multilayered responses to defend our body against infections. However, compared to the vigorous response to infections, the immune system often becomes incompetent when it encounters cancer, especially malignant tumors. My  goal during the fellowship period is to develop a cancer model in which I can trace the co-evolution between tumor-initiating stem cells and immune system, ultimately to the point of evasion of immune surveillance, so that I can identify the root of the blunted ant-tumor immune response during the cancer progression. With Dr. Fuchs’ expertise in epithelial stem cells and cancers, and my background in immunology, I feel that I’m uniquely poised to tackle this fascinating problem.

Leon Miller Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Rochester, Department of Radiation Biology

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ElizabethC. Miller Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Univeristy of Wisconsin, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research

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James A. Miller Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Wisconsin, McArdel Lanoratoru for Cancer Research

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Prashant Mishra

Division of Biology California Institute of Technology / Pasadena, CA

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I am investigating mechanisms of mitochondrial fusion within cells. The goal is to gain a better understanding of how mitochondrial dynamics are regulated.

My interest in scientific research began when I was young, and was fostered through participation in research programs and science fairs in junior high and high school.  After completing my bachelor’s degree in biochemical sciences at Harvard University, I worked briefly for a biotechnology company developing treatments for patients suffering from rare genetic disorders.  I then entered an MD/PhD program the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, allowing me to conduct basic science research while receiving training in patient care.  I currently conduct research as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, and plan to establish my own basic science laboratory in the future.

Patrick Mitchell Simons Foundation Fellow

Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley

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Pathogen-driven evolution of inflammasome genes

Satoru Miura Genentech Fellow

Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego

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Top-down modulation of visual cortex during attention, with Massimo Scanziani

­My general interest is how visual information interacts with non-visual information such as cognitive states to create our visual perception. In the lab of Massimo Scanziani, I am specifically focusing on how attention impacts visual processing in the mouse primary visual cortex. In humans and other primates, attention has been shown to increase the response of visually responsive neurons. It has been suggested that this modulation is mediated by feedback connections arising from higher cortical areas, yet the circuits and mechanisms remain poorly understood.

By using various in vivo and in vitro techniques available for the mouse, I plan on working out the cellular components of the circuit and determining its impact on the animal’s behavior during a task that requires attention. Through this study, I hope to advance our understanding of the basic principles of how cognitive states influence sensory perception.

Joshua Modell Simons Foundation Fellow

Laboratory of Bacteriology, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

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Self vs. non-self discrimination during CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity, with Luciano Marraffini

A hallmark of immune systems is the ability to selectively recognize and destroy invading agents while ignoring the hosts’ own molecular milieu. Remarkably, CRISPR-Cas systems provide single bacterial cells with adaptive immunity by cleaving the nucleotides of previously encountered invaders based on sequence-specific RNA guides. The mechanisms ensuring that these molecular memories are exclusively created from non-self, invading elements are unknown.

I study “adaptation”, the first phase of CRISPR-Cas immunity, whereby short “spacer” sequences of invading DNA are inserted into CRISPR loci. Specifically, I am identifying and characterizing the factors that influence adaptation and allow bacterial hosts to selectively generate spacers from foreign viruses and plasmids. This work will lead to a better understanding of how bacteria have solved a fundamental immunological problem and could provide an additional foundation for the development of CRISPR-Cas-derived technologies.

Erica Moehle

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California

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Intra and trans-cellular mitochondrial communication in Parkinson’s disease, with Andrew Dillin

Just like people, cells have to deal with stress. I study how stressed cellular organelles such as mitochondria communicate with the nucleus, and how this stress response is coordinated in normal settings and dysregulated in disease.

I studied genetics as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, and then worked at Sangamo BioSciences to help develop human genome editing with engineered nucleases. I was then an NSF Fellow in the Tetrad PhD program at the University of California, San Francisco, where I worked in Christine Guthrie’s laboratory. There, I studied how pre-mRNA splicing is regulated – in particular, how the cell coordinates a pre-mRNA’s transcription and its splicing. My interest in how discrete molecular processes are integrated inside the cell continues during my postdoctoral fellowship in Andrew Dillin’s laboratory, where I am studying a remarkable pathway called the mitochondrial unfolded protein response. In this pathway, nuclear-encoded mitochondrial protein chaperones are upregulated in response to signals from mitochondria experiencing proteotoxic stress. I am using a “disease-in-a-dish” model that combines human stem cell technology with genome editing approaches.

Jacques Monod Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Institut Pasteur, France, Department of Cellular Biochemistry

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Nobel Laureate – 1965

Jeffrey Moore HHMI Fellow

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Neuronal control of suckling behavior in newborn rodents, with Catherine Dulac

My research investigates the neural circuits that control instinctive behavior. Previously, my work focused on the innate active sensing behaviors of rodents that dominate exploration and social interactions. This work has led me to focus on questions that involve the nature of the motivational and descending drives that enable animals to generate robust and instinctive motor patterns in the appropriate context. With the expertise of the Dulac Laboratory, I hope to provide insight into these questions by defining the roles of specific, molecularly-defined cell types and neuronal circuit connectivity patterns that relate to such control. I hope to provide a unique perspective that stems from a background in engineering and the neural control of movement.

Robert A. Moore Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Wasington University, Department of Pathology

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Frank Moss

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco

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Structural studies of membrane fission and highly constricted membranes

John H. Mueller Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Harvard University, Department of Bateriology and Immunology

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Sabin Mulepati HHMI Fellow

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Live cell imaging of chromatin supercoiling dynamics in human cells, with Sunney Xiaoliang Xie

I received my BS in Biochemistry from Susquehanna University and my Ph.D. in molecular biophysics in Professor Scott Bailey’s lab at Johns Hopkins University. Broadly speaking, I am interested in exploring the structure-function relationship of biological macromolecules. For my Ph.D. thesis, I used different structural and biochemical methods to investigate the mechanism by which bacteria use their CRISPR immune system to destroy foreign DNA.

In my postdoc with Professor Sunney Xie at Harvard University, my research focuses on the effects of chromatin structure on eukaryotic gene expression. More specifically, I am interested in understanding the dynamics of DNA supercoiling at a single-cell level. Outside the lab, I enjoy playing soccer and going on hikes.

Edwin D. Murphy Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Tennessee, Department of Pathology

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Imai Mutsuo Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Institute for Virus Research, Kyoto University. Japan

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Regulation of gene expression

Ira T. Nathanson Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Massachusetts eneral Hospital

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James Nelson

Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutic Sciences, Broad Institute

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Continual evolution of proteins in eukaryotes

Alexandre Alves Neves

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Seattle, WA

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Modeling Myc-induced tumorigenesis in Drosophila, with Robert N. Eisenman

I use Drosophila neural stem cells, and the powerful genetic tools available in this organism, to uncover new genes that regulate how stem cells balance self-renewal with differentiation.

I was born in Brazil and grew up in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Portugal. I have always been fascinated by how cells acquire different fates during development. I first addressed this question as an undergrad in Portugal, by studying transcriptional regulation of sporulation in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Excited about pursuing a scientific career,  I enrolled in the Gulbenkian PhD Programme (Portugal) in Biomedicine. My interest in using a simple genetic system to study central questions in developmental biology led me to work with Jim Priess, an expert in the model system C.elegans. I focused on understanding how the Notch signaling pathway turns on different genes in diverse times and places during development. The Notch pathway, critical for normal development, is also misregulated in many human cancers. In Bob Eisenman’s lab, I’m using the fruit fly Drosophila to look for new genes that regulate stem cell behavior. I enjoy playing/watching soccer, cooking, spending time with my wife Courtney, and being a father to our baby boy!

Eugene Oh

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California

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Investigating the ubiquitin-dependent mechanisms that govern human stem cell maintenance and the course of neurogenesis, with Michael Rape

Ubiquitylation is a versatile post-translational modification required for most cell fate decisions. During neurogenesis, ubiquitin-dependent mechanisms ensure the irreversible transformation of neural stem cells into neurons. By contrast, the misregulation of the ubiquitylation system can set off a wide range of developmental abnormalities, from uncontrolled cell proliferation and tumor formation to neurodegeneration and cell death. Despite its medical relevance, our understanding of how ubiquitylation governs the course of human neurogenesis is far from complete. For my research fellowship, I propose to develop a large-scale screening platform to identify the ubiquitylating enzymes that promote the maintenance of undifferentiated human stem cells as well as those that facilitate the specification of neural cell fates. To better grasp the physiological parameters that underlie the directionality of cellular differentiation, I will define the collection of endogenous substrate proteins modified by the newly identified enzymes. Aside from generating a list of substrates, I aim to study the functional consequences of ubiquitylation by characterizing substrate mutants that are resistant to ubiquitylation in stem cells. Together, my results will shed light on fundamental principles of human development and potential mechanisms that cause neuronal cancers and neurodegenerative disorders.

Eugene L. Opie Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

The Rockefeller Institute

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Jessica Osterhout HHMI Fellow

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Havard University

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Characterizing the thermoregulatory circuits that control animal behavior

Thermoregulation is fundamental for survival; even slight changes in body temperature have a dramatic effect on vital processes such as sleep, appetite, and thirst, and during an immune response, febrile patients often become fatigued, antisocial, and exhibit other sickness-related behaviors. Specific brain areas are thought to control body temperature by triggering various mechanisms that produce or dissipate heat, but how thermoregulatory neurons modulate thermo-adaptive and other behaviors is unknown. I will use recently developed tools for genetic profiling and circuit analysis to molecularly identify thermoregulatory and fever-inducing neurons and map their connectivity patterns, thereby gaining new insight into thermoregulatory circuits and how they are connected to other homeostatic and social functions in the brain.

Jon Paczkowski

Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

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Manipulating pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum-sensing to control pathogenicity, with Bonnie Bassler

Quorum sensing is a mechanism of cell-cell communication that allows bacteria to synchronously control processes that are only productive when undertaken in unison by the collective. I will focus on Pseudomonas aeruginosa because it has a well-defined quorum sensing network that is essential for biofilm formation and virulence factor production, and because P. aeruginosa is an important pathogen that affects cystic fibrosis sufferers, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, burn victims, and patients with implanted medical devices.

My work combines structural biology, chemistry, and genetics to define the mechanisms underlying activation and inhibition of quorum-sensing receptors with the aim of understanding how quorum sensing receptors accurately decode the information contained in small molecule signals to drive collective behaviors. These investigations could lead to strategies for controlling quorum sensing, potentially resulting in the development of anti-microbial drugs aimed at bacteria that use quorum sensing to control virulence and biofilm formation.

Athma Pai

Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Role of splicing regulatory factors in co-regulated transcription and splicing, with Christopher Burge

My current research in Chris Burge’s lab focuses on using experimental and computational genomic approaches to understand coordinated shifts in gene regulation across cell types or changing cellular conditions – focusing on interactions between transcriptional and post-transcriptional RNA regulatory processes. In particular, I am interested in better characterizing the mechanisms, factors, and genetic elements involved in co-regulating transcription and splicing differences in mammalian systems.

I grew up in Stamford, CT and was introduced to scientific discovery early on by my scientist parents. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, double majoring in biochemistry and anthropology. I was first immersed in genetic research while working in a molecular anthropology lab at Penn studying the genetic history of human migrations. Inspired by this experience, I went on to do my Ph.D. in human genetics with Yoav Gilad at the University of Chicago. My graduate research focused on two aspects of functional genomics: (1) using comparative genomic approaches to characterize regulatory patterns underlying gene expression differences across primate species and (2) mapping genetic variants that underlie changes in gene regulation and downstream gene expression within humans. I’m hoping that my postdoctoral research will help me better understand the precise molecular mechanisms underlying regulatory differences between species, individuals, and tissues. Outside of lab, I enjoy experimenting with unique ingredients and cooking techniques, trying out new forms of exercise, and traveling.

Sanford L. Palay Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Pathology

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Eunyong Park HHMI Fellow

Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology and Biophysics, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

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Molecular mechanism of chloride ion transport by CLC protein family, with Roderick MacKinnon

My current research focus is on understanding molecular mechanisms of CLC proteins, ubiquitous membrane proteins that transport chloride ions across membranes. The CLC proteins are involved in various biological processes including regulation of membrane potential, electrolyte/fluid transport across epithelia, and control of intravesicular pH. Mutations in CLC genes cause many hereditary disorders in humans. An interesting aspect of the CLC family is that a common structural architecture seems to be used for both active and passive ion transport. Some CLCs are chloride channels, which provide a passive pore for chloride ion conduction, whereas others function as secondary active transporters that exchange two chloride ions for one proton. Despite recent advances in our understanding of their mechanisms, fundamental questions remain unanswered, especially regarding how exactly CLC transporters couple the transfer of chloride and proton ions and what leads to the mechanistic difference between the channels and transporters. In the MacKinnon lab, I use structural and functional approaches to address these questions.

Jane Harting Park Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Vanderbilt University, Department of Physiology

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Brant K. Peterson

Department of OEB, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Exploring and exploiting phenotiypic complexity to unearth the genetic architecture of adaptation and disease, with Hopi Hoekstra

Zachary S. Pincus

Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology / Yale University, New Haven, CT

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Quantitative longitudinal analysis of aging C. elegans populations, with Frank Slack

Current research: I am investigating the causes of differences in lifespan between individuals, using the nematode work Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism.

My overall scientific interest is in the control of noise in biological systems: how do organisms buffer themselves from, or exploit, stochastic events? How do individuals in a population begin to diverge from one another, and what are the consequences?

After growing up in Montana and majoring in biological sciences at Stanford University, I did my PhD training in the lab of Dr. Julie Theriot at Stanford, studying shape variability in populations of bacteria and epithelial cells. This work allowed us to devise qualitative and quantitative models of how the biochemistry of the actin cytoskeleton influences the large-scale geometry of moving cells. I am now with the lab of Dr. Frank Slack at Yale. And to the extent that postdocs permit themselves to venture outside the lab, I like to spend my time hiking and cycling.

Jessica Polka

Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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Mobility and maintenance of a carbon-fixing micro compartment: bioengineering applications and insights into broad mechanisms of bacterial spatial organization, with Pamela A. Silver and Timothy J. Mitchison

I am interested in the mechanisms that guide proteins to assemble into mesoscale structures, from force-generating cytoskeletal polymers to metabolic microcompartments. While the basic principles underlying these systems underpin much of biological organization, I focus on tractable polymers found in bacteria. For example, as a graduate student in Dyche Mullins’ lab at UCSF, I reconstituted a three-component bacterial plasmid-segregating actin system in vitro and elucidated the multiple regulatory functions of its single accessory protein. As a postdoc, I have investigated the assembly of the carboxysome, a protein organelle in cyanobacteria that we found grows like a crystal until it is rapidly coated by a layer of shell proteins. Currently, I am interested in a long-range protrusive apparatus actuated by chemical changes.

I hope that a thorough understanding of these machines can permit the rational design of self-assembling structures suited for use in nanotechnology, metabolic engineering, and drug delivery.

Nicholas W. Popoff Grantee

Highland Hospital of Rochester, New York

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Max E. Rafelson, Jr. Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Illinois, Department of Biological Chemistry

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Jeffrey Rasmussen Merck Fellow

Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, California

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Interactions between sensory neurons and skin, with Alvaro Sagasti

My work in Alvaro Sagasti’s lab focuses on interactions between the epidermis and the axons of touch-sensing neurons. I am particularly interested in how the epidermis regulates axon repair following injury.

I grew up in Ithaca, NY and received my BS in Computational Biology from Brown University. During my graduate studies at University of Washington in Seattle, WA, I became interested in the remarkable and diverse behaviors of epithelial cells. For my thesis, I studied mechanisms of epithelial tube formation in C. elegans with Jim Priess at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The Priess lab was a great place to learn genetics and cell biology and I am currently applying this training to understand how our largest epithelial organ – the skin – regulates repair of the sensory nervous system. Outside of the lab, my wife and I enjoy exploring Los Angeles with our son.

Elizabeth L. Read (Frederic M. Richards Fellow)

Department of Chemical Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Cambridge, MA

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Understanding the origin of immunodominance in mouse models and humans with diverse host genetics, with Dr. Arup Chakraborty

T cells recognize diverse molecular signatures of pathogens on the surfaces of infected or antigen-presenting cells, but a significant immune response is mounted against just a few of these signatures during a typical infection. I’m using mathematical models and computer simulations to study the mechanisms of this phenomenon, termed “immunodominance,” and its implications for viral infections, vaccine design, and autoimmunity.

I earned BAs in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2003 and a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2008.  Before I began working in Arup Chakraborty’s group at MIT, I studied light harvesting by photosynthetic plants and bacteria in the laser spectroscopy lab of Graham Fleming at Berkeley. This work inspired my interest in using theoretical and computational modeling to gain mechanistic understanding of complex biological systems. When not pursuing interdisciplinary science, I like to cook, run, swim, and read historical biographies.

Kimberley Reinhold HHMI Fellow

Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School

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The neural substrate of learned habits

Cornelius P. Rhoades Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Memorial Hospital

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Dragana Rogulja

Laboratory of Genetics, Rockefeller University, New York, NY

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A search for the molecular mechanisms and physiological basis of sleep, with Michael Young

I am currently conducting research aimed at understanding sleep: its biological significance and how it is regulated.

I grew up in Belgrade, Serbia, convinced that the only interesting career would be in the arts or literature. Choosing science as my path came as a consequence of the harsh economic reality following the wars of the 1990s. For a while, I felt slightly uncomfortable, seeing myself as an outsider playing the role of a scientist. Now, I am convinced that science is one of the most exciting paths one can follow. I realize that scientists and artists are often cut from the same cloth, using different approaches to understand life. This may be particularly true in neuroscience, which I chose as my focus. Even without a scientific background, one can easily appreciate many of the questions asked in this field  — what does it mean to feel something, what drives us, why do we have to sleep every night? One of my hobbies is taking photographs of great works of art that have sleep as their theme. Chances are that your favorite artist is in my collection.

June L. Round (Merck Fellow)

Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

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The contribution of the intestinal microbiota to development of colon cancer, with Sarkis Mazmanian

I am interested in how commensal bacteria influence the development of the intestinal immune system  and their impact on disease.

Bacterial organisms residing within our bodies outnumber our own cells by an order of magnitude. We are often taught that bacteria cause disease and that our immune systems function to recognize and eradicate them. However, commensal bacteria do not make us sick and our immune systems tolerate their presence. My postdoctoral research is directed at understanding why we allow these bacteria to live with us. We have shown that colonization by one of these commensal organisms  has beneficial consequences for its host as it can protect from  development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). As 30 percent of IBD patients develop colonic cancer, colonization by beneficial bacteria might also serve as a potential cancer preventive. Additionally, in studying this bacterium we have uncovered novel mechanisms by which our bodies detect and tolerate bacteria. Understanding what organisms live within our bodies and deciphering how they individually influence the development of immune responses could ultimately lead to the creation of therapies to treat multiple human diseases.

Antoine E. Roux

Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry University of California, San Francisco / San Francisco, CA

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My project focuses on the biology of aging in the nematode C. elegans. I am studying early stochastic determinant of life span that are not linked to hereditary traits.

I grew up in France and moved to Canada to do my PhD work at the University of Montréal, where I studied cellular aging in fission yeast. I developed this yeast species (called S. pombe) as a new model to study aging, describing the first long-lived mutants of this organism. I was passionate about my research and today in Cynthia Kenyon’s lab at UCSF I am tackling new questions in aging using C. elegans as a model.  In the past 20 years, research has demonstrated that aging is not a random process but one that is tightly regulated. We now know about many genes and conditions that extend life span and at the same time delay the onset of age-related diseases. However many mysteries remain: What determines aging at the molecular level? Why are aging rates different between individuals in a given species? Why do some species live longer than others?

Ashley Rowland

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley

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Ubiquitin regulation of neural development and cell fate

The goal of my postdoctoral research is to discover essential regulatory mechanisms that control neural developmental programs and cell fates in a complex organism. Abnormal neural development is central to many pediatric diseases and the source of many cancers originating in the nervous system. Development requires precise signaling pathways to facilitate cell-cell communication and maintain normal function and prevent disease. Thus, I propose to study neural development in Xenopus tropicalis embryos, an established model system, and identify evolutionarily conserved complexes in human embryonic stem cells undergoing neuronal differentiation. A small modifying protein, ubiquitin is an important part of regulatory pathways that control nearly every aspect of cell physiology and is frequently perturbed in cancer. Recent work has demonstrated that ubiquitin modification is an essential regulator of development and cell fate. I will use combination of genetic, proteomic, biochemical, and cell biology techniques to identify crucial ubiquitin complexes and reveal the molecular mechanism of neural differentiation programs. Together, this work will provide unprecedented insight into the regulation of early embryonic differentiation programs and reveal therapeutic avenues to treat human cancers.

Rahul Roy

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

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Role of nuclear organization in gene regulation, with Sunney X. Xie

Current Research: Probing gene expression in live eukaryotic cells at single molecule level

I majored in biotechnology and biochemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, India and joined the biophysics and computational biology graduate program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2001.  I received my doctorate in 2007 for my work on understanding the mechanism of various proteins involved in replication and transcription using in vitro single molecule techniques in the Taekjip Ha laboratory. I am currently a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Sunney Xie.  My current research interests are twofold: 1) development of novel optical imaging techniques to probe the behavior of single biomolecules in live eukaryotic cells; and 2) implementation of single-molecule imaging to understand cellular gene expression and cell-fate determination. My efforts are geared towards extending the usefulness of single molecule techniques to mainstream biology.

Kole Roybal

Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Engineering novel allosteric control over synthetic T cell receptors to improve cancer immunotherapy, with Wendell Lim

I am interested in both the general biochemical principles that govern cellular signaling and the development of synthetic biology approaches to control complex signaling networks and cellular behavior. These interests are complimentary as synthetic biology is often informed by knowledge obtained from studying natural cellular signaling mechanisms refined by evolution. In Wendell Lim’s lab at UCSF, I am using this two-pronged approach to engineer new receptors and signaling networks to control the activity and behavior of therapeutic T cells. Such engineered multi-layered regulation of cellular activity — an important characteristic of naturally occurring biological systems — has the potential to make cell-based therapeutics safer and more effective, a critical concern for this burgeoning therapeutic approach.

I grew up in Louisiana, moved to Texas for undergrad and received my Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (UTSW) in January 2013. There I studied fundamental cellular and biochemical mechanisms that regulate T cell activation at the systems-scale in Christoph Wülfing’s lab. Before graduate school, I did a wide-range of research. One of my major contributions was in Colleen McClung’s lab in the Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at UTSW where I characterized the first mouse model resembling human mania caused by disruption of the circadian rhythm transcription factor, Clock. Outside of lab, I enjoy biking, climbing, and exploring the San Francisco Bay Area.

Harold P. Rusch Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Wisconsin, Department of Cancer Research

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William T. Salter Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Pharmacology

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Kei Saotome HHMI Fellow

Integrative Structural and Computational Biology/Neuroscience, Scripps Research Institute

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Molecular structure and mechanism of Piezo mechanotransdution channels

Piezo proteins are ion channels that sense mechanical force in various physiological pathways, including touch sensation, breathing, and vascular development. Mutations in Piezo cause diseases associated with mechanotransduction defects, including distal arthrogryposis and dehydrated hereditary stomatocytosis. Piezos are unrelated to other known ion channels, and how they transduce mechanical force into channel opening remains unknown. As a joint postdoc in Andrew Ward and Ardem Patapoutian labs, I use cryo-electron microscopy and other biophysical approaches to gain a mechanistic understanding of Piezo function.”

Marissa Saunders HHMI Fellow

Department of Biochemistry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

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ESCRT-III mediated membrane scission, with Wesley I. Sundquist

Computational modeling will be coupled with experiment to investigate the mechanism by which Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport (ESCRT)-III complexes remodel and sever membranes. The ESCRT pathway relates to cancer pathogenesis by: mediating downregulation of membrane-bound receptors; catalyzing the abscission stage of cytokinesis; and controlling exosome formation. Of the five essential core ESCRT complexes, the ESCRT-III complex uniquely encodes the membrane severing activity. ESCRT-III subunits form filaments that can bind membranes, selforganize into higher-order assemblies, and use these assemblies to constrict membranes and promote fission. Newly emerging cryo-EM reconstructions of ESCRT-III assemblies make it possible to create the first models of these systems that incorporate discrete subunit structures. Using these models, we will investigate: how these filaments form rings with different diameters; how membrane interactions and curvature affect filament structure; and how lateral interactions between adjacent filaments accommodate changes in curvature. Experimental measurements of the physical properties of wild type and mutant ESCRT-III filaments will be used to validate these models and test their predictive power. This integration of experiment and theory should identify, at a fundamental level, properties driving ESCRT-III-mediated membrane remodeling and fission.

Leon L. Schiff Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Cincinnati, Department of Medicine

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Nicole Schirle HHMI Fellow

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics & Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Characterization of the endoplasmic reticulum membrane protein complex, with Adam Frost and Jonathan Weissman

Polytopic membrane proteins undergo a complicated folding process, whereby they must be co-translationally targeted to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) for maturation and export to cellular membranes. While our understanding of the chaperones involved in soluble protein folding has rapidly expanded, there is little known about the chaperones dedicated to folding and quality control of membrane proteins. Recently, a conserved ER membrane protein complex (EMC) was discovered from a genetic screen in yeast aimed at identifying genes that disrupt the ER protein folding environment. Genetic interaction patterns arising from deletion of the EMC and preliminary biochemical data suggest the EMC may function as a chaperone for polytopic membrane proteins. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Frost and Weissman laboratories at UCSF, I plan to use a combination of approaches ranging from cryo-electron microscopy to genetics and cell biology to elucidate how the EMC affects membrane protein topology in yeast and human cells.

Anne-Lore Schlaitz

Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, Division of Cell & Developmental Biology University of California, Berkeley / Berkeley, CA

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The role of organelle-microtubule linker proteins in the spatial organization of the cell, with Rebecca Heald

I am interested in how the internal organization of eukaryotic cells is achieved by the interaction of cytoskeletal elements with organelles.

I was drawn to science early on because of my excellent high school teacher for biology and chemistry. I was particularly fascinated by the fact that relatively simple organic compounds can direct the complex processes we know as “life.”  Consequently, I chose to study biochemistry at the University of Tübingen in Germany to learn more about life’s molecular basis. Again captivated by a wonderful class, this time on cell organelles, I became more interested in how cells work and was able to pursue these questions with both my master’s and PhD theses at the Max-Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology in Dresden, Germany. For my postdoc, I was able to combine my chief interests in cell biology, membrane and cytoskeletal cell biology, and given the chance to investigate how linker proteins of microtubules and membranes contribute to the spatial organization of cells.

Courtney Schroeder Merck & Company Fellow

Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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Do genetic conflicts shape the actin cytoskeleton in eukaryotes?

I am interested in how evolution has shaped the eukaryotic actin cytoskeleton. The actin cytoskeleton is a critical force-generating polymer that powers fundamental cellular processes, including cell motility, vesicle transport and cytokinesis. Despite actins being among the most highly conserved proteins in eukaryotes, a number of actin variants and their regulators show strong signatures of genetic innovation in Drosophilids. Birth and death of novel actins have occurred between lineages and a few actin genes appear to rapidly evolve, suggestive of positive selection. Using genetic, evolutionary and cell biological analyses, I am investigating the evolutionary causes and functional consequences of genetic changes among components of the actin cytoskeleton with Drosophila melanogaster as the model organism. Exploring the actin cytoskeleton and its regulation from an evolutionary vantage will provide insight into the selective pressure on actins and how it is harnessed in many cellular processes.

Edmund C. Schwartz

Department of Neuroscience Columbia University / New York, NY

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Development of optogenetic tools to probe the formation of social memory, with Dr. Richard Axel

I am developing methods to control gene expression and recombination with light.  This will allow greater spatial and temporal control than can be achieved with current genetic and chemical methods.

I majored in chemistry and biology at the University of Virginia, where I worked in the lab of Michael Timko. I discovered that, even though I was studying an algae that most people have never heard of, it was still really cool to be the first in the world to know something.  Also, during my first year, the UVA football team was briefly ranked in the top ten, an accomplishment which I can only assume was thanks to my presence.  In graduate school at Rockefeller University, I did my research in the laboratory of Tom Muir, playing with molecular legos for five and a half years and getting a PhD out of that experience as a bonus.  Currently I’m in Richard Axel’s lab at Columbia, where I feel a little out of place among the real biologists.  All my time outside of work is now taken up chasing around a two-year-old.

Erwin Schwenk Grantee- Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology

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Daniel Semlow HHMI Fellow

Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School

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Mechanism of incision-independent interstrand cross-link repair

Koning Shen

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California Berkeley

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Defining the protective role of the mitochondrial stress response in aging

Edward W. Shrigley Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Microbiology

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Marion Silies

Departments of Neurobiology Stanford University School of Medicine / Stanford, CA

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My current research interest is visual system function in fruit flies. I want to understand how different behaviorally relevant visual cues, such as motion or polarized light information, are processed in the Drosophila brain.

I am from Germany. I studied biology and chemistry at the University of Münster, where I worked in a plant pathology lab as an undergraduate; I also did internships at Washington State University and Edinburgh University.  During that time I became interested in neuroscience and subsequently studied the development of the nervous system for my diploma thesis and PhD at the Department of Neurobiology in Münster. I used the fly embryonic peripheral nervous system to study how neurons and glial cells communicate in order to coordinate axonal outgrowth with glial cell migration. For my postdoc I switched from developmental to functional aspects of neuroscience. Outside the lab, I enjoy exploring the Bay area on my road bike or hiking, and meeting friends.

Elenoe Smith

Department of Hematology and Oncology, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

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DNA elements within BCL11A and its target sequences in globin switching, with Stuart Orkin

This project aims to identify cellular mechanisms contributing to elevation of fetal hemoglobin (HbF, ?2?2) levels, the most promising therapy for patients with sickle cell disease. The characterization of BCL11A, a repressor of HbF production, and potential BCL11A targets within the ?-globin locus, will impact therapy design and treatment of the major hemoglobin disorders whose global health burden is rising. Although BCL11A is dispensable for normal red cell function, studies in mice have determined that it is required for development, presenting a potential obstacle for therapies designed to inhibit BCL11A function by small molecule. Aim1 will determine the dependence of BCL11A erythroid expression on a single nucleotide polymorphism dense region, identified by genome wide association studies. Aim2 will identify a region required for ?-globin gene repression within the A?-? intergenic region of the ?-globin locus. Both aims will utilize DNA targeting of mouse embryonic stem cells and analysis of BCL11A expression and/or globin gene expression in fetal and adult mice. These studies will contribute to a fuller understanding of ?-globin gene regulation, provide in vivo models for molecular characterization of hemoglobin switching, and identify erythroid specific targets for therapeutic intervention.

Tray M. Sonneborn Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Indiana University, Department of Zoology

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Trevor Sorrells Merck & Co Fellow

Labratory of neurosciences and behavior, The Rockefeller University

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Arousal and motivation in the female mosquito

Female mosquitos seek out hosts for blood meals, a behavior that is required for reproduction and that evolved several times in insect evolution. Host seeking is a persistent behavioral state composed of sequential behaviors such as taking flight, searching, landing, and feeding. It is not known how these behaviors are coordinated nor how this persistent motivational state is signaled in the brain.

I propose to study sequential host-seeking behaviors by applying an automated behavior classification system to track multiple mosquitoes in three dimensions as they seek out and feed on a human host. Because of the important role of dopamine in insect decision making, I will use genetic approaches to manipulate dopamine signaling circuits in the mosquito Aedes aegypti. I will assess the effect of these perturbations during host seeking and during an assay simulating host defensive behavior. These experiments will give a description of the role of dopamine signaling in a sustained complex behavior that evolved in the common ancestor of mosquitoes.


Swathi Srivasta

Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School

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Understanding gut-to-brain signaling through the vagus nerve

The vagus nerve is a key part of the neuroendocrine axis that controls feeding behavior and metabolism. Within the gastrointestinal tract, vagal sensory neurons detect ingested nutrients and mechanical stretch of the stomach, although underlying sensory transduction mechanisms are not understood. Basic questions remain about how ingested food is sensed, and how inputs are relayed centrally to coordinate systemic responses. Unraveling the functions of different vagal sensory neuron types in feeding behavior and metabolism control would provide a basic understanding of gut-to-brain communication mechanisms, and perhaps provide new therapeutic targets to control appetite and help treat metabolic disorders like diabetes, obesity and anorexia.

I am working towards characterizing a subpopulation of vagal sensory neurons that express cholecystokinin receptor type- A (CCKAR), a receptor for the gut satiety hormone cholecystokinin (CCK). Using transgenic mice, anatomical tract tracing, calcium imaging and optogenetics I want to understand the structure and function of the neural circuits formed by these sensory neurons. These studies will enable long-term efforts to shed light on the sensory biology of the vagus nerve- from understanding signal transduction mechanisms in the periphery to determining the organization of central inputs that orchestrate behavioral and endocrine responses.


Mansi Srivastava

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research Cambridge, MA

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Many animal species are able to regenerate missing body parts or even entire body plans. I am using molecular and genomic tools to study regeneration and learn whether regeneration mechanisms in various species were inherited from their common ancestor or if they have evolved independently. Discovering conserved mechanisms might reveal previously unknown but potentially critical aspects of regeneration in animals.

During college, I studied development, regeneration, and asexual reproduction in segmented worms. My graduate work focused on the genomes of early animal lineages such as sea anemones and sponges to learn about early animal evolution. Such comparative genomic analyses have allowed us to infer changes in gene content, gene structure, and genomic organization that accompanied the appearance of animals and their subsequent radiation into phyletic lineages. However, we don’t yet understand the functions of the genomic innovations unique to animals.  I am now studying the evolution of a particular biological process, focusing on how the functions of a few genes have evolved. For this research, I have returned to my interest in regeneration which, with the help of modern genetic tools, can be studied at molecular and cell biological levels in many species.

Kurt G Stern Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Laboratory of Physiological Chemistry

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Emerson Stewart

Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California

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Molecular Mechanisms of presynaptic assembly and maintenance in C. elegans neurons, with Kang Shen

The human brain is a highly ordered structure, consisting of billions of neurons linked through trillions of intercellular connections. Among the most powerful computational machines known to man, the human brain controls everything from our ability to perceive the world around us to higher order functions involved in learning and memory. At the heart of the brain’s processing power lies the synapse.

Synapses are specialized subcellular structures that mediate communication between neurons, thereby dictating information flow within the nervous system. Numerous proteins involved in synapse formation have been identified, yet how active zone and synaptic vesicle proteins coalesce into highly ordered macromolecular complexes remains a fundamental question in neurobiology. I am interested in elucidating the molecular underpinnings that support synapse formation and maintenance.

To this end I will use the Hermaphrodite Specific Neuron in C. elegans to examine how synapses are formed during development and maintained throughout the lifespan of the organism. Through a combinatorial approach employing RNAi and forward genetic screens as well as fluorescent microscopy I will take advantage of the inherent benefits of the C. elegans system to study conserved processes of synapse formation in the context of an intact organism.

Elmer H. Stotz Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Rochester, Department of Biochemistry

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Robert E. Stowell Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Washington University, Department of Pathology

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Leonell C Strong Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale Universtiy, Department of Anatomy

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Bethany Strunk

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Elucidating mechanistic defects associated with dysregulation of a phosphatidylinositol signaling lipid, with Lois Weisman

Mutations in Fig4 cause the incurable neurodegenerative diseases amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and CharcotMarie-Tooth Syndrome (CMT) through dysregulation of phosphatidylinositol (3,5)-bisphosphate (PI3,5P2). A molecular understanding of the mechanisms by which Fig4 regulates both the transient production and rapid turnover of this signaling lipid will be essential for devising therapies. Fig4 is the lipid phosphatase responsible for dephosphorylating PI3,5P2 at the 5 position to produce phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PI3P). Paradoxically, conserved residues in the yeast Fig4 phosphatase active site are required to activate the lipid kinase catalyzing the addition of the very phosphate it hydrolyses. This suggests an internal mechanism for preventing uncontrolled elevation of PI3,5P2 in the absence of the activity required to restore it to basal levels. The research proposed here will use a yeast model to elucidate the conserved mechanisms by which Fig4 controls both the synthesis and turnover of PI3,5P2 and uncover which of these mechanisms are disrupted by disease related mutations.

Allen Su

Koch Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Molecular basis of karyotype evolution in Ewing's sarcoma

Jean-Marie Swiecicki

Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Interrogating macromolecular interactions at biological membranes

I am passionate about biological processes that occur at cellular membranes. Membranes not only define the borders of cells but also create a fascinating physicochemical environment for a wide diversity of functions. The broad questions that I have been addressing focus on understanding the role of membrane lipids in the function of membrane peptides and membrane protein complexes and developing innovative methods for modulating lipid-peptide or lipid-protein interactions in order to control biological responses.

During my graduate research in France under the supervision of Prof. Solange Lavielle and Dr. Fabienne Burlina (at the École Normale Supérieure and the Pierre and Marie Curie University), I studied the spontaneous translocation of peptides through cell membranes that can be used as drug delivery agents. I characterized the translocation event at the molecular level, which provided pertinent clues to the design of drug delivery vectors with enhanced translocation abilities.

As a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Barbara Imperiali (at Massachusetts Institute of Technology), my overarching goal is to decipher the organization and dynamics of supramolecular membrane protein complexes that are part of the N-linked protein glycosylation pathway of pathogenic bacteria. I propose to complement the current methods with an integrated strategy that will merge cell-free membrane protein expression, bioorthogonal labeling and membrane bilayer Nanodiscs. When combined, these technologies will give access to site-specifically labeled membrane-resident protein samples for detailed single-molecule biophysical analysis.

Michael R. Tadross Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Stanford University

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Optogenetic deconstruction of local calcium signaling domains

Calcium signaling is ubiquitous within cells, with numerous implications for cancer biology. I am developing new molecular tools to study spatiotemporal calcium signaling in neurons and other cell types.

My interest in biology originally stemmed from a love for math, engineering, and technology.  High-school experiences on the computer team, and during a summer internship where I worked with circuits and radar, hooked me on engineering, and led to an undergraduate major in electrical engineering.  However, I had a lingering penchant for biology and, during college, when I was exposed to the field of bioengineering, I realized how engineering and biology were truly compatible with one another.  Since then, I’ve had the privilege of full-immersion into both biology and technology. I received my MD/PhD at Johns Hopkins where my incredible mentor, David Yue, helped me realize how beautiful complexity can arise from simple interactions present within cells, and how calcium, in particular, acts as a universal currency of information transfer within cells.  With JCC fellowship support, I plan to develop tools not only to study, but also manipulate calcium signaling in cells — tools that will likely be useful in many branches of biological science.

Frederick J. Tan (HHMI Fellow)

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology University of California, Berkeley

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A genomic study of homologous recombination between repetitive elements with Douglas Koshland

I am interested in understanding how genome structure affects genome function and evolution.  I am studying how chromosome organization limits homologous recombination between dispersed repetitive DNA elements.

I owe my scientific curiosity to two people: my father, who always took the time to answer my questions when I was young, and my high school biology teacher, Dr. Daniel Walsh, who had an endless supply of knowledge and enthusiasm about science. I’m pursuing an academic research career because I believe that one-on-one mentoring between a principal investigator and a graduate students is an ideal training forum.

Previously, I was a lot more active in sports, mostly cycling and running.  These days, however, when I’m not working, my life centers around my wife and our two dogs.  I am still trying to fit in that occasional run!

Yunhao Tan Merck Fellow

Department of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

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Dissecting early host endotoxin sensing mechanisms, with Jonathan Kagan

My first contact with the field of host and pathogen interaction dated back to the time when I was working at Dr. Feng Shao’s Lab at the National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing (NIBS), one of the most prestigious research institute in China.   My intern project was to clone and characterize the host substrates of an E3 ubiquitin ligase domain containing effector protein from the vacuolar pathogen Legionella pneumophila. From this experience, I was deeply impressed by the broad array of biochemical mechanisms employed by the bacterial effector proteins to manipulate host functions in order to survive and proliferate inside the host.  Furthermore, this experience built up my passion and determination to launch my research journey in host and pathogen interaction.

A year later after my internship, I went on to pursuit my graduate study in Dr. Zhao-Qing Luo’s Lab at Purdue University.  My research projects have been focused on the manipulation of host membrane trafficking pathways by Legionella effectors.  Specifically, I have discovered that Legionella effector proteins exploited distinct post-translational modification mechanisms, i.e. reversible AMPylation and Phosphorylcholination, to regulate the activities of the host small GTPase Rab1. In summary, these findings highlight the sophisticated nature of host-pathogen interactions and reveals that bacterium has the ability to rewire host signaling events for its own benefit.

Living in the ocean of microorganisms, the innate immune system is the first line of defense to protect host from invading pathogens and to maintain tissue homeostasis.  Thus, for my postdoctoral training, I would like to branch out my research focus from microbial pathogenesis into studying the cell biological and biochemical regulatory mechanisms of the host innate immune response.  Particularly, I will decipher the spatial-temporal relationships among the earliest cell biological events triggered by endotoxin, such as receptor endocytosis, reactive oxygen production, LC3 associated phagocytosis and SMOC formation.  I believe that my proposed research will provide new insights into the previously unexplored area of TLR signaling.

Shiho Tanaka

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering California Institute of Technology / Pasadena, California

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I grew up in Tokyo, Japan, and came to Los Angeles in 2000 to obtain an undergraduate degree in biochemistry. In my junior year at the  University of California, Los Angeles, I joined the protein expression laboratory under Professor Jeanne Perry’s supervision; there, I was fascinated by x-ray crystallography and decided to go to graduate school to learn more about protein structures and functions. During my graduate study at UCLA, I joined Professor Todd Yeates’ laboratory and determined various structures of shell proteins from bacterial microcompartments. I love southern California and am very happy that I get to stay here to do my post-doctoral work at Caltech.

Weixin Tang HHMI Fellow

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University

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Development of smart genome-editing agents for targeted therapy

Genetic abnormality is the root cause of many diseases. Canonical therapeutics primarily function by binding to the disease-associated proteins and modulating their activity. The recent advent of programmable sequence-specific endonucleases, however, has raised the possibility of direct manipulation of the corresponding genes and could eventually lead to effective cures of many diseases. The therapeutic potential of genome-editing agents is currently limited due to undesired DNA modifications including activity at off-target DNA sites and activity (on-target or off-target) in cells that are not the target population. My research focuses on developing genome-editing agents responsive to various endogenous and exogenous signals with improved specificity

Edward L. Tatum Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Stanford University, Department of Biology

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Howard C. Taylor Jr. Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Columbia University, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Robert Tennant Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Pathology

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Sheila Teves

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California

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Bookmarking the chromosomes and its role in cellular memory, with Robert Tjian

Cellular memory can be defined as the ability of a cell to transmit all its identifying functions to daughter cells during cell division. This ability to ‘remember’ identity is crucial to the development of multicellular organisms, as evidenced when cells lose their identity and degenerate or become cancerous. Conversely, our ability to alter cell state, such as the generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from differentiated cells, has become a promising therapeutic tool. Therefore, understanding how cells establish, maintain, and change identity will further our understanding of processes central to cellular development, disease progression, and therapy production. One mechanism for cellular memory is the ability to re-establish the transcriptional program following mitosis, which may function through bookmarking, the process of DNA-binding factors marking genes on condensed mitotic chromosomes to facilitate gene expression following mitosis. The main objective of this proposal is to analyze the mechanisms of bookmarking. I outline three independent approaches to characterize quantitatively the mechanisms of bookmarking. Using these approaches, I will test the hypothesis that histone variants and pluripotency factors function as bookmarkers to maintain the stem cell state. Lastly, I will perform an unbiased screen to identify putative bookmarking factors specific to embryonic stem cells.

Helene W. Toolan Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research

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John J. Trentin Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Anatomy

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Joseph C. Turner Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Columbia university, Department of Medicine

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Gray H. Twombly Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Columbia University, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Elçin Ünal (HHMI Fellow)

David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research / Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

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Deciphering the age effects on meiosis and vice versa, with Angelika Amon

My research focuses on understanding how meiosis affects aging and age-induced cellular damage, as well as understanding how cyclin-CDK regulation impacts meiotic chromosome segregation.

I was born and raised in Turkey. In high school, biology, math and chemistry were my favorite subjects, and a great biology teacher encouraged me to apply to the Molecular Biology and Genetics Department in Bilkent University, Ankara. The department was relatively new, the first of its kind in Turkey, and was accepting few people (15 per year) with full scholarships based on performance in the national university entrance exam. This was a risky decision but ended up being one of the best decisions I made in my life. I graduated from college in 2001 and started my academic journey in the U.S. with very little research experience but with lots of naïve ambition and curiosity.  My doctorate is from the Johns Hopkins University Department of Biology and Carnegie Institute for Science Department of Embryology. Outside of science, I like outdoorsy activities like hiking and running, as well as traveling, cooking yummy Mediterranean food, and making delicious cocktails.

Willen Van Wagtendonk Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Indiana University, Department of Zoology

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Hannah E. Volkman

Department of Immunology / University of Washington, Seattle, WA

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I am interested in how cells recognize and respond to viral pathogens through detection of viral nucleic acids. My research focuses on understanding innate immune pathways involved in cell intrinsic cytosolic DNA detection and coordination of an inducible antiviral response, and how dysregulation of these pathways leads to autoimmune disease.

I grew up on a California farm, surrounded by the natural world, with parents who continually nurtured my interest in it. This experience, coupled with having mentors who allowed me the freedom to follow my interests in their laboratories, have guided my development as a scientist. Freedom to direct my own research has been a tremendous gift, and I am fortunate to be in a truly collaborative research environment. By moving to Seattle I  became part of an outstanding research institute, and have also been able to pursue nonacademic interests. I have been on nationally-ranked college and club ultimate frisbee teams,  currently help coach the women’s ultimate frisbee team at the University of Washington, and compete as a competitive curler. My experiences have created many awesome friendships and helped me develop discipline, determination and leadership skills, while balancing my life as a research scientist.

Alina M. Vrabioiu Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Department of Genetics and Development, Columbia University

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Planar cell polarity protein activity and function in developing Drosophila epithelia, with Gary Struhl

Sarah Wacker

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University and Roberto Kolter, Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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Dissecting the molecular basis of mutually beneficial interactions between plants and bacteria, with Richard M. Losick

Many bacteria form complex multicellular communities known as biofilms. In these communities, cells are encased in a self-produced matrix that shield bacteria from diverse environmental stresses, antimicrobial agents, and host immune systems. Biofilms impact many arenas, including human health, ecology, and agriculture. Due to the importance and ubiquity of biofilms, there is increased interest in investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying the formation and maintenance of these communities. The soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis forms multicellular communities on the roots of some plants, including tomatoes, resulting in increased plant growth. My research examines how environmental signals are sensed by B. subtilis, initiating the biofilm program.

Liling Wan

Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

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Functional and mechanistic study of histone crotonylation in leukemia’s, with C. David Allis

My research interest is to understand the epigenetic mechanisms that drive cancer development. With a focus on a few newly discovered histone posttranslational modifications, I am currently studying their functional roles and mechanisms in cellular differentiation and oncogenesis.

I spent my first 18 years in Hainan, a beautiful island located in the South China Sea before I moved to Beijing where I received B.S. degree in Biology from Tsinghua University. Initial exposure to scientific research at Tsinghua got me fascinated about science and promoted me to pursue graduate studies at Princeton University, where, in Dr. Yibin Kang’s laboratory, I investigated the genetic causes underlying cancer initiation and metastasis. Appreciating that the interplay between genetic and epigenetic regulations is important in cancer development, I joined the laboratory of Dr. David Allis as a postdoc fellow where I continue studies in cancer research with a different focus on epigenetic causes of cancer. Outside of the lab, I enjoy the outdoors, spending time with family and friends, and trying delicious food.

Zhiping Wang

Division of Biological Sciences, Section of Neuroscience University of California, San Diego. La Jolla, CA

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Characterization of new axon regeneration regulation pathways, with Dr. Yishi Jin

Current research:  I am interested in dissecting the genetic basis of adult axon regeneration in the model organism C. elegans.

My first sixteen years were spent happily in a small town in southeastern China. I didn’t have much experience in biological sciences until I became an biology major at Tsinghua University. In a neuroscience course, a professor introduced to us the fantastic structure of neurons and the intriguing molecular mechanisms underlying how neurons encode external information and learn. From that moment, I was entranced by this field, and chose it as my career path. I came to Michael Ehlers’s lab at Duke University to study the molecular mechanisms of long term plasticity in hippocampal neurons. There, I discovered that an unconventional actin motor is a critical LTP-mediating player. Subsequently, I joined Yishi Jin’s lab as a postdoctoral researcher to explore the genetic mechanisms of adult axon regeneration in C. elegans. Outside the lab, I am a super soccer fan and love fresh-water fishing. My dreams are to watch a Derby game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou and to catch a 20-pound large-mouth bass.

Chong Wang

Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Imaging protein translation at the single-molecule level in living cells, with Xiaowei Zhuang

Translation mediates the flow of genetic information encoded in mRNAs to proteins and can be regulated by many factors, contributing an essential part to the cellular gene expression regulation program.  To understand how translation are influenced by various factors such as extracellular stimuli, cell metabolic states, subcellular localizations and so on, a method that could reveal the timing, location and level of translation activity on a defined single mRNA transcript in living cells would be invaluable. My research focuses on the development of a fluorescence imaging based method to study translation on a single mRNA transcript in living cells. I am going to use this method to study translation initiation and elongation under different conditions and at different subcellular compartments, such as neuronal dendrites and axons, to obtain previously unavailable information of translation dynamics.

Yuxiao Wang HHMI Fellow

Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco, California

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Mechanisms of mitotic spindle positioning by cortical dynein, with Ronald Vale

During mitosis, the position of the spindle determines the size, the relative orientation and the developmental fate of daughter cells. The spindle is positioned by a pulling force generated by cortically localized dynein and exerted on astral microtubules that are connected to the spindle poles. Dynein is anchored to the cell cortex by the protein NuMA and activated to pull on the end of microtubule, the mechanism of which remains unknown. To investigate this, we will first systematically define and characterize the interaction between NuMA and dynein using purified components. Next we will reconstitute the microtubule end capturing and pulling force generation activities of dynein using a microfabricated barrier based system, in which the regulation of dynein by NuMA will be investigated. In addition, we will determine the crystal structure of the complex of NuMA-dynein binding regions to reveal the structural basis for their interactions. Finally, the overall structure of full-length NuMA will be examined using electron microscope and the functional significance of NuMA oligomerization will be determined. Together our proposed study will provide a mechanistic understanding of how dynein is recruited and activated by NuMA to generate cortical pulling force for mitotic spindle positioning.

Siyuan "Steven" Wang

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Department of Physics, Harvard University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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Chromatin imaging with STORM-FRET labels

My current research in Professor Xiaowei Zhuang’s lab at Harvard University focuses on the development and application of super-resolution light microscopy techniques to the study of chromatin organization. In particular, I am interested in the spatial organization of DNA in compact chromatin domains during the interphase.

My graduate research, co-advised by Professor Ned Wingreen and Professor Joshua Shaevitz at Princeton University, presented a series of discoveries regarding the physical properties, dynamics, and organization of the bacterial cytoskeleton and cell wall, including: 1) the mechanical contribution of bacterial cytoskeleton to cellular integrity; 2) the motion of bacterial cytoskeleton driven by cell wall synthesis; 3) the chiral organization and growth dynamics of cell wall in rod-shaped bacteria, derived from the spatial pattern of cytoskeleton; and 4) a possible mechanism for different cytoskeleton components to self-organize into distinct spatial patterns. My dissertation won the 2011 Award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Research in Biological Physics from American Physical Society.

Boyuan Wang

Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Probing the role of peptidoglycan in establishing bacterial cell poloarity

Owen H. Wangensteen Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Minnesota, Department of Surgery

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Shields Warren Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Harvard University, Department of Chemistry

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Liang Wee Frederic M. Richards Fellow

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Physics and Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California

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RNA ribosome and RNA polymerase: Three molecules at a time, with Carlos Bustamante

Transcription by RNA Polymerase and translation by the Ribosome are two fundamental and important processes that shape cellular identity. Mutations that disrupt these processes can result in disease such as cancer. We strive to understand the underlying mechanisms of transcription and translation using optical tweezer. This single molecule technique allows us to monitor the actions of individual RNA Polymerase and the ribosome in real time that are often scored as averages in bulk measurements. We currently aim to scrutinize the activities of these molecular motors when coupled in the same reaction. The coupling between RNAP polymerase and the ribosome, which occurs in vivo in E. coli., constitutes an additional layer to control gene expression. A deeper understanding of both transcription and translation either alone or coupled will open up new ideas to curb or to cure diseases that stem from a malfunction in these process.

Lawrence L. Weed Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Pharmacology

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Arnold D Welch Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Pharmacology

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Abraham White Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Physicoligical Chemistry

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Aaron Whiteley

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Harvard Medical School

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Identifying novel nucleotide second messengers from mammals using bacteria

Nucleotide second messengers are crucial for development and signaling in both humans and bacteria. Nucleotide-centric pathways in human cells are targets of therapeutic interventions for cancer and diabetes, but signal regulation is complex and remains poorly understood. My work reconstructs mammalian nucleotide signaling in bacterial systems, creating the transformative opportunity to leverage bacterial genetics to uncover how these pathways are mechanistically regulated. Future findings from this work will enhance our understanding of known and previously uncharacterized cell signals in eukaryotes and prokaryotes.

Prior to my postdoctoral work, I earned my Ph.D. in Daniel A. Portnoy’s Lab, at the University of California, Berkeley. There, I worked on essential genes and virulence regulation in the bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

Katherine S. Wilson Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Plant Science

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Milton C. Winternitz Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Physiology

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Maxwell N. Wintrobe Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

University of Utah, Department of Pharmacology and Medicine

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Christina Woo HHMI Fellow

Department of Chemistry, Stanford University, California

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Development of an isotopic labeling approach for rapid profiling of the O-glycoproteome, with Carolyn Bertozzi

My research involves using isotopic labeling strategies and computational methods to enable a novel chemical glycoproteomics platform termed Isotope Targeted Glycoproteomics (IsoTaG).  Given the strong correlation of altered glycosylation patterns with malignancy, glycosylated proteins may be an information-rich subset of the proteome from which cancer biomarkers can be discovered. We employ metabolic labeling as a means to tag specific classes of glycoproteins for enrichment from human tissue samples and subsequent identification by mass spectrometry. A challenge in this endeavor is defining sites of glycosylation on peptide digests derived from such complex samples. To facilitate this effort, we invented a targeted strategy to enable the detection and identification of glycosylated peptides independent of the mass of the pendant glycan. Collectively, these tools allow us to quantitatively profile changes in protein glycosylation associated with human cancer progression and embryonic stem cell differentiation.

Xudong Wu

Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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Probing the molecular mechanism of ERAD-L, with Tom Rapaport

My research investigates the molecular mechanism of ER-associated degradation (ERAD). Using biochemical and structural tools, my study aims to understand how misfolded proteins in the ER are recognized, retro-translocated out of the ER into the cytosol, and subsequently degraded by proteasome.

I was born and grew up in one of the big city in China, Shanghai. After receiving BS in Biology from Fudan University, my strong interest in protein biochemistry brought me overseas to pursue my PhD in molecular biochemistry and biophysics from Yale University. Working in the lab of Karin M. Reinisch, my thesis work focused on solving structures of key regulators of membrane trafficking. Currently, I am doing postdoctoral work supervised by Tom Rapoport, in whose lab I learn new skills in the exciting field of membrane biology. Outside of the lab, I like painting, and enjoy life in Boston with my family and friends.

Zeba Wunderlich

Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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Connecting sequence divergence to quantitative phenotype differences in drosophila, with Dr. Angela Depace

I am currently working on the connection between regulatory region sequence and function by measuring quantitative expression patterns of developmental genes in multiple Drosophila species and creating a biophysical model to interpret these data.

I have always been interested in applying methods from statistics and physics to biological problems.  As an undergraduate at Rutgers University, I majored in molecular biology and statistics and did computational work in a protein NMR lab.  I continued my education in Harvard University’s biophysics program, where I developed mathematical models of a wide variety of biological phenomena, including metabolic networks and protein-DNA interactions.  Following an inspirational summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory’s physiology course, I decided to focus my postdoctoral studies on transcriptional regulation, this time combining my computational work with experiments. Outside of my research, I enjoy spending time outside — rowing, running and cross-country skiing.

Mingshan Xue

Division of Biological Sciences University of California, San Diego / La Jolla, CA

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My current research is focused on understanding the neural circuit mechanism underlying the specific activation of neuronal ensembles by sensory stimuli in the mammalian cortex.

I grew up in a small town in Hunan Province, China. Both my parents are physicians.  In high school, I chanced upon the book, What Mad Pursue by Francis Crick; I was attracted to Dr. Crick’s passion for the “study of life,” and intrigued by the complexity and sophistication of biological systems. I went on to major in biology at Fudan University.

During my senior year, I became interested in neuroscience, and decided to pursuit my graduate study in the US. My graduate research at Baylor College of Medicine focused on the molecular mechanism of synaptic transmission, the process by which neurons communicate with each other.

Now I am extending my scientific interest into the synaptic mechanisms of neural circuit operation in health and disease. In my free time, I like to watch sports, play with our cats and, occasionally, help my wife in her garden.

Teppei Yamaguchi

Departments of Molecular & Cell Biology University of California, Berkeley / Berkeley, CA

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Current research: I am studying changes in the core transcriptional machinery during cellular reprogramming

My interest in studying biology was sparked by my growing up in the countryside of Japan, where I always loved to play in nature. After doing undergraduate work at Kyoto University , I received a master’s degree from Kyoto University in Japan, and a PhD from University of Basel, Switzerland. There, I studied the transcriptional regulation of immune cell differentiation, using mouse genetics with Patrick Matthias at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research. While completing my PhD study, I developed a strong interest in exploring more mechanistic aspects of the transcriptional regulation dictating cellular identity. To pursue this interest, I joined the lab of Robert Tjian at UC Berkeley. Here, I’m enjoying not only the great scientific environment, but also outdoor activities and the unique Bay Area culture.

Oh Kyu Yoon (HHMI Fellow)

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley / Berkeley, CA

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Genome-wide indentification of regulatory non-coding RNAs in S. cerevisiae, with Dr. Rachel B. Brem

The goal of my project is to perform a genome-wide identification of regulatory non-canonical transcripts in budding yeast, using natural genetic variation between outbred individuals. I received my BS and MS in chemistry from Seoul National University, Korea, and an MS in electrical engineering and PhD in chemistry from Stanford University.

My graduate research was on developing a novel mass spectrometer, called Hadamard Transform Time-of-Flight, which has higher spectral scan rate with applications in real-time solution kinetics.

For postdoctoral research, I have made a big switch to genetics and genomics, where I use next-generation sequencing to profile the 3’ UTRs of RNA. In the future, I hope to combine my interdisciplinary expertise to study the regulation of mRNA and protein post-processing, and the effects of their misregulation on human disease.  Outside of the lab, I like to play tennis and drink coffee.

Meg Younger

Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

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Processing human cues in the mosquito brain, with Leslie Vosshall

Female mosquitoes require a blood-meal for reproduction, and show intense attraction to human hosts. They rely on host sensory cues, including carbon dioxide (CO2), and components of human body odor, such as lactic acid. These stimuli alone elicit little or no attraction, but in combination they synergize to trigger host-seeking behavior. After obtaining a blood-meal, female host-seeking behavior is switched off for several days. It is unknown where and how any human host cues such as, CO2 in breath, body odor, or body heat, are represented in the mosquito brain. It is also unknown how human host cues synergize to drive host attraction and ultimately trigger biting behavior, or how attraction is suppressed after a blood-meal. I will use two-photon excitation microscopy to measure activity in neural circuits in the mosquito brain to address these questions. This work will provide the first insights into how human cues are processed in the brain of the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which transmits Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, and Chikungunya. The long-term aim of this research is to find novel approaches to intervene in mosquito biting behavior.

Barry Zee

Department of Genetics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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Analysis of dosage compensation in Drosophila, with Mitzi Kuroda

I am interested in how binding of protein modifications contributes to the functions of chromatin complexes. Currently I am developing biochemical and proteomic methods to identify the histone modifications associated with malignant brain tumor (MBT) domain-containing proteins in human tissue culture cells and in fruit flies. The human and fly MBT-containing homologues participate in various aspects of Polycomb group silencing and tumor suppression. Since the MBT domain acts as a methyl lysine-binding module, it is likely that specific modification interactions together with protein interactions enable the localization of otherwise broadly pervasive MBT complexes to specific genomic regions. My graduate training in mass spectrometry complements my postdoctoral training in affinity pulldown of labile interactions with regard to uncovering these potential modification targets.

Assaf Zemach

Plant & Microbiology Department / University of California, Berkeley / Berkeley, California

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Comparative genomic analysis of DNA methylation in animals, with Daniel Zilberman

I am studying the role of DNA methylation in gene transcription and chromatin structure in eukaryotes.

I graduated from The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. Under the guidance of Professor Gideon Grafi, I gained my molecular, biochemical and imaging skills and, just as important, my passion for science.  Now in the lab of Professor Daniel Zilberman at UC Berkeley, I am expanding my knowledge of genomics — a situation which, to me as a biologist, feels like a dream come true.  Using deep-sequencing technology we are studying the function of DNA methylation various plants, animals and fungi, of which many are not classical eukaryotic model organisms. Besides being thrilled to be doing my science work, I find that living in California is a wonderful experience for both me and my family. The weather, the natural world around us, the culture, the food, and San Francisco close by — who could ask for more?!

Quicen Zhang

Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

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Determining the transition of genomic softness in the cancer progression, with Taekjip Ha

The explosion of high-throughput sequencing methodologies has created a vast repository of genomic knowledge of cancer. However, compared to the sequence, the physical structure of cancer genome is far less understood. Since structure determines functions, it is urgent to develop new tools to probe physical properties of cancer genome, and establish a quantitative framework correlating the intrinsic structure of genome to its biochemical roles and further to the cancer progression. Therefore, we propose to measure one fundamental physical property of genome – the genomic softness. We plan to determine how DNA sequences are locally different in softness across the whole genome and search for its connection with the macroscopic pathological states. The new tool we are developing is named “Loopseq”, which combines single molecular screening of soft DNA segments fragmented from the genome with next generation sequencing to attain a genome mapping of the local softness in a high-throughput fashion. The result of the project will provide high-resolution information of the structure of the cancer genome. Combined with present biochemical knowledge, it will provide unprecedented insights into the causes and origins of cancer – the mission of the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund.

Jin Zhang

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, New York, New York

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Functional segregation of taste-responsive neurons, with Charles Zuker and Tom Maniatis

I am studying the function of the mammalian taste system, in particular the molecular identity and diversity of taste-responsive neurons.  The five basic taste qualities -sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami, are detected on the tongue and palate epithelium by distinct classes of taste receptor cells (TRCs).  The geniculate ganglion is the first neural station between the tongue and the brain; our lab recently showed that ganglion neurons are also tuned to specific taste qualities.  My studies are aimed at understanding how TRC maintain the highly specific transfer of taste information between taste cells and the central nervous system, particularly given that TRCs turn over every few days.  I have optimized a number of approaches to perform single-cell RNA sequencing both in TRCs and ganglion neurons, and am characterizing and classifying taste neurons into distinct classes.  We hope to define molecular markers that will allow us to manipulate the connectivity, function and behavior of TRCs, and the taste system.

Xu Zhou

Department of Immunobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut

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Counter-inflammatory mechanisms in tissue inflammation, with Ruslan Medzhitov

Many human diseases are associated with aberrant inflammation. While the inflammatory response functions to protect an organism against harmful pathogens or to restore tissue homeostasis, excessive inflammation is known to alter tissue functions and damage host tissues. This phenomenon is termed immunopathology and is a major contributor to human morbidity. Therefore, limiting immunopathology is critical in many pathological scenarios. There are two potential means to control immunopathology: to act on immune cells to directly suppress the generation of inflammatory response (“anti-inflammatory” mechanisms), or to act on target tissues to reduce or reverse the deleterious effects caused by inflammation (“counter-inflammatory” mechanisms). A body of previous works has contributed to our knowledge of the anti-inflammatory mechanisms, but the counter-inflammatory mechanisms remain largely elusive. Currently, I am using cellular responses to inflammatory cytokines as the experimental system to identify the counter-inflammatory signals. Meanwhile, I am characterizing their potential mechanisms by taking advantage of the computational and systematic approaches.

Christina Zimanyi

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Noxious chemical sensing by the TRPA1 ion channel, with Rachelle Gaudet

I am using structural techniques to study pain transduction by transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels. TRPs comprise a large family of pain sensors activated by diverse stimuli from noxious temperatures to small molecules. My work focuses on understanding the regulation of ion channel opening by such stimuli at the atomic level.

My interest in biochemistry was piqued after taking organic chemistry as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. I followed my interest in molecular detail to graduate school where I discovered my love for protein structure. During my PhD work at MIT, my studies of the enzyme ribonucleotide reductase led to a thesis focused entirely on allosteric regulation. Since then, I have been intrigued by how proteins use allostery to perform remarkable structural transformations that affect function. TRP channels are master integrators of allosteric signals. They are an ideal system for studying complex allostery and an atomic level understanding of TRP channel activation will provide a foundation for understanding pain.

Harry M. Zimmerman Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Yale University, Department of Pathology

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Naomi Ziv

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco

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Molecular analysis of bistability in a eukaryotic transcriptional network

Transcription circuits, defined as transcription regulators and the DNA cis-regulatory sequences they bind, control the expression of genes and define cellular identity. In eukaryotic cells, regulatory networks tend to be large, containing many highly interconnected transcription factors. Many of these complex networks are bistable, meaning they can toggle between two stable steady states. Bistable networks are responsible for such varied processes such as irreversible decisions during cell cycle progression, embryonic stem cell differentiation and oocyte maturation.

I study a bistable transcriptional network in the human commensal yeast Candida albicans that controls an epigenetic switch between two distinct cell types. This network shows many features of those in higher eukaryotes including the high degree of stability of each cell type. The goal of my research is to gain a molecular understanding of the functional differences between the multiple feedback loops present in bistable transcriptional circuits. This analysis will serve as a model for the general understanding of complex circuits.

Roberto Zoncu

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA

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Not just a recycle bin: the role of lysosomes in nutrient sensing by the mammalian target of rapamycin, with Dr. David Sabatini

I am studying the molecular mechanisms by which nutrients activate the mTOR kinase, a central regulator of the growth of cells and organisms.

I am a native of Italy, where I earned a BSc in biological sciences from the University of Pisa. I entered the PhD program at Yale to study how membranes are trafficked to and from the surface of the cell, and how these mechanisms contribute to the function of synapses and to neuronal transmission. To this end, I applied advanced live microscopy techniques such as total internal reflection (TIR).  During my PhD work, I became interested in the role of cellular membranes in propagating signals that originate at the cell surface, and how these processes become aberrant in cancer.  To pursue this direction I joined the laboratory of David Sabatini at the Whitehead Institute in 2008. Here, I am combining biochemical techniques with advanced microscopy to investigate how the lysosome, an organelle involved in the degradation and recycling of cellular components, participates in the activation of mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1). In my free time I enjoy running, martial arts, sailing on the Charles River and playing bass in a rock band.

Bernhard Zondek Grantee - Jane Coffin Childs Fund

Hebrew University, Israel, Department of Cancer Research

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Ling-Nian Zou

Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

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I am using mouse embryonic stems cells to understand the sources of cell-to-cell variation during early development, and examining what these variations can tell us about mechanisms regulating early development.

I was first attracted to science by learning that the amazing diversity of life arose from the operation of a simple abstract principle — natural selection. At university, I turned towards physics, studying how diverse macroscopic physical phenomena (e.g. elasticity and electrodynamics), arising from distinct microscopic laws, can be described on the basis of similar abstract physical concepts. That idea, and the fact that we can extract basic properties of a physical system from apparently random fluctuations, guided my doctoral research.

My current research asks whether these ideas from physics can be useful to the study of biological processes. Consider the variable responses of cells in a culture dish when exposed to the same stimulus. Can we extract information about how cells make decisions by a careful analysis of this variability? Although the simplest cells are far more complex than any physical material, such questions are worth asking. Even if we cannot answer them, the inquiring may point towards some essential characteristics of biological processes.

Beth Zucconi

Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

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Acetylomics of the leukemia protein MOZ, with Philip Cole

Once thought to be limited to histones, protein acetylation has now expanded to include a plethora of other protein substrates.  I am utilizing human protein microarrays to identify novel targets of the lysine acetyltransferases p300 and CBP, two commonly mutated proteins in hematological and other malignancies.  Additionally we plan to identify the acetylation sites on these novel substrates by mass spectrometry, the cellular consequences of their acetylation, and the specific mechanisms of these effects using semi-synthetic protein constructs.  Of high interest are substrates of which the acetylation is modulated by a small molecule bromodomain ligand.  I am also characterizing the effect of this ligand on nucleosome acetylation.  The importance of the bromodomain in regulating p300/CBP activity will be clarified by p300 bromodomain mutants.