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Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

2018 Scholastic Awards 

The winners of the 2018 Scholastic Awards in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology were recently announced. These awards recognize past pioneers of our Department, and are made possible because of the generosity of the BMB faculty and, importantly, of the family of the late John Scocca. 

John Scocca Award

elizabethThe John Scocca Scholastic Award is presented to Elizabeth Alexander for excellence in laboratory research on the part of a PhD graduate student in the department. Liz Alexander recently completed her PhD studies in Dr. Jiou Wang’s laboratory. Her thesis work revealed a novel role for the protein quality control factor ubiquilin 2 in maintaining the solubility of the RNA binding protein FUS in cytoplasmic RNA stress granules. Missense mutations in both FUS and ubiquilin 2 cause the devastating neurodegenerative diseases amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia (ALS/FTD) and compromise FUS solubility in stress granules. 

Lawrence Grossman Award

taoThe Larry Grossman Scholastic Award is presented to Dr. Tao Zhang. This award given in recognition of outstanding and impactful leadership on the part of a PhD graduate student or postdoctoral fellow in the department. Dr. Tao Zhang is a member of Dr. Jiou Wang’s laboratory. Tao’s work focuses on the mechanisms of RNA and protein metabolism in neurodegenerative diseases. Her studies established FUS (Fused in Sarcoma) as a direct player in miRNA silencing and identified an important and newly recognized function of RNA binding proteins as miRNA chaperones in facilitating miRNA-mediated gene regulation.  Her findings have important implications for the studies of RNA metabolism in neurodegeneration and open up new avenues to investigate previously unknown functions of these proteins in miRNA regulation and dysregulation in disease.

Sharon Krag Award

leahThe Sharon Krag Scholastic Award is presented to Leah Cairns. This award is given in recognition of outstanding and impactful leadership on the part of a PhD graduate student or postdoctoral fellow in the department. Dr. Leah Cairns recently completed her PhD studies in Dr. Jennifer Kavran’s laboratory. Throughout her time in graduate school Leah was a volunteer with Thread, where she served as a team leader and as a Tong Zhang Innovation Fellow. Leah also served as the chair of the Advocacy Committee of the Johns Hopkins Science Policy Group, where she led fellow graduate students in advocating for topics including federal funding of scientific research and fair drug pricing policy in the state legislature.

Pierre Coulombe Award

summerPierre Coulombe Travel Award is presented to Xue (Summer) Xia this year. This award is given in recognition of an outstanding research discovery by a PhD student or postdoctoral fellow in the department. Summer Xia is a PhD student in Dr. Fengyi Wan’s laboratory. Summer’s research focuses on discovery of novel host-pathogen interactions required for attaching/ effacing (A/E) bacterial pathogen infections in immunocompromised hosts. Utilizing a combination of genetic, microbiological, biochemical, and immunological approaches, Summer discovered three novel virulence factors in the murine A/E bacterial pathogen, Citrobacter rodentium (CR).  These three factors play crucial and distinct molecular roles in promoting CR-induced inflammation and lethal infections in the colon of immunocompromised mice. This award will allow Summer to attend and present her findings at a scientific conference this year.

Sincere Congratulations to Liz, Tao, Leah and Summer on receiving these very special honors!

Learn MORE about the BMB pioneers after whom these Scholastic Awards are named  — John Scocca, Larry Grossman,  Sharon Krag and Pierre Coulombe.