Public Release:  US Department of Energy programs leader wins education award

Cheryl A. Kerfeld lauded for creative approach to DNA sequencing, genome annotation by undergrads

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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IMAGE: Cheryl A. Kerfeld, a structural biologist and the head of the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute's Education and Structural Genomics Programs, has won the American Society for Biochemistry... view more

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BETHESDA, Md., April 7, 2011 - Cheryl A. Kerfeld, a structural biologist and the head of the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute's Education and Structural Genomics Programs, has won the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education. Kerfeld will present her award lecture, titled "Sequence and Consequence," at 12:30 p.m. on April 10 at the Experimental Biology 2011 conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

"The integration of bona fide research and development of critical thinking skills into undergraduate education has no greater or more effective advocate than Cheryl Kerfeld," said Kathleen Scott, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, who supported Kerfeld's nomination for the award.

Colleagues underscore that Kerfeld has pushed the envelope for education both in the classroom and on the national scale.

"She is tireless in providing opportunities for authentic research projects with genomics in silico and wet lab projects," said Cheryl P. Bailey, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, "and she continues to advance the field of structural genomics."

Kerfeld, who has bachelor's degrees in biology and English, a master's degree in English and a doctorate in biology, developed and directed the University of California, Los Angeles Undergraduate Genomics Research Initiative.

"Cheryl has overcome the intimidating nature of DNA sequencing and genome annotation using the how-to-eat-an-elephant strategy," explained Christopher Kvaal, an associate professor at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota and one of Kerfeld's nominators. "In the case of DNA sequencing of the Ammonifex degensii genome at UCLA, Cheryl broke up the work into different undergraduate classes that fed each other: One course isolated DNA, another cloned fragments of the genome, and another performed the (polymerase chain reaction) and operated the DNA analyzer."

Today, Kerfeld leads the JGI's effort to develop educational programs and tools centered on large-scale DNA sequencing and its bioinformatic analysis and serves as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

At the JGI, she conceived of and oversaw the development of an electronic resource and website for use by undergraduates annotating genomes. The Integrated Microbial Genomes Annotation Collaboration Toolkit, or IMG-ACT, is now being used at more than 65 educational institutions.

"Based on her own research, Cheryl knows that genome annotations are only as good as the experiments they inspire to test bioinformatics predictions. The holy grail is a national undergraduate effort to connect sequence annotation to functional genomics, and Cheryl is the leader to make it happen," said Brad Goodner, a professor of biology at Hiram College in Ohio.

The ASBMB Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education is given annually to a scientist who encourages effective teaching and learning of biochemistry and molecular biology through his or her own teaching, leadership in education, writing, educational research, mentoring or public enlightenment.

Kerfeld will give her award lecture at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10, in Room 209A/B of the convention center.

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About Experimental Biology 2011

Six scientific societies will hold their joint scientific sessions and annual meetings, known as Experimental Biology, from April 9-13, 2011, in Washington, D.C. This meeting brings together the leading researchers from a broad array of life science disciplines. The societies include the American Association of Anatomists (AAA), American Physiological Society (APS), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP), American Society for Nutrition (ASN), and American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET).

More information about EB2011 for the media can be found on the press page: http://experimentalbiology.org/content/PressInformation.aspx.

About the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The Society's student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions. For more information about ASBMB, visit www.asbmb.org.

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