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Nine early career researchers awarded for research presented at fruit fly conference

GSA Poster Awards for 56th Annual Drosophila Research Conference

Genetics Society of America

BETHESDA, MD - The Genetics Society of America (GSA) and the Drosophila research community are pleased to announce the winners of the GSA poster awards at the 56th Annual Drosophila Research Conference, which took place in Chicago, IL, March 4-8, 2015. The awards were made to undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral scientists in recognition of the research they presented at the conference. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is one of the most versatile and widely used model organisms applied to the study of genetics, physiology, and evolution--and is an effective system for studying a range of human genetics diseases.

"These early career scientists are already making substantive contributions to our field," said Adam P. Fagen, PhD, GSA's Executive Director. "Conference attendees had the opportunity to learn about some exciting research advancements from these talented scientists."

Over 1,500 researchers attended the meeting, and the winning posters were selected by a panel of leading Drosophila researchers.

The winners of the 56th Annual Drosophila Research Conference GSA Poster Awards are:

Undergraduate winners


Jonathan Cohen, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
Poster title: "The microbiota induces Pvf2 to activate the antiviral ERK pathway in the Drosophila gut."
Advisor: Sara Cherry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA


Ashley Kline, Butler University, Indianapolis, IN
Poster Title: "Characterizing a Role for the Misshapen Kinase in Growth of the Germline Ring Canals in the Developing Egg Chamber."
Advisor: Lindsay Lewellyn


Irina Pushel, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Poster Title: "Genome-wide effects of retinoblastoma family proteins on gene expression and chromatin state in Drosophila melanogaster development."
Advisor: David Arnosti

Graduate student winners


George Aranjuez, Cleveland Clinic Foundation & Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Poster title: "Myosin activity at the periphery of the border cell cluster promotes its compact shape during migration between nurse cells."
Advisor: Jocelyn McDonald


Kathleen Cunningham, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Poster Title: "Enhanced protein degradation protects against neurodegeneration in a Drosophila model of c9orf72-ALS."
Advisor: Tom Lloyd


Katharine Schulz, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
Poster Title: "Zelda facilitates chromatin accessibility during the earliest stages of development."
Advisor: Melissa Harrison

Postdoc winners


Leila Rieder, PhD, Brown University, Providence, RI
Poster title: "The dosage compensation protein CLAMP is involved in non sex-specific histone transcript misprocessing."
Advisor: Erica Larshan


Justin Cassidy, PhD, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Poster Title: "A microRNA minimizes the phenotypic impact of genomic diversity."
Advisor: Richard Carthew


Sandra Zimmerman, PhD, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Poster Title: "Imaginal disc growth factors regulate dorsal-appendage tube morphogenesis."
Advisor: Celeste Berg

Each poster awardee receives a cash prize, a complimentary extension to their GSA membership, and a copy of Conversations in Genetics, a series of interviews with leaders in the field of genetics. The Society typically awards such prizes several times a year at each of their conferences on genetic research focused on a variety of model organisms.

Cohen and Pushel were also recipients of a Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Award, which provided support for them to present their research at the meeting.


About the Drosophila Research Conference

More than 1,500 researchers attend GSA's Annual Drosophila Research Conference to share the latest research using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and related insect species. Many of the findings from these model organisms have broad application for the study of human genetic traits and diseases. For more information about the conference, please see

About the Genetics Society of America (GSA)

Founded in 1931, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is the professional scientific society for genetics researchers and educators. The Society's more than 5,000 members worldwide work to deepen our understanding of the living world by advancing the field of genetics, from the molecular to the population level. GSA promotes research and fosters communication through a number of GSA-sponsored conferences including regular meetings that focus on particular model organisms. GSA publishes two peer-reviewed, peer-edited scholarly journals: GENETICS, which has published high quality original research across the breadth of the field since 1916, and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, an open-access journal launched in 2011 to disseminate high quality foundational research in genetics and genomics. The Society also has a deep commitment to education and fostering the next generation of scholars in the field. For more information about GSA, please visit

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