Public Release: 

ASCB announces third annual Kaluza Prizes for 10 outstanding young scientists

Cash and travel awards honor outstanding graduate student bioscience research

American Society for Cell Biology

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IMAGE: Guangbo Chen, who was a graduate student in Rong Li's lab at the Stowers Institute, is the 2015 $5,000 Kaluza Prize winner. He won for his discovery that increased cell-stress... view more

Credit: Photo courtesy of Guangbo Chen

BETHESDA, MD, September 23, 2015-- The American Society for Cell Biology, in collaboration with Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, today announced the winners of the 2015 Kaluza Prizes for academic excellence in graduate student research. The three top finalists will receive cash prizes of $5,000, $3,000, and $1,000. In addition, seven other finalists will receive travel awards to attend the ASCB Annual Meeting in San Diego, December 12-16. All 10 finalists will speak at a minisymposium supported by Beckman Coulter at the ASCB Annual Meeting.

Here are the top finalists:

Guangbo Chen, a graduate student in Rong Li's lab at the Stowers Institute, is the 2015 $5,000 Kaluza Prize winner. He won for his discovery that increased cell-stress caused by inhibition of a key chaperone protein (Hsp90) can be a major cause of aneuploidy, and the resulting changes in chromosome copy number promote cellular adaptation. This is the first example of a stress-induced genome change in a eukaryote that fuels adaption.

Uri Ben-David, now a postdoc at the Broad Institute at of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was selected as the $3,000 Kaluza Prize winner. He won for his work in Nissim Benvenisty's lab at Hebrew University of Jerusalem developing methods to analyze the genetic stability of human induced pluripotent stem cells, and linked the genetic instability of some cells to their likelihood of becoming cancerous. Ben-David also developed strategies to eliminate the tumor-causing cells.

Pavithra Aravamudha won $1,000 for discovering the mechanism of the spindle assembly checkpoint, a critical signaling pathway that monitors the attachment between chromosomes and spindle microtubules. Her work was done in Ajit Joglekar's lab at University of Michigan.

The ASCB Kaluza selection committee said that the work of Chen, Ben-David, and Aravamudha moves cell biology research into new and important directions. All three are poised to become leaders in cell biology, the committee noted. Seven additional Kaluza finalists will receive travel awards to attend the 2015 ASCB Meeting in San Diego. All 10 winners and finalists will be recognized at a special presentation just before the Keith R. Porter Lecture on Sunday, December 13. Each will also be invited to give a talk at a Kaluza Scientific Minisymposium on Monday, December 14.

Here are the seven other finalists:

  • Lindsay Case discovered that specific proteins organize into distinct nanodomains, which regulates protein activity within focal adhesion complexes. She did her work at National Institute of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

  • Lukas Chmatal developed a system to study the translocation of part of a chromosome to another nonhomologous chromosome (Robertsonian fusion) during meiosis. He found that increased microtubule binding leads to a gene transmission advantage during meiosis. His work was done at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Philip Dumesic identified a new function for introns and the spliceosome in genome defense. His work raises the possibility that introns are pervasive in eukaryotic genomes because of their contribution to self/non-self recognition. His work was done at the University of California, San Francisco.

  • Laura Gaydos showed epigenetic transmission of genomic information from parent to offspring and through cell divisions by studying proteins that modify histone tails and chromatin. Her work was done at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

  • Ryan Flynn identified important regulators of RNA and RNA synthesis, and determined the molecular functions of 7SK snRNA. His work was done at Stanford University.

  • Kailin Mesa established that environmental signals can lead to various stem cell behaviors as well as allow cells to remain flexible to variable demands on the tissue. His work was done at Yale University.

  • Graham Walmsley discovered a lineage of skin cells responsible for scarring, and a small molecule that inhibits those cells' activity and reduces scarring. His work was done at Stanford University School of Medicine.

For further information, contact John Fleischman, jfleischman@ascb.org

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