2007 News Archive

September 26, 2007

Michael Elowitz ('04 Searle Scholar) Becomes Ninth Scholar to Win MacArthur "Genius" Award.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently announced the names of its 25 Fellows for 2007. The MacArthur Foundation noted Michael's contributions to the study of the nervous systems of unusual animals "to generate new insights into the mammalian cortex--how it evolves, develops, and responds to changing conditions". The text of the MacArthur Foundation web site reads as follows.

"Michael Elowitz is a molecular biologist who is laying the groundwork for the next stage in the genomics revolution - understanding how genes interact. To do so, Elowitz employs a strategy of designing artificial genetic "circuits," first modeling them computationally and then introducing the elements in vivo to test their activity. Experimenting with the first synthetic biological oscillator, he surprised many by demonstrating that even relatively simple negative feedback genetic regulation loops can generate complex behavior within a cell. His work revealed that, because of the low concentration of effector molecules, concepts familiar in electronics such as noise and bistability also find currency in explaining gene regulation. In another critical experiment, Elowitz showed that when two reporter genes with identical regulatory elements were engineered into bacteria they expressed themselves differently and that these differences were due to both intrinsic and extrinsic noise. More recently, he investigated the regulation of a complex stage in normal cellular differentiation of bacilli known as "competence" in which they are temporarily able to incorporate DNA from their external environment. Evidence from imaging studies and mathematical modeling suggest that the underlying genetic circuit consists of both positive and negative feedback loops. Through these and other studies, Elowitz is addressing the long-standing question of how cells can maintain a well-regulated state in a complex and noisy environment.

Michael Elowitz received a B.A. (1992) from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. (1999) from Princeton University. Since 2003, he has served as an assistant professor of biology and as an applied physics Bren Scholar at the California Institute of Technology. His numerous articles have appeared in such journals as Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA."

Previous MacArthur awards have gone to Searle Scholars Joe DeRisi, Pehr Harbury, Raphael Lee, Richard Mulligan, David Page, Geraldine Seydoux, Xiaowei Zhuang and Ken Catania.

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September 22, 2007

Wallace Marshall ('05 Scholar) and Jennifer Zallen ('06 Scholar) to receive Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research awards for 2007 from the W.M. Keck Foundation.

Wallace's award was given to study "how cilia, the hair-like projections that move substances over a cell, are involved as key factors in debilitating human diseases ...such as polycystic kidney disease and retinal degeneration." Jennifer's award is to study "the nature of three-dimensional Rosetta cell structures" in fruit flies, studies that "may be applied to other organisms' cell structures, with the potential to develop approaches to analyze cell behavior and structure in living embryos."

The awards were established in 1999 "to give the nation's most promising young scientists the resources they need to pursue potentially breakthrough research projects in biomedicine." Each year since 1999, the program has given annual grants of up to $1 million to four or five junior faculty investigators at leading research universities and institutions.

Former recipients of these Keck awards include Searle Scholars Mike Caterina, Phyllis Hanson, Chuan He, Brian Kuhlman, Nina Papavasiliou, Amy Pasquinelli and Kang Shen.

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June 9, 2007

Searle Scholars David Agard (1982), David Anderson (1987) and Scott Emr (1988) elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Among the 72 newly elected members of the National Academy of Sciences for 2007 are Searle Scholars David Agard, David Anderson, and Scott Emr. This brings to 29 the number of Searle Scholars who are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

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