Melina Schuh, from the LMB’s Cell Biology Division, has been awarded the EMBL Alumni John Kendrew Young Scientist Award for 2015. The award recognises excellence in science and/or science communication by any pre- or post-doctoral alumni of EMBL, up to 7 years after they have left EMBL. Melina was a PhD student in the EMBL Genome Biology Unit before joining the LMB in 2008, becoming a group leader in 2010. She is the first LMB recipient of this award. Melina has been recognised for her outstanding research achievements, including fearless and novel scientific approaches, for remarkable examples of collaboration, and active engagement in science communication.
Melina’s group is researching how aneuploidy arises in mammalian eggs. Defects in the egg are the most common cause of pregnancy loss and human aneuploidy conditions such as Down’s Syndrome. Most defects result from errors in chromosome segregation, when an egg develops out of the progenitor cell called an oocyte. The work in Melina’s group addresses a problem that is of growing importance in our society. Fertility problems have become more prominent as many women in the Western world postpone childbearing. This has led to a steep increase in the number of in vitro fertilization treatments (IVF). Eggs derived for IVF are frequently abnormal and cannot develop into viable embryos upon fertilisation. To improve fertility treatments it is essential to have a better understanding of the mechanisms that govern accurate progression through meiosis. The long-term goal of Melina’s research is to identify and analyse mechanisms that lead to abnormal eggs and pregnancy loss in mammals.
Melina is also engaged in science communication through an initiative called ‘Meeting of Minds’, which brings together practitioners from the fields of science and art, to communicate science to a wider audience – work currently touring Europe as part of the ‘Lens on Life’ exhibition.
The John Kendrew Young Scientist Award was launched in 2007 to honour EMBL’s first Director General, Sir John Kendrew. John was also a joint founder, with Max Perutz, of the MRC Unit that was established in Cambridge in 1947 and became the LMB in 1962. They were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1962 for their studies of the structures of globular proteins.