The inspiring LMB Lab Symposium ended with the announcements of the 2023 recipients of the Perutz Student Prize, Joan A. Steitz Postdoc Prize and Eileen Southgate Prize
The annual LMB Lab Symposium culminated with the awarding of the Perutz Student Prize, Joan A. Steitz Postdoc Prize, and the Eileen Southgate Prize. All three prizes are supported by the Max Perutz Fund, established in 1980 in honour of LMB co-founder Max Perutz for the promotion and advancement of education and research in molecular biology and allied biomedical sciences.
Perutz Student Prize
The Perutz Student Prize is awarded annually for outstanding work performed at LMB prior to the award of a Ph.D. Nominees should normally hold, or have recently held, a studentship at LMB, and have spent less than four years on their Ph.D. The 2023 prize has been awarded to Jérôme Zürcher and Kiarash Jamali.
Jérôme, a Ph.D. student in Jason Chin’s group, was awarded the prize for his pioneering work developing new tools to rapidly and efficiently recode entire genomes and applying this technology to genetically isolate organisms. Jérôme’s work has enormous practical implications for biomanufacturing and for the investigation of fundamental concepts in species co-evolution, competition and habitat-sharing.
Kiarash, a Ph.D. student in Sjors Scheres’ group, has developed the world’s leading software to interpret cryo-EM maps with atomic models. Remarkably, Kiarash’s Model Angelo software incorporates cutting-edge algorithms and neural networks to solve an old and important problem in structural biology and enables the identification of unknown components. The software is already impacting work by others and is predicted to revolutionise the speed with which structural biology will be able to proceed towards completeness from hereon.
Joan A. Steitz Postdoc Prize
The Joan A. Steitz Postdoc Prize is made possible by a donation from Royalty Pharma through the Max Perutz Fund. The Prize is presented annually to outstanding LMB postdocs who have been in post for less than six years. The 2023 recipients are Pablo Rodriguez, Maria Szaruga-Bracke, and Diana Arseni.
How antigens escape endosomes to be cross-presented to T cells has remained an unanswered question for almost three decades. Pablo, a postdoc in Patrycja Kozik’s group, received the award for discovering both the mechanism of antigen import by the pore-forming protein perforin-2 and demonstrating its physiological importance in initiating immune responses in vivo. Pablo’s work exemplifies tenacity, rigour and intellectual creativity and is of fundamental importance.
Maria, a postdoc in Anne Bertolotti’s group, was recognized for her seminal work in dissecting a series of counter-intuitive discoveries of how kinase inhibitors actually trigger the response they were designed to inhibit. Using elegant and rigorous cell biology and biochemistry, she discovered the mechanism of this dose-responsive effect. Maria’s discoveries have important implications for many signalling pathways where competitive inhibitors are in development and even already in the clinic.
Diana, a postdoc in Benjamin Ryskeldi-Falcon’s group, fearlessly embarked on characterising an only recently discovered protein in neurodegeneration, TDP-43. Despite its role in neurodegeneration, it was not believed to form amyloids. Diana heroically purified and imaged the rare TDP-43 assemblies from human brains to reveal that they are amyloids. She solved the structure of two different disease-defining folds, which will rewrite the textbooks. Diana’s work has opened up entirely new areas in amyloid research.
Eileen Southgate Prize
As part of the LMB’s pledge under the Technician Commitment, the Eileen Southgate Prize rewards staff who have made an exceptional contribution to supporting the LMB’s science. The prize is named in honour of Eileen Southgate, a technician at the LMB from 1956 to 1993. She was instrumental in Sydney Brenner’s work to map the C. elegans nervous system, and provided key support to Max Perutz and John Kendrew’s Nobel Prize winning work on the structures of haemoglobin and myoglobin. The 2023 prize is shared by Mark Cussens, Jasmine Farnsworth, Liam Bray, and Magdalena Sutcliffe.
Mark, a member of the Media and Glass Wash facility, is a quiet hero of the lab. He enables LMB science through his work in the Media Prep facility. No request ever being too much, Mark and members of his team have prepared uncountable numbers and often complicated agar plates for the entire LMB. He finishes his work before he goes home, even if that means doing long hours. Many experiments have only been possible because of Mark’s attention to detail and his can-do attitude.
Jasmine, who is an animal technician at LMB and Ares is someone who goes the extra mile to understand what the researchers require in their experimental protocols, making it possible for the researchers to focus on other aspects of the experiment. Jasmine shows genuine interest in the rationale behind experiments and the experimental approach beyond her specific duties, providing advice and suggestions based on her well-founded experience.
Liam has made outstanding contributions to animal research at the LMB. His commitment and support have significantly improved the quality of many studies that work with animals. His problem-solving capacity and can-do attitude have proven invaluable to overcoming difficulties that would otherwise have stalled projects. Liam is an example of how our support staff have a tremendous impact on science.
Magda, a member of Madeline Lancaster’s group, is recognised for her impact on stem cell and organoid culture across the LMB. In addition to managing her own research projects, she provides outstanding technical expertise, essential training and impeccable organisation to what is rapidly becoming a widely used tissue culture facility. Her generous support to others has been instrumental in growing these exciting research opportunities.