Sebastian Fica, a post-doctoral researcher in Kiyoshi Nagai’s group in the LMB’s Structural Studies Division, has been announced as a winner of the 2020 RNA Society/Scaringe Awards.
The RNA Society/Scaringe Awards recognise outstanding achievements by young investigators, and aim to encourage the best and the brightest to continue contributing to the field of RNA science. Sebastian is one of three recipients of the award for 2020: two awards have gone to post-doctoral scientists and one to a graduate student.
Sebastian has been recognised for his contribution to a more detailed understanding of the spliceosome, the large molecular machine responsible for removing introns from mRNA. Using electron cryo-microscopy, Sebastian has solved the structures of different spliceosome complexes stalled at several stages of the splicing process, which helped to clarify substrate recognition and the role of specific proteins in spliceosome dynamics. In particular, he recently identified four splicing factors specific to higher eukaryotes and showed how one of these proteins promotes efficient mRNA synthesis by the human spliceosome.
Sebastian has been supported by an EMBO Long Term Fellowship and by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship from the EU. He has been a member of the RNA Society since 2009. Sebastian was awarded the Departmental Award for Outstanding Performance in the Field of Cell and Molecular Biology by the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago for his doctoral research.
Sebastian will receive a plaque and cash prize at the RNA 2020 conference in Vancouver, Canada, in May. Max Wilkinson, a PhD student in Kiyoshi Nagai’s group previously received the 2019 RNA Society/Scaringe Graduate Student Award.
About the prize, Sebastian said, “It is a great honour to receive the RNA Society/Scaringe Award for my work on structures of the spliceosome. I am grateful to all the members of the Nagai lab for helping me learn structural biology. I wish to dedicate this award to the memory of my mentor Kiyoshi Nagai, who had the generosity to allow me to join his lab without any prior experience as a structural biologist and who gave me his unwavering support and the freedom to pursue risky ideas.”