Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) presented the first GEN TEN Awards to young scientists at the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization Conference in Boston on June 19. The 10 recipients were judged by the GEN Editorial Advisory Board to have submitted the best abstracts (out of over 50 sent to GEN) on their field of primary research.
“GEN is proud to honor these incredibly talented scientists for the innovative work in which they are engaged,” said John Sterling, Editor-in-Chief of GEN. “It would not surprise me at all if many of our awardees wind up making contributions that significantly advance biomedical research.”
During the BIO event, Sterling presented each GEN TEN winner with a GEN Certificate of Scientific Excellence and a $50 American Express Gift Card.
Here are the GEN TEN along with descriptions of the projects for which they received the award. Also included is some biographical information.
Seemin Ahmed, Graduate Student, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Research Project: IV delivery of therapeutic rAAVs effectively corrects metabolic and phychomotor defects, alleviates neuropathy, and rescues lethality in a mouse model of Canavan’s Disease.
Seemin is currently a fifth-year graduate student in the lab of Dr. Guangping Gao at University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester. She received her B.S. in zoology from Lady Brabourne College (India) and M.S. in biochemistry from the University of Calcutta. Throughout her academic career she has been ranked among the top five students at school, college, and university. Recently she received a travel award to the 15th Annual American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy conference in Philadelphia where she delivered a talk on her research.
Seemin’s interests outside of science range from indoor to outdoor. When indoors, she reads fiction and is an aspiring writer. She also likes to hike and has done some rock climbing.
Ryan Benson, Graduate Student Northeastern University
Research Project: The investigation of the importance of conserved catalytic and surface amino acids in DNA polymerase 4 (DinB) of E. coli to better understand the roles specialized DNA polymerases play in cells experiencing DNA damage or environmental stress.
Ryan was raised in Easton, MA and attended Oliver Ames High School. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a B.S. in microbiology and a minor in biology. For his senior research project he studied the properties of a cellulase produced by soil bacteria in the Leschine lab. Ryan is now a Ph.D. candidate in the Godoy lab at Northeastern University and works with DNA damage tolerance and mutagenesis in E. coli.
Outside of the lab Ryan likes to spend time with his wife and daughter. He also enjoys basketball and is a big fan of the Boston Celtics.
Yanjing Chen, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Rhode Island Consortium for Nanoscience
Research Project: Application of release-controlled magnetoliposomes in nanomedicine.
Dr. Chen hails from Hangzhou, China, where he obtained his undergraduate degree. He entered the University of Rhode Island and obtained his Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 2010.
After graduation he joined the Rhode Island Consortium for Nanotechnology and Nanoscience as a post-doctoral research associate. His research interests include nanoparticle-based drug delivery, toxicity of nanoparticles, and structural analysis of nanobiomaterials.
Dr. Chen’s outside interests include travel, reading, soccer, and tennis.
Wilfredo De Jesus-Monge, M.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School
Research Project: GLI activation is required for formation of Kras-dependent pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dr. De Jesus-Monge is a physician-scientist specializing in oncology clinical research. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester under the mentorship of Dr. Brian C. Lewis. Dr. De Jesus-Monge is a member of the UMass Center for Clinical & Translational Science, and adjunct member of the UMass Memorial Cancer Center of Excellence. He has performed genetics research in the areas of pancreatic, colorectal, and skin cancers, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, he has worked in oncology and chronic hepatitis C clinical trials and has been a clinical research teacher, reviewer, and consultant.
Outside the lab Dr. De Jesus-Monge volunteers in his community and enjoys boating. He has educated himself in lean practice and project management theory.
Sorin Fedeles, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale School of Medicine
Research Project: Genetic and molecular interrelationship between the unfolded protein response and cyst formation in autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease and liver disease.
Dr. Fedeles is a postdoctoral associate in the nephrology department at the Yale School of Medicine. He grew up in Romania and came to the U.S. to study biochemistry and genetics. Following his B.A. at Hampshire College, he enrolled in the B.B.S. program at Yale where he obtained his Ph.D. in genetics in 2010.
Dr. Fedeles is involved in community service and has been volunteering at the Yale Smilow Cancer Center for the past three years. He is also an avid skier and tennis player.
Sanjukta Ghosh, Graduate Student, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Research Project: Structural and thermodynamic studies of self assembly and aggregation of proteins in Alzheimer’s Disease.
Sanjukta received a Master’s degree in organic chemistry from Delhi University in India. She has also studied bioinformatics and biotechnology, focusing on in silico methods of protein ligand docking, and studied protein folding and dynamics at the Indian Institute of Science. She is currently a first-year Ph.D. student in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at UMass, Boston.
Sanjukta spent five years working in the chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries, most recently at E.I. DuPont, where she worked with scientists and attorneys on technology assessment and intellectual property.
Away from science, she practices yoga “passionately” and has been teaching it for two years. She also enjoys travel and experiencing new cultures, cuisines, and languages.
Jill Goldstein, Graduate Student, Yale University
Research Project: Uncovering the role of the calcineurin/NFATc1 signaling pathway in regulating hair follicle stem cell activity and skin tumorigenesis.
Jill graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2008 with a degree in biochemistry and German studies. While at WPI she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Destin Heilman studying the nucleocytoplasmic shuttling of animal virus proteins. She is currently working toward her Ph.D. in the department of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale University with Dr. Valerie Horsley. Goldstein’s dissertation project focuses on analyzing the intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms that regulate hair follicle stem cell activity. Her long-term career goal is to become a professor in cell and developmental biology.
Jill’s favorite interests are outdoor activities, such as skiing, swimming, and hiking. She also enjoys reading, traveling, and volunteering at a local animal shelter.
Kevin J. McHugh, Graduate Student, Boston University
Research Project: Microfabricated polymeric tissue enginering scaffold for retinal pigment epithelium culture and delivery as a surgical intervention for age-related macular degeneration.
Kevin began his research career in high school with two independent projects investigating biofuels and epilepsy. These experiences inspired him to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University. After his sophomore year of college, Kevin was accepted into an NSF-funded Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates where he again researched epilepsy. As an upperclassman, he worked in a lab evaluating the biocompatibility of novel polymer formulations for tissue engineering and drug delivery. Today, Kevin is a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student at Boston University working on tissue engineering of the retina at the Schepens Eye Research Institute.
Outside the lab, Kevin enjoys reading nonfiction, being outdoors, and is an avid sports fan.
Jenna Sullivan, Graduate Student, Yale University
Research Project: Development of experimental and analysis methods to measure cigarette smoking-induced time-varying dopamine release in the brain noninvasively with positron emission tomography.
Jenna is a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering at Yale University. Her work focuses on the development of medical imaging methods to study addiction with positron emission tomography (PET). Jenna did her undergraduate work at the University of Connecticut and holds a Master’s degree from Purdue University.
When Jenna’s not in the lab, she likes to plan social events with Yale’s Graduate Student Life Department and brew her own beer.
Adam Zeiger, Graduate Student, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Research Project: Macromolecular crowding directs extracellular matrix organization and mesenchymal stem cell behavior.
Adam completed his undergraduate work at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he majored in Mechanical Engineering and minored in Materials Engineering. He was a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergradaute (NSF REU) student in Prof. Krystyn J. Van Vliet’s laboratory at MIT during the summer of 2006. Adam applied to MIT for graduate school the following Fall and joined Prof. Van Vliet’s lab for his Ph.D. work in the department of materials science and engineering. He is also a member of the Program for Polymer Science and Technology and, as a result, his work focuses at the intersection of biology, polymer chemistry, and mechanics.
Adam is married and the proud father of an energetic, adorable nine-month-old boy who teaches him new life lessons every day. He also has a long-standing passion for the martial arts (Kenpo) in which he holds a second-degree black belt.
Watch an interview with two of the winners, Kevin McHugh and Jill Goldstein, at BIOchannel.