Graduate Student Travel Awards-Department of Biological Sciences - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Graduate Student Travel Awards

Every semester, a group of biological sciences doctoral students are granted travel awards by the department. These scholarships are used by the students for professional reasons, such as attending conferences or furthering their research at an external location. Most of the scholarships are given to senior doctoral students, who also utilize the award to look for postdoc positions, network, and gain knowledge about their larger scientific community. Below are the stories of how a few students utilized the award.

Michael Gamalinda and Jason Talkish

In August 2012, Gamalinda and Talkish, members of the Woolford Laboratory, attended The 9th International Conference on Ribosome Synthesis in Banff, Canada.

“The conference was intellectually and scientifically stimulating. It was especially helpful in getting valuable feedback and scientific advice – in [my] own projects as well as career prospects after finishing our degrees. I was very grateful for this wonderful opportunity,” said Gamalinda.

While in attendance, Talkish received the Nomura Poster Award for his poster presentation entitled “The DEAD-box protein Drs1 physically interacts with Nop7 sub complex and is required for early steps of 27s of pre-rRNA Processing.” Talkish describes the work presented on his poster:

“In mammals, pre-rRNA processing happens almost exclusively post-transcriptionally. This is not the case in rapidly dividing yeast, as the majority of pre-rRNA is processed co-transcriptionally. The process of ribosome assembly is thought to be drive in part, by the hierarchical association of assembly factors and r-proteins. It is well established that there are groups of proteins that associate with nascent ribosomes early in assembly, during the middle of assembly, or only at the end of assembly. Here, in the course of studying Drs2, we find that disruption of ribosome assembly results in a significant shift from co- to post- transcriptional pre-rRNA processing and breakdown of the traditionl assembly hierarchy. Previously DrS1 was shown to be requires for the production of 60s subunits and the function in 27SB pre-rRNA processing. Here we show that depletion of Drs1 affects earlier steps of pre-rRNA processing and that Drs1 functionally and physically interacts with the Nop7-subcomplex. Most important, we show that depletion of Drs1 and subsequent disruption of ribosome biogenesis causes pre-rRNAs to be processed with early pre-ribosomes containing 35S pre-rRNA. The shift form co- to post-transcriptional pre-rRNA processing, and the ability of late-associating proteins to bind pre-ribosomes very early in assembly drastically changes the current views on hierarchy of ribosome assembly.”

Ashrifia Adomako-Ankomah, Tanvi Shashikant, and Zhongling Sun

Members of the Ettensohn Laboratory, Adomako-Ankomah, Shashikant, and Sun travelled to Woods Hole, Mass. for the Developmental Biology of the Sea Urchin XXI Conference in October 2012. Adomako-Ankomah enjoyed this smaller conference and felt an intimate setting was created “where undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs mingled with leaders in the field in an informal situation.” Adomako-Ankomah was also able to present her research for the first time at this conference, thereby gaining valuable external insight into how to proceed with her work.

Shashikant echoed her fellow lab member’s sentiments. “Since I joined the Ettensohn lab six months ago, the timing of this conference couldn’t have been better. I gained so many perspectives and new approaches that I can apply when defining my thesis projects,” she stated.

Lastly, the conference was inspiring for Sun who felt a renewed “motivation and interest in scientific research” after attending.

The travel awards are made possible through generous contributions from Margaret Carver, M.D. (MM ’43). After attending Margaret Morrison Carnegie School for Women, Carver attended medical school and opened an OB-GYN practice in Uniontown, Pa. She was also instrumental in responding to other healthcare gaps within the small community. She was largely responsible for setting up the area’s first mental health clinic and first family planning clinic. Dr. Carter retired from practice in 1997. To find out more about Dr. Carver, visit