Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Elizabeth Ransey

Ph.D. Student Elizabeth Ransey Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Elizabeth Ransey, a graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences, received a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF), a prestigious award given to a small number of exceptional graduate student applicants demonstrating the potential to make major contributions to science.

During her first year of study in the department, Ransey sought diverse research experiences in her laboratory rotations, such as studying fluorogen-activating proteins with Dr. Jon Jarvik and the relationship between osteogenesis and inflammation with Dr. Phil Campbell, before settling in as the newest member of Dr. Mark Macbeth’s laboratory. She now works on an extension of her rotation project in the Macbeth lab – analyzing the structural and mechanistic properties of RNA lariat de-branching enzyme (DBR).

Ransey’s curiosity and broad interest in both biology and chemistry are also apparent in her research background. While an undergraduate biochemistry major at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Ransey completed several NSF-REU summer programs.  Her projects ranged from studying subsurface microbial environments at MIT and characterizing the degradation conditions of Alzheimer’s disease amyloid beta proteins at the Genomics Research Center in Taiwan to studying the habitation patterns of non-passerine avifauna of the Tarcoles rainforest in Costa Rica. Ransey’s passion for exploring and combining scientific fields was a contributing factor to her selection of Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Biological Sciences.  “I really enjoy and appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of this program,” stated Ransey.

Besides the research available, Ransey was drawn to the Ph.D. in Biological Sciences program because of its size and the frequent interactions among graduate students and professors. “ The department seems intimate and really supportive of its graduate students,” said Ransey.

The NSF also recognized Andrew Kehr, another member of the Macbeth laboratory in his third year of study with an Honorable Mention for his fellowship proposal. Kehr’s research utilizes crystallographic methods to determine how ADAR binds to its target. He explained, “Once we determine structure [of ADAR], we are going to make changes to the protein at locations where we think interactions are occurring, in order to obtain a better mechanistic understanding.”

Additionally, two recent undergraduate alumni were recognized for their NSF fellowship proposals. Timothy Helbig, a 2010 graduate in Biological Sciences, was awarded a fellowship. He is currently a graduate student at MIT studying Microbiology. Kathleen McCann, a 2009 graduate in Biological Sciences and current graduate student at Yale, received an Honorable Mention from the NSF.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship provides an annual stipend, educational allowance, travel award and supercomputing access over the three years.