News and Awards

37th Annual Nominata Award 

The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences is pleased to announce Zhejian Ji of the Genetics, Development, & Disease Graduate Program as the 2016 recipient of the Nominata Award. The Nominata Award is the highest honor for academic and research accomplishment bestowed by the graduate school unto an advanced graduate student. In addition, Liela Bayeh of the Organic Chemistry Graduate Program is recipient of the Dean’s Discretionary Award, which reflects a student’s extraordinary ability to communicate their science outside of their field.

Zhejian Ji, a member of the Genetics, Development and Disease Graduate Program, is a student in the laboratory of Hongtao Yu in the Department of Pharmacology. The laboratory is interested in mechanisms of mitosis, especially mitotic spindle checkpoint control. Zhejian discovered the fundamental step in the mechanism of signaling in this pathway: that the master checkpoint kinase Mps1 directly competes with microtubules for binding to the kinetochore protein complex Ndc80C. Displacement of Mps1 by microtubules weakens checkpoint signaling and ultimately results in completion of mitosis. This work, recently reported in Science, solves a long-standing mystery and has already made a strong impact in the field.

As an advanced graduate student, Zhejian has demonstrated academic excellence and an exceptional level of research achievement. His accomplishments serve as an outstanding example for all graduate students of UT Southwestern.

Our 2016 Dean’s Discretionary Award recipient, Liela Bayeh, is a member of the Organic Chemistry Graduate Program and a student in the lab of Uttam Tambar. She has been prolific in the lab and has already published seven papers. A problem in the field is the contamination of medically and industrially useful compounds with stereoisomers, many of which have serious side effects for patients. Liela’s research focuses on exploiting the abundance of simple and inexpensive natural products to develop novel mechanisms for synthesis and isolation of compounds with negligible contamination with their isomers. Ultimately these techniques will lead to drugs with much broader therapeutic indices. The awards committee also was impressed by Liela’s ability to communicate her science to a broad range of biomedical researchers.

The Nominata Award was created by the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) in 1980 to stimulate academic excellence and research achievement among the advanced graduate students. The award consisted of a $1,000 prize and a $100 gift certificate from Majors Scientific Book Store. The Scholarship Committee, composed of faculty and student representatives, judged the nominees on academic and research performance. Today, the Committee on Graduate School Awards, comprised of graduate faculty, judges the nominees. The recipient receives a monetary award and is granted the honor of presenting their research to the UT Southwestern community within the forum of the University Lecture Series.

The 2016 Nominata lecture and award presentation will be held Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 4:00 PM in the NB2.EEF Auditorium (NB2.101).

Nominees for the 2016 Nominata Award

Banu Eskiocak Cancer Biology Michael White, Ph.D.
Chensu Wang Biomedical Engineering

Jinming Gao, Ph.D. & Michael White, Ph.D.

Elizabeth McMillan Cell & Molecular Biology Michael White, Ph.D.
Erinn Gideons Neuroscience Lisa Monteggia, Ph.D.
Liela Bayeh* Organic Chemistry Uttam Tambar, Ph.D.
Qian Cong Molecular Biophysics Nick Grishin, Ph.D.
Siheng Xiang Biological Chemistry Steve McKnight, Ph.D.
Tao Wang Integrative Biology

Guanghua Xiao, Ph.D. & Yang Xie, Ph.D.

Vladislav Pokatayev Immunology

Nan Yan, Ph.D.

Yao Wang Molecular Microbiology Julie Pfeiffer, Ph.D.
Zhejian Ji* Genetics, Development & Disease Hongtao Yu, Ph.D.

Please join us in congratulating Zhejian Ji, Liela Bayeh, and our nominees for their dedication and great work.

The recipient receives a monetary award and is granted the honor of presenting their research to the UT Southwestern community within the forum of the University Lecture Series. 
Complete list of Nominata Award Recipients 

2015 Graduate School Organization Poster Session

Best of Show
Chien-Der Lee – Integrative Biology, Benjamin Tu, Ph.D.

Top Five
Chien-Der Lee – also received Best of Show
Leonardo Estrada – Immunology, David Farrar, Ph.D.
Chelsea Stamm – Molecular Microbiology, Michael Shiloh, M.D., Ph.D.
Elizabeth Aguilera – Molecular MicrobiologyJulie Pfeiffer, Ph.D.
Huanyu Zhou – Genetics, Development, and Disease, Eric Olson, Ph.D.

Honorable Mention
Didem Agac – ImmunologyDavid Farrar, Ph.D.
Ashley Hoover – Immunology, Nicolai van Oers, Ph.D.
Ho Yee Joyce Fung – Molecular Biophysics, Yuh Min Chook, Ph.D.
Zhejian Ji – Genetics, Development, and Disease, Hongtao Yu, Ph.D.
Hunkar Gizem Yesilyurt – Neuroscience, Jonathan Terman, Ph.D.

Haberecht Wildhare-Idea Research Grant Award – Award Recipients

In April 1994, Rolf R. and Ute S. Haberecht donated funds to The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center with the understanding that such funds be used to support academic activities within the Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences under the direction of the Dean. The endowment was designated “The Rolf and Ute Haberecht Deanship of The University of Texas Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, in honor of Olga and Max Haberecht and Anna and Hans Schwarz.”

The Haberechts were interested in research to explore what they termed "wildhare" ideas. A grant was created for support of speculative, innovative research to be administered by the graduate school. Thus, ideas with greater than average risk but great potential for useful outcomes would be the basis for research proposals to be reviewed in competition for these funds. A grant of $10,000 would be awarded for development of the idea.

The first announcement went out in March 1996. Students, postdocs and junior faculty (Assistant Professor or lower) were eligible to submit a proposal.

Today, the competition is open to students, postdocs, and all levels of faculty at UT Southwestern. A call for proposals is distributed campus wide and selection is based on the judgment of a committee of eminent scientists recruited by Dr. Andrew R. Zinn, M.D., Ph.D., Dean of Southwestern Graduate School. The funding period is for one year. A grant of $25,000 is awarded today.

Please join the graduate school in congratulating this year’s recipients:

Thomas Wilkie, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pharmacology
Project Title: Regeneration of Endocrine or Exocrine Pancreas from Breast Milk Stem Cells

Curtis A. Thorne, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar of Pharmacology
Mentor: Melanie Cobb, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology
Project Title: Discovery and Characterization of Small Molecule Kinase Activators

Call for entries will be announced FY17

To learn about the competition please contact Kimberly Coleman.

29th Annual Ida M. Green Award

Please join Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in congratulating award recipient Yuanyuan Zhang as she has been selected to receive the 29th Annual Ida M. Green Award.

Although Yuanyuan (Faith) Zhang has not yet completed her tenure in the Medical Scientist Training Program, her accomplishments in the lab and her service are impressive. Her main project as a Ph.D. student in the lab of Drs. Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein was to uncover the mechanism by which the gastric hormone ghrelin controls blood sugar levels during times of starvation. In a first-author study published in the PNAS she demonstrated that growth hormone, under the control of ghrelin, induces autophagy in the liver, and that this effect was necessary but not sufficient to maintain blood glucose level. This function of growth hormone had never been observed before.

Yuanyuan has also performs great service to UT Southwestern. She was the founder and chairperson of the Students Emerging Academy of Leaders (SEALs), a program designed for students in the Mechanisms of Disease training program of the graduate school to develop leadership skills of communication, mentoring, and negotiation. She also has been a key organizer and presenter for the annual WISMAC/STARS (Women in Science and Medicine Advisory Committee/Science Teacher Access to Resources at Southwestern) career symposium for the past several years. She has found time to volunteer for a number of other outreach efforts including the mentoring of high school students in the lab and the United to Serve Health Fair. Her balance of research with service to UTSW deserves high praise, and it is acknowledged by the 2015 Ida Green Award.

The Ida M. Green Award was established in 1987 with a bequest from Mrs. Green to Southwestern Medical Foundation. With encouragement from her husband, Cecil Green, the award was established to acknowledge a female graduate student in the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the well-being of other students, to research excellence, and to exceptional community service activities. The honor comes with a monetary award provided by the Women in Science and Medicine Advisory Committee (WISMAC)/Southwestern Medical Foundation.

The award ceremony will be held Monday, June 8, beginning at 2 p.m. This will be a closed event. Those who attend the award ceremony are guests of the recipient, graduate school faculty and staff, members of WISMAC, representatives of Southwestern Medical Foundation and of the Cecil Green Estate.

The nominees for the 2015 Ida M. Green Award were:

CandidatesGraduate ProgramMentor
Leila Bayeh Biological Chemistry Uttam Tambar, Ph.D.
Erin Gideons Neuroscience Lisa Monteggia, Ph.D.
Roya Kalantari Cell and Molecular Biology David Corey, Ph.D.
Heather Krol Clinical Psychology Kelsey Latimer, Ph.D.
Lauren Leuthy Molecular Microbiology Julie Pfeiffer, Ph.D.
Lauren Schmitt Clinical Psychology Matt Mosconi, Ph.D.
Chelsea Stamm Molecular Microbiology Michael Shiloh, M.D., Ph.D.
Lauren Tyra Neuroscience Helmut Kramer, Ph.D.
YuanYuan Zhang MSTP Michael Brown, M.D. & Joseph Goldstein, M.D.

Complete list of Ida M. Green Award Recipients

Call for entries to be announced soon.

To learn about the competition please contact Kimberly Coleman.