Graduate student earns Weintraub Award for structural biology work

Claudio Morales-Perez

Claudio Morales-Perez, a sixth-year Molecular Biophysics student in the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, has received a 2018 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award recognizing outstanding achievement in the biological sciences.

Mr. Morales-Perez and the other 12 international award winners will give presentations at a scientific symposium honoring the late Dr. Weintraub’s commitment to innovative science on May 4 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

“I am truly honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Mr. Morales-Perez, who defended his thesis, titled “Understanding the Atomic-Scale Mechanisms of the α4β2 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor,” on March 28. After graduation on May 31, he will head off to a postdoctoral position at Stanford University. “My mentor – Dr. Ryan Hibbs, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Biophysics – motivated me to apply and I’m glad now that I did.”

“Claudio was my first graduate student,” Dr. Hibbs said. “He tackled and completed a project in structural biology that was at a step beyond what the other people at the top of our field thought was reasonable. His success launched my lab, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had him as my first Ph.D. student.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Mr. Morales-Perez earned an undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Puerto Rico before entering Graduate School at UT Southwestern. His interest in science began, he said, in part because he was born with congenital heart disease, and he saw a cardiologist a couple of times a month all through childhood.

“Being around the cardiologist, and the labs, as often as I was made me take an interest in everything,” he said. 

Dr. Hibbs is an Effie Marie Cain Scholar in Medical Research.