Two biochemistry and biophysics grad students awarded NSF Fellowships

Congratulations to Candice Crilly and Hanna Trzeciakiewicz for receiving Predoctoral Fellowships from the National Science Foundation!

Two biochemistry and biophysics grad students awarded NSF Fellowships click to enlarge (left to right) Hanna Trzeciakiewicz and Candice Crilly

The National Science Foundation predoctoral fellowships are designed to help ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity.  The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions.

Candice Jennette Crilly is a graduate student in the UNC Molecular and Cellular Biophysics Training Program and is currently training in the lab of Dr. Gary Pielak, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. Her research project, "Probing the mechanism of biogel formation in desiccation-tolerant tardigrades," aims to investigate the mechanism of TDP biogel formation and how macromolecular crowding and water loss affect the structure and function of the gel. The results from this study will help reveal the regions and residues of TDPs that are key to gel formation, as well as how protein crowding impacts TDP secondary structure and gel properties. Elucidating this mechanism would not only give us a better understanding of how tardigrades are able to survive such extreme stresses, but may also lead to improved excipients for biologic drugs and biotechnology that mitigates drought-induced food insecurity.

Hanna Trzeciakiewicz is a current biochemistry and biophysics graduate student training in the lab of Dr. Todd Cohen, Assistant Professor of Neurology & Neuroscience Center. Her research project "A Synergistic Post-Translational Code Regulates Microtubule Dynamics, " aims to investigate the synergistic effects of post-translational modifications (PTMs) on microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) to better understand the regulation of microtubule (MT) dynamics. Insights acquired will provide a new paradigm for how MAPs modulate MT stability with a particular focus in neurons. The results from this study will help uncover the synergy of multiple PTMs in regulating MAPs, which has not previously been investigated and significantly advance understanding of neuronal MT regulation.

Both of the proposals are set to begin in Summer 2017 and are funded for three years.

Kevin Knight also received an honorable mention for his application titled "Designing the G protein Binding Pocket." Kevin is a student in the UNC Molecular and Cellular Biophysics Training Program and is currently training in the lab of Dr. Henrik Dohlman, Professor and Chair of Pharmacology.