Vivian Gama

Gama

Biography

I have a particular interest in elucidating novel modes of regulation of signaling pathways involved in cell fate. As a graduate student I used biological and biochemical techniques to study how ubiquitination regulates Bax-mediated apoptosis.

Research

In my postdoctoral work, I first directed my studies into mechanisms of neuronal survival, identifying the E3 ligase targeting cytochrome c for degradation. More recently we focused our efforts into how stem cells regulate cell death. We found that while most mitotic cells maintain Bax in an inactive conformation in the cytosol, undifferentiated human embryonic stem (hES) cells have Bax in its constitutively active conformation. Surprisingly, active Bax was maintained at the Golgi rather than at the mitochondria, thus allowing hES cells to effectively minimize the risks associated with having pre-activated Bax. After DNA damage, active Bax rapidly translocated from the Golgi to the mitochondria by a p53-dependent mechanism (p53 knockdown cells maintained Bax at the Golgi after DNA damage). I am currently investigating the molecular mechanisms that control this phenomenon as well as how apoptosis changes with ES cell differentiation.

Publications

Pubmed

Activities/Awards

2002: School of Health Professions Student Symposium for Excellence in Research. 1st place. UW.
2002: Scientific Research Award to the best thesis project (M.Sc.). UW.
2002 and 2001: Irwin Amrani Scholarship Award for outstanding academic achievement. UW.
2006: Marcus Singer Award for Best Presentation at the Biomedical Graduate Student Symposium-CWRU. 
2006: University Hospitals of Cleveland Award for outstanding graduate student presentation. CWRU.
2006-2007: Graduate Student of the Year Award.  Department of Pharmacology. CWRU
2007: Outstanding Poster Award –1st place. Pharmacology Department. CWRU.
2008: Research Showcase Scholarship to the best thesis project (PhD.) (Ohio).
2008: Marcus Singer Award for Best Presentation at the Biomedical Graduate Student Symposium-CWRU.
2008: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Neinmark Award.
2010: Best postdoctoral fellow poster presentation. Cell and Developmental Biology Department. UNC.
2011: Best postdoctoral fellow poster presentation. Cell and Developmental Biology Department.  UNC.
2012: Postdoctoral Award for Research Excellence. UNC.
2013: Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00).  National Cancer Institute (NCI/NIH).