Congratulations Brian Strahl, PhD, professor and vice chair of the department of biochemistry and biophysics, and Jen Jen Yeh, MD, professor and vice chair of research for the department of surgery, who were selected by the UNC School of Medicine for the annual award in honor of Oliver Smithies, UNC’s first Nobel Prize winner.
The UNC School of Medicine selected Jen Jen Yeh, MD, professor and vice chair of research for the department of surgery, and Brian Strahl, PhD, professor and vice chair of the department of biochemistry and biophysics, as Smithies Investigators, an annual award to honor senior faculty members who have made significant research contributions and achieved international recognition for their work. Both are members of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Yeh has a joint appointment in the department of pharmacology.
The award was established in honor of the research achievements of UNC Nobel Prize Winner Oliver Smithies, DPhil, the Weatherspoon Eminent Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. The Smithies Investigators receive $75,000 for research over a five-year term, become members of the Oliver Smithies Society, and will present highlights of their research accomplishments at a special seminar in the fall.
Strahl is a leader in his field of epigenetics and the faculty director of the UNC High-Throughput Peptide Synthesis and Array Facility. He started his lab at UNC in 2001, and it has been at the forefront of understanding how histones and their covalent modifications regulate chromatin structure and function, with a particular focus on how chromatin impacts gene regulation. His lab is also engaged in a high-throughput proteomics project involving histone peptide arrays to decipher how histone modifications – and the histone codes they generate – regulate the recruitment of chromatin-associated proteins that govern the diverse functions associated with DNA.
In addition to mentoring a large group of students, postdocs, and research staff, Strahl also co-founded a UNC start-up company called EpiCypher, which was selected as one of the two best start-ups by the US Congress in 2016. He is routinely invited to speak at universities for seminars, to attend major meetings and is a standing member on an NIH study section. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the Philip & Ruth Hettleman Prize, an NIH Eureka Award, and selection as a PEW Scholar.
Oliver Smithies, a faculty member at UNC for more than 25 years, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2007. He co-discovered a technique he called “gene-targeting,” which allows scientists to study genetic mutations by knocking out specific genes in mice. The method became ubiquitous in basic research labs and opened up a new kind of scientific inquiry into many different diseases.
Each year, the annual Oliver Smithies Nobel Symposium is hosted at the UNC School of Medicine.
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