Pictured from left to right: Atahualpa Castillo Morales, Laura Landweber, Marc Tollis, Alejandra Rodriguez- Verdugo, W. Ford Doolittle, Mia Levine, Sudhir Kumar, Isabela Jeronimo Bezerra Marcos, James Fleming and Joseph Palmer
Congratulations to the recipients of the SMBE 2017 annual awards! As announced at the SMBE 2017 Annual Meeting:
Dr. Mia Levine is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and the Epigenetics Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. The Levine Lab investigates how intra-genomic conflict shapes the evolution of DNA packaging proteins. Together with her trainees, Mia combines evolutionary genetics with transgenics, genomics, and cell biology to identify selfish genetic elements that drive host protein adaptation and to uncover the functional consequences for chromosome integrity and transmission. Mia graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she is now faculty. She earned an MSc in Ecology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign under Dr. Ken Paige and an NSF GRFP-supported PhD in population genetics from the Center of Population Biology at the University of California, Davis under Dr. David Begun. Mia joined the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to work with Dr. Harmit Malik as a postdoctoral fellow supported by an NIH NIGMS Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA and an NIH NIGMS K99 Pathway to Independence Award. Mia is currently a Forbeck Foundation Scholar and recipient of an NIH NIGMS R35 Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award.
W. Ford Doolittle was born in Urbana, Illinois in 1942. He attended Harvard College (BA in Biochemical Sciences) and Stanford University (PhD in Biological Sciences, with Charles Yanofsky). After postdoctoral work with Sol Spiegelman and Norman Pace, he took up a position at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he has been ever since. For twenty years he directed the Evolutionary Biology Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. His 300+ papers include experimental proof of the endosymbiont hypothesis, early molecular studies of cyanobacteria, the first shuttle vector and mapping systems for Archaea, and the metagenomic discovery of actinorhodopsin. Of a more theoretical nature are his developments of the "introns-early" hypothesis, the notion of "selfish DNA", Constructive Neutral Evolution as an alternative to selection, and a reconsideration of the Tree of Life in the light of lateral gene transfer. He is currently more concerned with philosophical issues, such as the meaning of "function" and the possibility of "Darwinizing Gaia". He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and the winner of the 2013 Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal and the 2017 Killam Prize in Natural Sciences, Canada's highest awards.
Toni Gabaldón has a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Valencia, with a special mention. After assisting in teaching tasks and working during 4 years on yeast gene expression regulation at the Biochemistry department of that university, he moved in 2001 to Nijmegen University (The Netherlands) where he worked in comparative genomics and evolution at the bioinformatics department of the NIjmegen Center for Molecular Life Sciences. In 2005 he obtained his PhD from the Nijmegen University, which obtained the NCMLS award for the best thesis of the year. He was awarded and EMBO postdoctoral fellowship to move to the bioinformatics department at CIPF (Valencia, Spain) where he worked during three years in comparative genomics. In September 2008, he was appointed group leader at the Centre for Genomic Regulation, where he is leading the Comparative Genomics group. He also is ICREA research professor since 2013.
Overall, he has authored over 130 publications. 73 of them are published between 2012 and 2017 (27 of which as corresponding author). He teaches bioinformatics and comparative genomics in several Master courses and he is an associate professor at the Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain).
Sudhir Kumar has been an early leader in exploring the theoretical and empirical intersection of evolutionary biology with computational biology, and forging accessible tools that allow researchers from diverse backgrounds to harness the analytical power of modern computational biology. With a background in Biological Sciences and Electrical & Electronics Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, he completed a Ph.D. and postdoctoral work in Genetics at Pennsylvania State University, mentored by Dr. Masatoshi Nei. During this period, he worked to develop the first version of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis (MEGA), a freely-accessible software package that has been maintained and improved over more than 20 years since its release. The enduring popularity of MEGA results from Kumar’s responsiveness to community needs and dedication to accessibility and scientific rigor. He has made numerous contributions to the mathematical theory of phylogenetics through advances in estimating evolutionary distances, inference of divergence times, and algorithms for constructing phylogenetic trees. Kumar and his laboratory continue to work actively on improving phylogenetic theory and applications to the growing field of phylomedicine, which explores disease via phylogenetic methods and makes predictions informed by evolutionary biology. Sudhir Kumar is currently the Laura H. Carnell Professor and the Director of the Institute for Genomics and Evolutionary Medicine at Temple University. He has served the SMBE community as elected Secretary, webmaster, President, chair of the organizing committee of the SMBE annual meeting in 2006 in Tempe, Arizona, and is currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of the society journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Alejandra Rodríguez-Verdugo, Uppsala University, won the MBE Best Student Paper Award (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26500250)
Anouk Willemsen, MIVEGEC - Centre IRD de Montpellier, won the GBE best student paper award (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27604880)
Anna Vickrey, University of Utah, won the Walter M. Fitch Award for Best Student Presentation.
Best Poster Awards for Postdoctoral Researchers:
Atahualpa Castillo Morales
Best Poster Awards for PhD Students:
Best Poster Awards for Undergraduate Researchers:
Isabela Jeronimo Bezerra Marcos