Allan Wilson Junior Award for Independent Research

This award is intended for outstanding members of the SMBE community who are in the early stages of an independent research career. The primary signal of research excellence is a trajectory of innovative, creative and research that is moving the field of Molecular Biology and Evolution forward.  The prize includes recognition at the annual SMBE banquet, a cash prize of $2000 and a travel award to attend the annual meeting.  This award will be made annually.


2016 SMBE Allan Wilson Junior Award for Independent Research Winner:
Joanna Kelley


Dr. Joanna Kelley is an Assistant Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University. She runs an evolutionary genomics laboratory that focuses on high-throughput genome    sequencing and computational approaches to analyzing big data in genomics. Her research focuses on  understanding the genomic basis for adaptation to extreme environments. She received her B.A. in  mathematics and biology with honors from Brown University, working with Johanna Schmitt. She earned  her Ph.D. in Genome Sciences from the University of Washington under Willie Swanson. As a postdoctoral  researcher at the University of Chicago in Human Genetics with Molly Przeworski, she received a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award. Dr. Kelley was also a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Genetics at Stanford University with Carlos Bustamante.

Award Information

Eligibility: Applicants should be three to seven years post Ph.D.* on the nomination deadline and in a senior postdoc, assistant professor, or equivalent positions prior to tenure.

Nomination:  Nomination will be an open process that begins with a call to SMBE members, typically early in the calendar year.

All nominations will include:

  • A nomination letter that includes a recommendation for the candidate.
  • A one-page statement summarizing the candidate’s work and its fit to the award.
  • A CV of the candidate.  
  • A second recommendation letter.

Process:  The President will convene an awards committee who will choose among those nominated.  It may also choose not to award the prize if no suitable candidates are nominated.


*Years post-Ph.D. may be modified in the case of extenuating circumstances, such as childbirth etc. Extenuating circumstances will be considered by the awards committee on a case-by-case basis. 

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Pan troglodytes (P. t.) troglodytes and P. t. verus.

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Chaetoceros, Cyclotella, Discostella, or Nitzschia. It has been speculated that serial replacement of diatom-derived chloroplasts by other diatoms has caused this diversity of chloroplasts. Although previous work suggested that the endosymbionts of Nitzschia origin might not be monophyletic, this has not been seriously investigated. To infer the number of replacements of diatom-derived chloroplasts in dinotoms, we analyzed the phylogenetic affinities of 14 species of dinotoms based on the endosymbiotic rbcL gene and SSU rDNA, and the host SSU rDNA. Resultant phylogenetic trees revealed that six species of Nitzschia were taken up by eight marine dinoflagellate species. Our phylogenies also indicate that four separate diatom species belonging to three genera were incorporated into the five freshwater dinotoms. Particular attention was paid to two crucially closely related species, Durinskia capensis and a novel species, D. kwazulunatalensis, because they possess distantly related Nitzschia species. This study clarified that any of a total of at least 11 diatom species in five genera are employed as an endosymbiont by 14 dinotoms, which infers a more frequent replacement of endosymbionts in the world of dinotoms than previously envisaged.

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Single-Copy Genes as Molecular Markers for Phylogenomic Studies in Seed Plants

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<span class="paragraphSection">Phylogenetic relationships among seed plant taxa, especially within the gymnosperms, remain contested. In contrast to angiosperms, for which several genomic, transcriptomic and phylogenetic resources are available, there are few, if any, molecular markers that allow broad comparisons among gymnosperm species. With few gymnosperm genomes available, recently obtained transcriptomes in gymnosperms are a great addition to identifying single-copy gene families as molecular markers for phylogenomic analysis in seed plants. Taking advantage of an increasing number of available genomes and transcriptomes, we identified single-copy genes in a broad collection of seed plants and used these to infer phylogenetic relationships between major seed plant taxa. This study aims at extending the current phylogenetic toolkit for seed plants, assessing its ability for resolving seed plant phylogeny, and discussing potential factors affecting phylogenetic reconstruction. In total, we identified 3,072 single-copy genes in 31 gymnosperms and 2,156 single-copy genes in 34 angiosperms. All studied seed plants shared 1,469 single-copy genes, which are generally involved in functions like DNA metabolism, cell cycle, and photosynthesis. A selected set of 106 single-copy genes provided good resolution for the seed plant phylogeny except for gnetophytes. Although some of our analyses support a sister relationship between gnetophytes and other gymnosperms, phylogenetic trees from concatenated alignments without 3rd codon positions and amino acid alignments under the CAT + GTR model, support gnetophytes as a sister group to Pinaceae. Our phylogenomic analyses demonstrate that, in general, single-copy genes can uncover both recent and deep divergences of seed plant phylogeny.</span>