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Caitlyn Bowman: Paul Talatay Award

It is such a privilege to observe firsthand the history of great researchers who have worked and trained here at Johns Hopkins.

Caitlyn Bowman

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Mentor: Michael Wolfgang

Project Details

The laboratory of Michael Wolfgang uses genetics and biochemistry to define how cells and organisms get energy from the foods we eat and how sensing and responding to nutritional cues is often dysregulated in metabolic disease.

The textbook view is that a developing fetus requires lots of glucose (sugars) to fuel growth and development and that much of this glucose eventually gets broken down within mitochondria. Using a mouse model with impaired mitochondrial metabolism of a breakdown product of glucose, we’ve found that embryonic metabolism is surprisingly flexible and that other nutrients, such as amino acids and fats, can compensate when glucose can’t be used efficiently. We’re interested in how this metabolic adaptation is regulated, and a better understanding of maternal-fetal metabolic communication may help us understand and treat complications like gestational diabetes.

Learn more about the Michael Wolfgang lab

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

I chose Hopkins for my graduate training because of the high quality of the biomedical graduate training programs and the collaborative research environment. I was drawn to how researchers asking the “how” and “why” questions of biology drive important discoveries with significant implications for human health.

What does receiving this award mean to you?

It is a great honor to receive the award named for Dr. Paul Talalay, who founded this tradition of recognizing the discoveries of trainees 40 years ago. I greatly appreciate his passion for mentoring and encouraging junior scientists. 

What contributed to your project's success?

I am incredibly grateful for the guidance and support of my adviser, Michael Wolfgang, who supports my curiosity and encourages me to ask the tough questions and think independently. As often happens in science, this project did not go as planned, but we stumbled upon a completely new line of investigation in the lab. The skills I’ve acquired in the Wolfgang lab can help address important unanswered questions in the field of maternal-fetal metabolic communication.

What thoughts do you have about Young Investigator's Day itself?

To quote Dr. Talalay in his reflections essay published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Journal of Biological Chemistry in 2005, “encouragement…is the tool for identifying and developing scientific talent and potential in the young.” I am grateful to train in an environment that values the role of students and fellows working on the frontlines of biomedical research and that encourages trainees to follow their scientific interests.

What has been your best or most memorable experience while at Hopkins?

It is such a privilege to observe firsthand the history of great researchers who have worked and trained here at Johns Hopkins. I will never forget how honored and humbled I felt when Dr. Dan Lane, a professor emeritus at the time, came to my journal club presentation. Dr. Lane was the postdoctoral adviser of my PI, Dr. Wolfgang, and something as simple as his participation at journal club was a great reminder of the lineage of talented Hopkins researchers who care deeply about training the next generation of scientists. (I should mention here that Dr. Wolfgang was awarded the Daniel Nathans Research Award as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Lane’s lab in 2008.) 

What are your plans over the next year or so?

After graduation, I plan to continue my work in the field of metabolic biochemistry as a postdoctoral researcher.

What are your hobbies or interests?

Outside of the lab, I enjoy competing in sports such as field hockey with my team, the Bawlmer Hons, and volleyball with fellow graduate students.