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Michelle Levine: Hans J. Prochaska Award

Hopkins is a world-renowned research institute, but what really struck me about Hopkins from my interview here was although the research was unparalleled, the environment felt very supportive and collaborative and the faculty were very approachable and down to earth.

Michelle Levine

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Mentor: Andrew Holland

Project Details

In the Holland lab, we exploited our knowledge of the master regulator of centrosome biogenesis, PLK4, to create a mouse model in which levels of this protein can be modestly overexpressed to drive centrosome amplification. With this model, we can drive robust centrosome amplification and aneuploidy in diverse tissue types. Using a mouse model of intestinal neoplasia, we observe that centrosome amplification causes an increase in tumor initiation. Most importantly, we find for the first time that centrosome amplification is sufficient to promote spontaneous tumorigenesis in an animal model. This work provides an answer to a longstanding question in the field of centrosome biology and supports the targeting of cells with extra centrosomes in cancer therapy.

Learn more about the Holland Lab.

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

Hopkins is a world-renowned research institute, but what really struck me about Hopkins from my interview here was although the research was unparalleled, the environment felt very supportive and collaborative and the faculty were very approachable and down to earth.

What does receiving this award mean to you?

This award means that professors have recognized my research and that all the hard work that I’ve put in over my time here has not gone unnoticed. In addition, I think it exemplifies the support and value that the school and faculty place in their trainees.

What contributed to your project's success?

My thesis advisor, Andrew Holland, was paramount in ensuring my project’s success. He is very understanding and patient (which is necessary when conducting an over two-yearlong mouse survival study). He supplied me with the guidance, troubleshooting help and tools I needed to see this project through to publication.

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

I think YID exemplifies the Johns Hopkins environment as putting its trainees first. There is definitely the sense that everyone — from the administrators to the professors — cares about the students and fellows and supports us to allow for us to become as skilled and successful as possible.

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

I have really enjoyed attending the annual retreat put on by BCMB, my Ph.D. program, which has allowed us to go off campus for a weekend with students and faculty. I think these retreats have allowed us to get to know faculty outside of our departments and to bond as a program, in addition to hearing about the wonderful research being conducting by our peers.

What are your plans over the next year or so?

Within this next year I hope to make progress on a few more projects I have and see some of them to publication, while for others I hope to be able to train future graduate students to be able to take on those projects.

What are your hobbies or interests?

I am the unofficial lab baker (I bake cakes for everyone’s birthdays). I also run a science outreach project stemming from Project Bridge that does science demos at the Waverly Farmer’s Market once a month.