April 9, 2002
MEDIA CONTACT: Joanna Downer
The Next Generation of Scientists Recognized at Johns Hopkins
The best of the best. The cream of the crop. Clichés may accurately describe the winners of this year's Young Investigators' Day awards at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, but their work is anything but run of the mill.
Now in its 25th year, Young Investigators' Day recognizes the substantial contributions of all graduate school and medical students, postdoctoral fellows and medical residents and fellows throughout the school of medicine and hospital by rewarding the advances of some of Hopkins' most talented researchers in training.
This year's winning projects have brought a new anti-cancer drug to clinical trial, shown a common diagnostic observation not to be diagnostic at all and turned more than one scientific field on its head. The award recipients will present their study results and accept their awards April 11, beginning at 4 p.m. in Mountcastle Auditorium in the medical school's Preclinical Teaching Building.
"Young investigators are the heart and soul of the research enterprise," says Paul Talalay, M.D., a driving force in the creation of Young Investigators' Day back in 1978 and a continuing supporter. "Each year we take part in an extraordinary intellectual feast, really, in which our young investigators tell the larger Hopkins community about their discoveries. So many wonderful new ideas are presented, and a sense of happy excitement surrounds it."
The results of more than a few of the recognized projects have been or are about to be published in leading journals such as Cell, Science, Nature, The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine. But while publication in such journals validates the efforts of a budding scientist or research physician, recognition within Hopkins -- not to mention the award checks -- can be an important boost for young investigators.
"Having my work accepted for publication is a great feeling, but receiving recognition from people I know and have a great deal of respect for professionally is something else," says biophysics postdoctoral fellow Colin Garvie, Ph.D., winner of this year's W. Barry Wood Jr. Research Award. "The recognition encourages me in the opinion that I have chosen the right path, which is fortunate considering how much I enjoy what I am doing."
Publications, presentations and the support of a good mentor are common and important ways for young investigators to gain confidence and a boost toward a satisfying career. But celebrating the next generation of scientists in a big way draws the attention of the entire institution, say the day's organizers.
"Young Investigators' Day is a really nice way to recognize accomplished young scientists while at the same time remembering colleagues who made Hopkins what it is today," adds Carolyn Machamer, Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology and mentor of Ph.D. candidate Emily Corse, winner of the 2002 Mette Strand Research Award.
Most of the awards, whose monetary value varies from year to year, were established in memory of people who had educational or research ties to Hopkins. Funds for the awards come from a variety of sources, including family, friends and colleagues of the person memorialized. The Johns Hopkins Medical and Surgical Association, an alumni organization, funds five awards.
This year, roughly two-thirds of the awards were open to students pursuing doctorates or combined doctorates, and one-third to postdoctoral fellows, including clinical residents. Only doctoral degree candidates are eligible for the very first Young Investigators' Day award -- the Michael A. Shanoff Research Award, named in memory of a young investigator who died in a scuba diving accident in 1975. Shanoff, an M.D./Ph.D., earned three degrees from Johns Hopkins.
This year's Shanoff Award recipient is Pamela Frischmeyer, an M.D./Ph.D. candidate in human genetics. Her work, published in two papers in the journal Science on March 22, revealed for the first time how cells get rid of messenger-RNA that has no "stop" signal. Understanding this clean-up mechanism may help efforts to treat many genetic diseases that are caused by mutation or misreading of stop sequences in DNA, she says.
The first Nupur Thekdi Research Award, named for an M.D./Ph.D. student who died accidentally in 2001, recognizes M.D./Ph.D. candidate Jacob Jones, whose research has changed thinking about the proteins that make membranes of a tiny compartment within cells. The Daniel Nathans Research Award went to Mark Levis, M.D., Ph.D., whose studies have led to clinical trials of a new treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia, the disease that claimed the life of the award's namesake, a Nobel laureate and Hopkins professor.
Awards also are made for clinical research. Postdoctoral fellow Lisa Korn, M.D., discovered that screening for osteoporosis in people over age 65 may be beneficial, while cardiology fellow Charles Henrikson, M.D., M.P.H., revealed that nitroglycerin's effect on chest pain does not help diagnosis, contrary to conventional wisdom. Korn received the Helen B. Taussig Research Award and Henrikson the Alfred Blalock Research Award.
For detailed information about all of this year's awardees, visit http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/APRIL/YIDrecipients.html.