MB&B Dissertation Prize: Mary Ellen Jones

May 20, 2024

It gives me great pleasure to announce that MB&B’s Mary Ellen Jones Dissertation Prize for 2024 will be shared by Kevin Chung and Daisy Duan.  The information below listing each recipient’s advisor, thesis title, and summary for a general audience will appear in a handout at the Graduate School’s Convocation Ceremony on Sunday, May 19, 2024.  I’d also like to thank all the nominators as well as all of our graduates, who produced especially impactful dissertations this year.  Oh, and the faculty members of the Graduate Education Committee who thoughtfully read all of the nomination information!  Also a shout out to ChatGPT for helping write research summaries for a general audience! You can also read a remembrance of Mary Ellen Jones on the occasion of what would have been her 100th birthday.

-Mark Solomon, Director of Graduate Studies

Kevin Chung, Anna Pyle Lab
“Structural Insights into Group II Intron Splicing and Retrotransposition”

Splicing edits genetic sequences for accurate protein production. My research explores how an ancient RNA-protein complex in bacteria, able to self-cut from its parent RNA, developed into the modern splicing machinery and mobile genetic elements that continue to shape our genomes.

Daisy Duan, Tony Koleske Lab
“Regulation of Microtubule Nucleation and Repair by an Abl Family Kinase”

Protein kinases are enzymes that chemically modify other proteins, leading to changes in their functions.  The Abl2 protein kinase was known to regulate actin, a protein that forms filaments termed the cytoskeleton, to mediate changes in cell shape and movement.  My work showed how Abl2 regulates another cytoskeletal structure termed microtubules to grow new microtubules and to repair old ones.