Sarachek Fellowship Award Recipient

Damien Downes

Damien Downes

Damien Downes is a doctoral candidate in genetics. His research focuses on the way protein-protein and protein-DNA interaction turn genes on and off in response to different environmental stimuli. The results obtained from his research will lead to a clearer picture of transcriptional regulatory mechanisms in fungi and lay a foundation for future work in fungal pathogens of animals and plants. 

Downes received his bachelor's degree with honours at the University of Melbourne. He plans to complete his doctorate in May 2015. Dr. Richard Todd, assistant professor in plant pathology, is Downes' major professor.

Downes will use the fellowship to relocate and establish himself in Oxford, UK, and begin his search for a post-doctoral position. Downes also plans to attend conferences in 2015 and 2016 to further his research contributions. 

Sarachek Travel Award Recipients

Aashima Khosla


Aashima Khosla’s research focuses on understanding the function of the START (Steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein-related lipid transfer) domain as a regulatory module within plant specific HD-Zip transcription factors of the class IV subfamily.  HD-ZIP IV TFs are involved in differentiation of the epidermis, the outermost cellular layer that plays a critical role in plant defense against pathogens and in protection from environmental stresses. In addition to the plants, START domains are also present in other organisms, such as humans, where inexpression of several members is observed in tumor cells. Thus, gaining a fundamental understanding of START domain function in transcription factors will enable scientists to improve plant traits such as stress resistance, as well as understand more about cancer progression.

Khosla plans to use the funds to attend the 2015 Plant Metabolic Engineering Gordon Research Conference in New Hampshire where she plans to discuss her recent results on putative ligands and protein interacting partners of the START domain.  At this conference, Khosla intends to learn from, exchange ideas and build an academic network with top scholars in the plant community. 

Courtney Passow


Courtney Passow’s research focuses on determining the underlying genetic and physiological mechanisms of adaptation to natural stressor by using an extremophile fish that lives in the presence of naturally occurring toxic hydrogen sulfide.  

Passow plans to use the funds to attend the Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics Gordon Research Conference in Biddeford, ME where she plans to present her research.





Learn more about Al and Rosalee Sarachek.