Outstanding academic and research work earns three doctoral students Sarachek awards
Friday, May 15, 2020
MANHATTAN — Three Kansas State University doctoral candidates have received Sarachek awards for their academic and research achievements.
Konner Winkley, doctoral candidate in biology, Topeka, was awarded the $17,000 Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek Predoctoral Honors Fellowship in Molecular Biology. Awarded the $1,000 Sarachek Scientific Travel Awards were Anil Pant, doctoral candidate in biology, Nepal, and Paula Silva Villella, doctoral candidate in genetics, Uruguay.
Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek, Wichita, established the fellowship and travel awards to recognize resident graduate students enrolled in a doctoral program at Kansas State University who have demonstrated exceptional research and scholastic accomplishments. An interdisciplinary faculty selection committee determines the fellowship and award recipients. The awards program is offered through the university's Graduate School.
Winkley's research works toward a quantitative and comprehensive understanding of organ formation. He uses an invertebrate organism that is a close relative of the vertebrates to understand how the cells that make up an organ become the right kind of cell by expressing the right set of genes. He also studies how those cells then build an organ of the correct shape. Winkley has identified a new mechanism to control organ shape that is based on asymmetries in the way that cells divide. Michael Veeman, associate professor in biology, is Winkley's major professor.
Upon earning his doctorate, Winkley will begin a postdoctoral research position at the Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at the Children's Mercy Research Institute in Kansas City. He will use quantitative genomic analyses to understand rare pediatric diseases. The Sarachek Fellowship will support Winkley's transition from graduate school to his postdoctoral research position.
One goal of Pant's research is to study the changes in levels of different metabolites of a host cell after vaccinia virus infection and determine if the virus depends on specific nutrients for efficient replication. A second goal of his research is to identify the host factors and viral proteins that are important for the alteration of host cell metabolism upon vaccinia virus infection. Pant's research contributes to the identification of virus-host interactions that could be targeted to develop effective anti-poxviral therapies. Pant will use his travel award to attend the XXII International Poxvirus, Asfarvirus, and Iridovirus Conference in Philadelphia. The conference was originally scheduled in June but is being rescheduled. Zhilong Yang, assistant professor of biology, is Pant's major professor.
Silva's research is focused on wheat breeding for disease resistance. Specifically, she is interested in identifying genomic regions responsible for resistance to barley yellow dwarf virus, wheat curl mite and wheat blast fungus. Through extensive genome sequencing and phenotyping of cultivated wheat and their undomesticated wild ancestors, she aims to identify novel genes and genetic regions that can be used to reduce the vulnerability of wheat to these diseases and pests. Silva will use her award to attend the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative Technical Workshop in Norwich, United Kingdom, where she will receive the 2020 Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum Early Career Award. The meeting was originally scheduled for June but is being rescheduled. Jesse Poland, associate professor in plant pathology, is Silva's major professor.
Alvin Sarachek received his doctorate in genetics from Kansas State University in 1957. He and his wife, RosaLee Sarachek, created the fellowship and travel awards because he valued the university's tradition of offering a broad array of quality programs in the life sciences, many with outstanding national reputations. The Saracheks wanted to contribute to the tradition of excellence by recognizing students who have demonstrated exceptional research accomplishments involving molecular approaches to biological problems.
More information on the Sarachek awards is available on the Graduate School website.