On March 21, 2016, the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences held the 20th annual Julius Marmur Symposium, which honors excellence in graduate student research. It also honors the memory of its namesake, Dr. Julius Marmur, who, until his death in 1996, was an Einstein faculty member for 33 years.
Event posterDr. Marmur is remembered today as one of the founding fathers of molecular biology. While working in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Doty at Harvard University, he collaborated with Dr. Carl Schildkraut (currently professor of cell biology at Einstein) to define the characteristics of DNA strand separation, renaturation and hybridization. Their discovery that denaturation of DNA was reversible and depended on salt and content of guanosine-cytosine—two of the building blocks of DNA—laid the foundation of recombinant DNA technology.
“At that time, several investigators were very surprised to learn that the strands of DNA could be completely separated and recombined in almost perfect register,” Dr. Schildkraut noted. He recalled Max Delbruck, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1969, having reviewed their paper and commenting, “This reviewer believes that this thesis has not been proved, and it is very likely not true!”
Dr. Carl Schildkraut, research collaborator with Dr. Julius Marmur, with Mrs. Mildred MarmurSpeaking of Dr. Marmur, Dr. Victoria Freedman, associate dean for graduate programs, reminisced about her days working in his laboratory as a rotation student during her first year of graduate training at Einstein. “I remember him chomping on his pipe while offering words of wisdom on a range of topics from experiments to life lessons,” Dr. Freedman shared.
“He was an excellent teacher who brought 20th century understanding of molecular biology to students, and he was very supportive, always encouraging us to aim for higher scientific goals. In fact, he always marked celebratory occasions for graduate students by writing a poem that combined scientific snippets with helpful advice.”
Describing the importance of the Marmur Award to graduate students, Dr. Freedman said, “Winners are decided by an independent committee of faculty members who haven’t personally worked with the students. So, being considered for the award means the research work is likely to have a high impact on the field of study.”
She added, “In their minds, students view the Marmur Award as an acknowledgment of exemplary research work, an achievement worthy of displaying on their CV.”
This year, four outstanding graduate students—Dachuan Zhang, Veronika Miskolci, Philip Campbell and Fanny Cazettes—received recognition for their research contributions and the opportunity to present their award-winning research.
Mr. Zhang was awarded for his work on neutrophil aging, which he completed in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Frenette. “Winning this award means recognition of my efforts and achievements by the Einstein research community,” he noted. “It has made me confident to pursue biomedical research further.
“This award will help me demonstrate my research capabilities when I apply for jobs and funding opportunities in the future,” he added.
Ms. Miskolci explained her research using biosensor tools to understand the particular roles of a class of signaling molecules known as Rho GTPases in immune cells. She performed her work under the guidance of Dr. Dianne Cox and Dr. Louis Hodgson.
Award recipients (from left): Dachuan Zhang, Veronika Miskolci, Fanny Cazettes and Philip Campbell“As graduate students, we work hard and I’m lucky to have peers I can look up to for their dedication. It’s one of the reasons I’ve loved being a Ph.D. student at Einstein,” she observed. “Being selected for this award has made me a part of my school and Dr. Marmur’s heritage. It’s a tremendous honor.”
Mr. Campbell, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Florence Marlow, received the award for his work on zebrafish development. “This award has provided me a platform for sharing my research with a wider audience,” he said. “Julius Marmur made noteworthy contributions to his field, and I’m inspired to do so in my area of research.”
Ms. Cazettes completed her research on how the brain handles sensory uncertainty in the laboratory of Dr. José Luis Peña. She defended her thesis recently and described winning the award as “the best way to end a Ph.D.”
“It’s recognition of my years of hard work. Women are highly underrepresented in my field, computational neuroscience. So, it’s particularly validating for me as a female neuroscientist.”
“What makes the Marmur symposium extra-special is that, apart from the awardees, other graduate students also present their thesis research at a poster session held later in the day,” said Dr. Freedman. “Students from all years participate, even the first-years. It’s a great opportunity for them to showcase their accomplishments.”
Mildred Marmur, Dr. Marmur’s widow, typically attends the event each year. She was in attendance on the day prior to what would have been her husband’s 90th birthday and observed, “If Julius were around, he’d be thrilled to know that the Einstein community is keeping his legacy alive in such a wonderful way.”
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Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2016