CMB students win NSF fellowships!

NSF awardees 2019

Congratulations to CMB students Zena Jensvold, Justin Mabin, and Zach Morrow who each were awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships for 2019, and to Morgan Giese who received Honorable Mention! The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding, early-career graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Forty total fellowships were awarded to UW-Madison students.

Awardee research projects:

Zena Jensvold

Exploring the Epigenetic Character of Histone Modifications

Eukaryotic genomes are packaged into chromosomes by proteins called histones. Histone modifications involved in regulating gene expression are also implicated in epigenetic memory.  I am developing a ‘designer’ histone deposition system to study the epigenetic nature of histone modifications and the regulation of gene expression through cell division.

The tools that I am developing will allow me to study the inheritance of specific histone modification patterns or ‘histone codes’ involved in activation or repression of genes. Understanding how histone modifications function is important for us to fully understand human developmental biology, and by extension the development of cancer and other genetic diseases.

Justin Mabin

Spliceosomal U5 Small Nuclear RNA (snRNA) Sequence Variants Regulate Alternative Pre-mRNA Splicing

The aims of my research project are to determine the role U5 snRNA sequence variants play in regulating alternative splicing programs in human cells, and how they may function differently to regulate these programs. Through transcriptome-wide alternative splicing analysis and targeted biochemical assays we will be able to decipher the molecular phenotypes and mechanisms employed by individual U5 snRNA variants in regulating splicing.

Because alternative splicing defines the transcriptome and therefore human cell identity, this research will impact our fundamental understanding of human cell biology. Identifying how core spliceosomal snRNA components further regulate alternative splicing will provide a broader understanding of how small RNAs can influence gene regulation and how their dysregulation may influence development and disease.

Zach Morrow

Elucidating Signaling Pathways Critical for Immune Cell Specification and Development

I found that mice lacking TPL2, a MAP3K, are deficient in their ability to produce myeloid immune cell precursors in response to cytokine cues. By elucidating the signaling pathways mediated by TPL2, I will gain a better understanding of how immune cell development occurs and can be modulated for therapeutic intervention.

Myeloid immune cells are critical for the initial and sustained response to bacterial pathogens, viruses and cancer. Therefore, elucidating the developmental processes that regulate myeloid immune cell development stands to benefit far-reaching segments of society.