2023 Raymond L. Erikson Thesis Awardees

By Dr. David Wassarman, CMB Chair

Tyler Gibson carried out his thesis research with Dr. Melissa Harrison in the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry. His thesis is titled “Defining properties regulating pioneer factor binding and function”. The prize is awarded to Tyler for broadening our understanding of pioneer factors known to steer cellular differentiation in the fertilized egg. Using the earliest developmental chromatin specifications in Drosophila, he discovered a nuanced explanation of the regulation of pioneer factor binding and activity, testing and modeling these reactions in a cell culture model. The committee lauded Tyler for his scientific insight, intellectual leadership, and cutting-edge technical expertise at both bench and computer, which resulted in an exceptional body of work that will have a durable impact on the scientific community.

Megan Young carried out her thesis research with Dr. Jade Wang in the Department of Bacteriology. Her thesis is titled “Novel roles of diadenosine tetraphosphate (AppppA) as a signaling nucleotide in Bacillus subtilis“. The prize is awarded to Megan for her work on a novel signaling molecule in bacteria, diadenosine tetraphosphate (Ap4A), which she discovered to be an important bacterial alarmone. Prior to her work, this molecule had no ascribed function, although it was known to be present in widespread phyla. Megan devised a molecular probe to find Ap4A binding partners, and together with her collaborators, illustrated Ap4A’s potential as a functional regulator. The committee was impressed by her ingenious application of molecular tools, the completeness of the story she tells, and the broad potential of her discoveries for understanding bacterial growth regulation.