Lots of prizes at MBG's Annual Meeting
At the annual meeting of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, as many as ten prizes were awarded to the best lecturers of the year, the best student teacher of the year, the Kjeld Marcker PhD Awards, the poster pitch prize and the poster prize.
Best Lecturer of the Year and Best Student Teacher of the Year
MBG's student council (MoGenS) has been responsible for conducting a poll among the students at the department to find out who they thought was the Best Lecturer of the Year, and for the first time, two employees received an equal number of votes, namely Magdalena Pyrz and Charlotte Rohde Knudsen (who was awarded the prize for the 5th time). The award for Best Student Teacher of the Year went to Kenneth Green.
Poster/poster pitch prizes
During the annual meeting, the PhD students/postdocs were given 2 minutes to present their research, and here Camilla Høst made the best presentation, while Marcela Alejandra Mendoza Suarez received the prize for best poster.
Kjeld Marcker PhD award
As no Kjeld Marcker PhD Awards had been awarded in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 closures, as many as six PhD awards were given to Mikael Becher Lykkegaard Winkler, Sean Dean Lykke Harwood, Caroline Marie Teresa Neumann , René Lysdal Bærentsen, Julie Lund Petersen and Niels Bøgholm.
Justification for receiving the Kjeld Marcher PhD award
The chairman of the PhD committee at MBG (Ernst-Martin Füchtbauer) had the following justification why these six received the award:
Mikael Becher Lykkegaard Winkler worked under the supervision of Bjørn Pedersen and defended his PhD thesis on October 23rd, 2020. During his PhD project, he was the driving force of a newly initiated project on sterol trafficking, which has high medical relevance for both metabolic diseases and infection with certain viruses like Ebola. Mikael published his results in Cell, well before his PhD was finished. This, and a following paper in Biochemistry, opened a new field and has stimulated several high impact papers from other groups around the world. After he finished his PhD, he co-founded a biotech company, another proof of his innovative mind set.
Sean Dean Lykke Harwood defended his PhD on April 27th, 2021. When he started his PhD project under the supervision of Jan Enghild, the main focus was to develop new mass spectroscopic methods for protein characterization using a2-Macroglobulin as a model protein. However, his work quickly took a much more functional direction when he found that conformational changes of the a2-Macroglobulin protein could be used to hide and free proteins like e.g., therapeutic antibodies. His very broad spectrum of techniques and projects resulted in a total of 10 published papers, in addition to the 6 papers that are based on his previous work, done before his PhD. There is no question that this was a PhD project with exceptional output.
Caroline Marie Teresa Neumann did her PhD under the supervision of Poul Nissen. She defended her work on June 25th, 2021. As a starting point of the PhD, she determined the structure of the hydrophobic amino acid transporter MhsT with all its relevant substrates and revealed an elegant two-state switch and flexible binding pocket that accepts different categories of amino acids. She then turned to the Sodium-Potassium cotransporter NKCC1 and determined its structure with very high resolution using cryo-EM. She continued with functional studies in cells and corrected mechanistic misinterpret-tations which were based on earlier studies. She applied several state-of-the-art methods, which was possible because she involved herself in numerous collaborations in order to get most out of her original findings. Her PhD work resulted in 4 published papers including one EMBO Journal and several which are on the edge to be published again including an EMBO Journal manuscript under revision.
René Lysdal Bærentsen defended his thesis on October 10th, 2021. During his PhD which he did under the supervision of Ditlev Brodersen, he was the driving force of two different projects about regulation of the bacterial nucleosidase PpnN and structural studies of the E.coli HipBST toxin-antitoxin system. On both projects, his work was exceptionally successful, and he had his shared 1st authorship in Molecular Cell already before his qualification exam. Altogether, he has published 4 papers during his time as PhD student. In addition to his scientific work, he engaged at the institute at large. He was co-organizer of the structural biology Friday bar which now developed into one of the new unifying social events at MBG. He was an active member of the MBG PhD association, served as chairman of AUPA, the Aarhus University PhD association, and was our representative at the faculty PhD committee.
Julie Lund Petersen performed her PhD study under the supervision of Lotte Bjergbæk and defended her thesis on March 18th, 2022. During her PhD she worked with three projects. In the most challenging one, she was the driving force to develop the first system in which specific DNA repair mechanisms can be analyzed in detail in human cells. The two other projects were more conventional in the way that she used yeast, the normal study object of the lab. However also here she managed to establish new methods in the lab that had not been used before. Julie was also very engaged to make MBG a better place and was part of the group of PhD students who started the GreenMBG initiative to reduce the environmental impact of our daily work. Last but certainly not least, Julie was an active member of the MBG PhD association, participating in the organization of the yearly PhD conference and member of the PhD program. Among the engage PhD students, she was probably the most pro-active in pointing out areas where a small extra input from the Phd program could make a real difference for individual PhD students.
Niels Bøgholm defended his PhD thesis on March 31st. He had done his PhD study under the supervision of Esben Lorentzen where he studied how Rab12-GTPase regulates the intraflagellar transport within cilia. The project was very challenging and bared many technical problems but anyway, he managed to push the technical limits of the lab in several areas. This enabled him to gather important data on protein trafficking in cilia. This gave a new view on how IFT-B enters the cilia and binds cargo for ciliary trafficking. A new insight, that is expected to seminally influence many other cell- and molecular biology studies. In addition to his demanding project, Niels was very active in the MBG PhD association which he co-chaired. He was a driving force in the organization of the MBG-PhD conference, of social events during the lockdown, particularly around the first corona Christmas. Finally, he also has represented the PhD students in the MBG PhD-program.
Recognition of huge work in connection with MBG's move to the University City
Head of Department Erik Østergaard Jensen presented a large bouquet of flowers to Anna Marie Nielsen, who has done a huge job in connection with the planning of the construction project, where she has sat for regular meetings with architects and engineers throughout the process, which started in 2018. She also has been a key person in connection with the move and the huge work that followed after we moved into the University City to follow up on the things that needed to be fixed.