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Dr. Jacey Chen receives NCFA Award

Fellow In Focus

Dr. Jacey Chen, a Research Fellow in the Cell Biology and Biophysics Section, received an NINDS Competitive Postdoctoral Fellowship Award this past April. Her proposal entitled Mechanistic Studies of Microtubule Deglutamylation Enzymes Associated with Neurodegeneration focuses on understanding the mechanism of two of the main enzymes that function as erasers of the tubulin code. The Cell Biology and Biophysics Section led by Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak provides the perfect environment for such a project given her extensive understanding of how the genetic and chemical diversity of tubulin regulates the dynamics and mechanical properties of microtubules and constitutes a code that is interpreted by microtubule-based motors and associated proteins. Dr. Chen will express tubulin carboxypeptidases for structural and biophysical analyses, to understand how they specifically recognize the tubulin substrate and glutamate chains and how they affect microtubule dynamicsutilize. She will use a combination of structural biology approaches (X-¬ray crystallography and cryo-¬EM), enzymology and analytical mass spectrometry to understand how these enzymes recognize their substrate. She also plans to reconstitute microtubule dynamics in vitro in the presence of the two enzymes to understand the effects of the glutamylation/deglutamylation cycle on microtubule dynamics. This is an ambitious proposal, success on this project would provide the first high-resolution structure for any enzyme of the cytosolic carboxypeptidase (CCP) family. Dr. Chen’s long-term goal is to dissect protein mechanism using a multifaceted experimental approach that gives her information about proteins at different spatial and temporal scales.

Dr. Shahriar Sheikhbahaei Receives Independent Research Scholar Award

Fellow In Focus

Dr. Shahriar Sheikhbahaei, formerly a Research Fellow with Dr. Jeff Smith in the Cellular and Systems Neurobiology Section, has recently received an Independent Research Scholar award from the Office of Intramural Research (OIR). This impressive accomplishment has enabled him to establish an independent group call the Neuron-Glia Signaling and Circuits Unit which will focus on the functional architecture of cortical circuits controlling vocalization and breathing in mammals. The NIH Independent Research Scholar Program recruits for Early Independent Scientists to join the Intramural Research Program. New Ph.D., MD, DDS, and equivalent doctoral researchers who have the creativity, intellect, and maturity to flourish in an independent research position are eligible. Successful candidates are provided the resources to establish an independent research program, including salary and benefits, support for lab personnel, lab space, supplies, and start-up equipment. Dr. Sheikhbahaei is the first Independent Research Scholar at NINDS! His unit’s primary objective is to address neurobiology of vocal communication and the pathophysiology of speech motor disorders.

Dr. Emily Petrus Receives a K99 Award

Fellow In Focus

NINDS Research Fellow Dr. Emily Petrus from the Functional and Molecular Metabolism Section in the Laboratory of Functional and Molecular Imaging was recently awarded a K99 - NIH Pathway to Independence Award for her proposal entitled The Mechanisms and Functional Consequences of Inter-hemispheric Plasticity. The ability of the brain’s neural circuits to reorganize after amputation, nerve damage or stroke mediates optimal recovery after a traumatic event. But this neural plasticity can also cause problematic phenotypes such as chronic pain, phantom limb pain or hyperalgesia. Basic research findings from this study will elucidate the specific neurons, synapses and receptors in the circuit underlying adaptive or maladaptive plasticity after peripheral nerve transection. Drs. Alan Koretsky and Ariel Levine are co-sponsors on the award. This is truly an outstanding accomplishment!

2019 DIR Scientific Retreat Awardees

Seven Fellows Awarded for Poster Presentations and Five Selected for Plenary Presentations at the 2019 DIR Scientific Retreat

NINDS congratulates Fellows who were recognized for their outstanding abstract and poster presentations at the 2019 DIR Scientific Retreat. The Poster Session has always been a highlight of the retreat and this year was no exception, we had a total of 80 poster presentations and 79 abstract submissions from Fellows. Posters were evaluated by senior staff for the quality and impact of the scientific content, the poster’s visual appeal, and the oral presentation. The abstract presentations and the poster session offer a great opportunity for Fellows to gain experience presenting their ideas and data.

Rebekah Evans, Ph.D., with the Cellular Physiology Unit; Melanie Falgairolle, Ph.D. with the Develop-mental Neurobiology Section; Anupama Sathyamurthy, Ph.D. with the Spinal Circuits and Plasticity Unit; Jennifer Lefeuvre, M.S., with the Translational Neuroradiology Section; Kaya Matson, B.A., with the Spinal Circuits and Plasticity Unit; Mary Alice Allnutt, B.S., in the Viral Immunology Section; and Beverly Wu, B.S., with the Inherited Movement Disorders Unit all won awards for their excellent poster presentations.


Pictured above: Drs. Ariel Levine (red floral) and Sarah Inati (blue cardigan) award recipients from L to R: Rebekah Evans, Melanie Falgairolle, Anupama Sathyamurthy, Kaya Matson and Beverly Wu (not pictured are Jennifer Lefeuvre and Mary Alice Allnutt who were not present at the time of awards).

Fellows Monica Manglani, B.S., with the Viral Immunology and Intravital Imaging Section; Angela Ballesteros Morcillo, Ph.D., with the Molecular Physiology and Biophysics Section, Julio Chapeton, Ph.D., Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery Unit, Ling Hao, Ph.D., Biochemistry Section and Neurogenetics Branch, and Anupama Sathyamurthy, Ph.D. (also a poster winner) were also honored by being selected to present their work during the plenary session on June 28.

You can view retreat photos HERE and submitted abstracts HERE.

Pictured above: Ling Hao

Congratulations to Graduate Student Alec Nickolls whose submission won the DIR retreat image competition. A number of impressive graphics and images were submitted. The winning image, selected by the committee, was used on all conference material, including posters, badges and the agenda.

Dr. Rebekah Evans Receives K99 Award

Fellow In Focus

Dr. Rebekah Evans, Research Fellow with the Cellular Neurophysiology Unit has received a highly competitive BRAIN Initiative Advanced Postdoctoral Career Transition K99 Award. The BRAIN Initiative seeks to deepen understanding of the inner workings of the human mind and to improve how we treat, prevent, and cure disorders of the brain and it’s award program is designed to increase biomedical research workforce diversity and foster a strong cohort of new, highly skilled and well trained independent investigators from underrepresented groups working in research areas supported by the Initiative. Her project, Dissecting the Inhibitory Architecture of Basal Ganglia Output, focuses on creating a functional map of the inhibitory circuits that influence dopamine neuron activity. This award is an outstanding accomplishment!

Dr. Erin Beck Receives MS Society Career Transition Award

Fellow In Focus

The award addresses the need of finding a way to restore function and stop MS by fostering the development and productivity of young scientists who have potential to make significant contributions to MS research and to help ensure the future and stability of MS research. The award targets current postdoctoral trainees who demonstrate both commitment and exceptional potential to conduct MS-related research. It provides monetary funds over five years to support a two year period of advanced postdoctoral training in MS research as well as an additional three years of funding when she’s independent. Congratulations, Erin!

Dr. Dimah Saade Receives the ASGCT Excellence in Research Award

Fellow In Focus

NINDS Clinical Fellow Dr. Dimah Saade from the Neuromuscular and Neurogenetic Disorders of Childhood Section received the Excellence in Research Award for students and Fellows at the 2019 American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) annual meeting. Her abstract, Review of Safety and Interim Analysis of Efficacy of a First-in-human Intrathecal Gene Transfer Study for Giant Axonal Neuropathy, was one of the top six selected by a review committee and was announced during the George Stamatoyannopoulos Memorial Lecture.


Dr. Sarah Hill receives award from BrightFocus Foundation

Fellow In Focus

Congratulations to Sarah Hill, Ph.D., who is receiving an award from the BrightFocus Foundation for her Alzheimer grant application entitled, Investigating Coordinated Local Translation and Degradation in Axons and the Role of FTD-related Genes. BrightFocus provides research funds for U.S. domestic as well as international researchers pursuing pioneering research leading to greater understanding, prevention, and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Hill is a Fellow mentored in the Inherited Neurodegenerative Diseases Unit under Dr. Michael Ward.

Neurons must balance the removal of old proteins with the synthesis of new proteins. This is especially important at synapses, which are often located far from the cell body. Dr. Hill’s study we will test if local degradation at lysosomes fuels new protein synthesis, and how these processes are coordinated and altered during neurodegenerative disease.