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Congratulations to Yi-Ling Chen, Yale Michaels and Falk Schneider, who are the 2019 winners of the RDM Graduate Prize

As in previous years, the calibre of the work done by the nominees was very high, making for a difficult decision. Find out more about our winners: 

yiling2.jpgYi-Ling Chen completed her DPhil under the supervision of Professor Graham Ogg (MRC HIU, MRC WIMM, IMD), where she has investigated the immune networks in human cutaneous inflammation and the translational development of novel therapeutic approaches. Yi-Ling was the first author on a proof of concept phase 2 clinical trial for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, based on targeting the immune system - the trial showed promise treating what is the most common form of eczema. Yi-Ling's other primary project was to identify novel therapeutic targets in sterile skin inflammation, in collaboration with Professors Sarah Teichmann and Muzlifah Haniffa's research groups. Her findings prompt a re-evaluation of the heterogeneity and functional specialisation of dendritic cells in humans. Yi-Ling has also been involved in collaborative work dissecting the involvement of innate lymphoid cells in skin inflammatory disease, and since completing her DPhil, she has expanded her expertise to investigate the role of unconventional T cells in skin diseases. Find out more about her work. 

Yale MichaelsYale Michaels completed his DPhil under the joint supervision of Associate Professors Tudor Fulga and Thomas Milne (both MRC MHU, MRC WIMM), where he developed technology that enables scientists and clinicians to predictably and precise tune gene expression levels. While methods such as knock-in/knock-out technology have been developed for achieving on/off control of gene expression, tools for engineering more precise changes in protein levels were previously lacking. Yale worked with a variety of research groups at MRC WIMM to sequence synthetic miRNA target sites, demonstrating that it is possible to predictably tune gene expression to within 1% of any specified level. He then applied this technology to precisely tune the tumour suppressor BRCA1 as well as genes involved in the anti-tumour immune response such as PD-1 and PD-L1. As a postdoctoral fellow in Peter Zandstra’s lab at UBC’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Yale is currently expanding on this technology with the aim of understanding and controlling T-cell development from pluripotent stem cells. Find out more about his work. 

Falk_Schneider.JPGFalk Schneider completed his DPhil under the joint supervision of Professors Christian Eggeling and Simon Davis
(MRC HIU, MRC WIMM, IMD), where he investigated the motion and organisation of plasma membrane bio-molecules in living immune cells. He was recruited to investigate the motion and organisation of bio-molecules in the plasma membrane of living immune cells, but took the less-used approach of combining stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopywith fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, to directly 'see' molecular diffusion at relevant length time-scales. . Employing a model membrane system, so-called giant plasma membrane vesicles (GPMVs), and STED-FCS, Falk was able to show that most plasma membrane heterogeneity depends on an intact actin cytoskeleton and active processes. This study led to the the development of a new technique to enable spatially super-resolved diffusion measurements, enabling the mapping of molecular diffusion behaviors across a larger area in the plasma membrane of living cells. These methods are however potentially harmful to cells and require a STED laser beam which is not universally available in labs, so Falk (working in collaboration with Marco Frtizsche) developed a statistical analysis pipeline that uses conventional data to infer information about the underlying population dynamics. Falk was also involved in founding and leading the WIMM Graduate Student Association, to further improve the social and scientific environment and connect the WIMM student body. Find out more about his work.