Biochemistry Students Take Home Prizes from ASBMB Poster Contest

A photo of Evan Heiderscheit of the Ansari Lab presenting his poster

Each year, undergraduates from biochemistry labs travel with Department of Biochemistry faculty to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) annual meeting to participate in its poster contest. Keeping with tradition, the students were successful and brought home many awards from the 2017 meeting April 22-26.

“Overall our students represented the department extremely well,” says professor Mike Cox, who organizes the trip and travels with the students. “I had a lot of great comments from the judges about our students. These are terrific young people, and it is a privilege to be around them. These are students we will look back upon with pride.”

Cox added that he was amazed how his 17 students — most biochemistry majors but some from other fields researching in department labs — made up 8% of the 225 students participating but took home 15% of the 20 prizes. In four categories, one top prize is given, along with four honorable mentions.

Andrew DeLaitsch from the Butcher Lab took the top prize in the “DNA, RNA, chromosomes and gene regulation” category, earning a $500 prize. Sam Block, of the Audhya Lab in the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, and Stephen Early, of the Kiessling Lab, both brought home honorable mentions in their categories.

Group photo of biochemistry undergraduates at ASBMB
From left to right, back row: Matt Schneider (Maeda Lab), Sam Block (Audhya), Evan Heiderscheit (Ansari), Laura Sowin (Cox), Hannah Poe (Hoskins), Stephen Early (Kiessling), Maeve McDermott (Dent), Gabriel Epstein, Andrew Delaitsch (Butcher), Patrick Sadecky (Kiessling), Matt Ritger (Cox); Front row: Hannah Mast (Hoskins), Mike Drahnak (Pagliarini), Arthur Clark (Hoskins), Nick Yan (Craig), Runyu Hong (Record), and Lili Kim (Kiessling). Photo by Mike Cox. 

DeLaitsch’s poster was titled “Structural and Biochemical Characterization of the U6 Biogenesis Protein Usb1.” The Usb1 protein is an important component of how genes are expressed, and he presented on the structure of it, as well as discussed how he is mutating different parts of the enzyme to figure out how it works.

“Presenting at the conference was a great experience,” he says. “Having the opportunity to present my work to people from a wide array of backgrounds was a challenging, yet rewarding task. I was pleasantly surprised to have been awarded the prize, as I was not aware I was even in the mix going into the awards ceremony.”

Some students on campus are involved in the ASBMB student chapter, which serves as a resource for students wanting to get involved in research and get the most out of their education in biochemistry or related fields.

“I am incredibly fortunate to have had excellent mentorship throughout my college career,” DeLaitsch adds. “Working in Dr. Butcher’s lab alongside graduate student Allison Didychuk has been extremely rewarding. Immersing myself in biochemistry research has shed light on the significance of my coursework and the importance of possessing a scientific mindset to approach the many problems present today and those that will arise in the future.”