GDBBS Awards Banquet 2015

The 6th Annual GDBBS Awards Banquet was held on September 24, 2015, at the Druid Hills Golf Club.

This event also celebrated the achievements of Dr. Keith Wilkinson, Professor, and Vice-Chair, Biochemistry, and Director, Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Download the Event Program (PDF)

Student of the Year Awardees

Emily Kuiper, BCDB

Advisor: Graeme Conn, PhD

Jason Conage-Pough, CB

Advisor: Larry Boise, PhD

Shannon Torres, GMB

Advisor: Roger Deal, PhD

Anna Kersh, IMP

Advisor: Brian Evavold, PhD

Charlene Wang, MMG

Advisors: Guido Silvestri, MD & Satish Pillai, PhD

Nicole Brown, MSP

Advisor: John Hepler, PhD

Lauren DePoy, NS

Advisor: Shannon Gourley, PhD

Chloe Robins, PBEE

Advisor: Karen Conneely, PhD

Award Recipients

Graduate Career Award

Constance S. Harrell Shreckengost, NS, MD/PhD

Advisor: Gretchen Neigh, PhD

Student Teaching Award

Kameryn McCarty Butler, GMB

Advisor: Andrew Escayg, PhD

Career Teaching Award

Scott Wilkinson, CB

Advisor: Anita Corbett, PhD

Student Leadership Award

Crystal Grant, GMB

Advisors: Karen Conneely, PhD & Peng Jin, PhD

Outreach/ Community Service Award

Annie McPherson, GMB

Advisor: Anita Corbett, PhD

Student Mentor Award

Annie McPherson, GMB

Advisor: Anita Corbett, PhD

Faculty Mentor Award

Malu Tansey, PhD

IMP & NS Programs

Distinguished Alumni Award

Elisabeth B. Binder, PhD

Elisabeth B. Binder, PhD has studied Medicine at the University of Vienna, Austria, and Neuroscience at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, USA. Following postdoctoral training at the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, she returned to Emory University as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Human Genetics.

In 2007, she was appointed as research group leader at the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry within the Minerva Program of the Max-Planck Society.

Since August 2013, Elisabeth Binder is the director of the Department of Translational Research in Psychiatry at the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry. She also holds an appointment as an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

Her main research interests are the identification of molecular moderators of the response to environmental factors, with a focus on early trauma and gene x environment interactions. She studies how such factors influence trajectories to psychiatric disease or well-being to ultimately use this information for novel prevention and treatment strategies. She has shown that this gene x environment interaction is mediated by allele-specific epigenetic changes and involves genotype-dependent differences in long-range chromatin interactions. This is the first study to report a molecular mechanism for a gene x environment interaction in psychiatry and provides a unique example of how evolution produces long-term genetic variations that determine the short-term environmental adaptation of an individual via epigenetic processes. This work was mentioned as a research highlight in Nature Genetics Reviews and Nature Neuroscience Reviews and a News and Views article in Nature Neuroscience. The paper first describing the gene x environment interaction of FKBP5 polymorphisms and early trauma to predict post-traumatic stress disorder was highlighted in the Oct. 2012 Special of Nature on Stress and Resilience The Roots of Resilience.

The Director of the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (GDBBS), earned his BS from Albion College and his PhD from the University of Michigan. Following a post-doctoral fellowship with Nobel Laureate Dr. Irwin Rose at Fox-Chase Cancer Center, he came to Emory in 1981 as an Assistant Professor in the Biochemistry Department. He is currently Professor and Vice Chair of Biochemistry. Dr. Wilkinson is an internationally recognized ex- pert in the field of protein ubiquitination and degradation, and a revered and respected teacher. Tonight, however, we celebrate his contributions to graduate education and to the GDBBS in particular.

Dr. Wilkinson is the third Director of GDBBS, serving as interim Director from 2003-2006 and as Director from 2006 until present. He has had a major a major role in every phase of the development of GDBBS, as it has grown from a handful of graduate students to one of the Nation's major, high quality graduate biomedical research and training programs with 400 hundred students, or one third of the graduate student population at Emory.

Dr. Wilkinson was instrumental in the inception of GDBBS in the late 1980s, when he was part of a small group of Emory faculty with the vision and energy to initiate the movement towards revolutionizing graduate education in the biomedical sciences at Emory. Dr. Wilkinson played a crucial role in founding one of the first GDBBS programs, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) and was its Director from 1989 until 1995. He later championed the merger of BMB with Cell and Developmental Biology to form the Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology program.

As GDBBS Director he has overseen many important initiatives and enhancements including the Annual Awards Banquet to honor the achievements of our students; the addition of the Cancer Biology Program drawing on the strength of the NCI-designated Winship Cancer Institute: placing the responsibility for programming and hosting the Career Seminar speakers in the hands of a student GDBBS Career Committee; the GDBBS Career Opportunities in Biological and Biomedical Sciences; the GDBBS Research Symposium to provide students with opportunities to hone research presentation skills and to enhance their portfolios; the GDBBS Division Student Advisory Committee; Scientific Writers at Emory, a student group that publishes a quarterly magazine featuring science topics and the semiannual GDBBS newsletter that reaches out to students, faculty and alumni; and an Early Start program for incoming students.

Dr.Wilkinson has led major efforts to support and develop diversity initiatives for faculty, graduate students and undergraduates. As a result of these efforts, underrepresented applicants and matriculants to GDBBS have tripled over the last 15 years. Together with Dr. Pat Marsteller and LGS, Dr. Wilkinson founded the Emory-LGS STEM Research and Career Symposium to showcase graduate and post-doctoral opportunities at Emory to underrepresented students and their mentors. This was a crucial step in obtaining NIH funding for the Emory Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD), of which is co-PI.

He has also supported the SURE summer undergraduate research program, contributing funding and a platform for expanding this program to bring underrepresented scholars to Emory. Through IMSD he also conceived and led the establishment of the Atlanta Society of Mentors (ASOM), to help foster best mentoring practices at Emory and other participating schools. Dr. Wilkinson established meaningful relationships with the Atlanta University Center and many other historically minority serving institutions including partnering with Xavier University of Louisiana, which has received a $19.6 million grant as part of the national Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative of NIH.

Dr.Wilkinson's legacy is not limited to these tangible achievements. He has been a tireless advocate for students and faculty alike. Truly he is a role model for students, faculty and administrators, who has set a very high standard for others to follow.

Welcome to the sixth annual GDBBS Awards Banquet! As I reflect on my thirteen years of service as the Director of the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences I am most grateful for the respect and cooperation of thousands of students, faculty members, and University administrators. Equally important has been the financial support provided by the Laney Graduate School, research grants from the NIH, and numerous training grants and individual fellowships that our community has obtained. In fact, we top the nation in the number of F31 individual NRSA awards from the NIH, an incredible achievement attributable in large part to the courses in grant writing to which all students now have access.

Many other significant events have come to fruition during my tenure:

  • the establishment of the annual Division Student Advisory Council Graduate Research Symposium;

  • the addition of the Cancer Biology Graduate Program;

  • the founding of the Student Career Symposium to showcase the successes of our graduates and inform our trainees;

  • reorganizing Early Start to fund in-coming students to do a summer research rotation;

  • consolidation of the Graduate Program Coordinators into one office providing support for students and faculty;

  • and a complete redesign and implementation of our GDBBS Database, used to track student progress and outcomes, as well as to prepare the required training tables for NIH T32 grant applications.

Finally, two other developments have enriched the graduate experience for our trainees; the increased emphasis on diversity and the expansion of professionalization and career awareness opportunities. Three years ago we established the STEM Research and Career Symposium, a national meeting that brings over a hundred underrepresented students and their advisors to campus for a two-day research symposium.

We also sponsor several of these undergraduates for Summer Undergraduate Research at Emory (SURE) and support 32 underrepresented graduate and undergraduate students with fellowships and scholarships from our NIH-funded Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD). As a consequence of these and other efforts our graduate programs now admit 20% of their incoming students from demographic groups that are underrepresented in the sciences. Once our students arrive at Emory they have many opportunities that go beyond standard research training. Finally, thirty to forty students and postdoctoral fellows each year undergo extensive exposure to careers and have an opportunity to do internships in their chosen career area sponsored by our NIH-funded Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) program.

It has been exciting times to lead our GDBBS graduate programs, even if it feels like herding cats at times. I will miss it and hope that my successor enjoys the same support, encouragement, and satisfaction that I have experienced.

Thank you,

Keith D. Wilkinson, PhD

Professor and Vice Chair, Biochemistry