Marcus Noyes, a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology and Program in Gene Function and Expression, has been selected to receive the 2009 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award sponsored by the Basic Sciences Division of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The award recognizes the best graduate students in the life sciences in the nation and world on the basis of the quality, originality and significance of their work. Only 13 students were selected for the award this year.
Marcus’ doctoral thesis research explores ways to accurately and quickly predict which DNA sequences a transcription factor is able to bind to in a genome. The bacterial one-hybrid system developed by Noyes can not only predict where a transcription factor might bind in a genome but also the system can be tailored to engineer artificial transcription factors capable of binding new sequences of DNA. Better understanding of the interaction between proteins and specific DNA sequences can help scientists understand how a network of proteins and DNA sequences interact and control cellular functions.
“Marcus Noyes is a truly outstanding student and a worthy recipient of the Weintraub Award. He is bright, ambitious, courageous and absolutely dedicated to discovery in science,” said C. Robert Matthews, PhD, the Arthur F. and Helen P. Koskinas Professor and Chair of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology. “His achievements will revolutionize the mapping and understanding of transcription factor sites in genomes and his contributions to gene knockout experiments will have a similar impact on biology.” Noyes is the second student from the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology and the third from UMMS to win the prestigious Weintraub award, following in footsteps of Diane Schwarz, PhD, who won in 2005 and Alla Grishok, PhD, who received the award in 2002 after graduating from the GSBS in 2001.
A native of Blaine, Minnesota, Noyes chose to attend UMMS after visiting the lab of Assistant Professor Scot Wolfe, PhD, during his UMMS interview. “I was fascinated by Dr. Wolfe’s research into protein and DNA interaction,” said Noyes. “At the time, I knew I was interested in gene therapy and Dr. Wolfe was genuinely excited about the future of this research. But beyond the excitement, he was one of the first people I met that had a logical, reasonable plan to address these types of research problems. I was fortunate to find a university and a mentor that was doing the type of research I wanted to pursue.”
A graduate of Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Noyes will be joining the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University as an independent Lewis-Sigler Fellow in June, where he will continue to pursue research into predicting the interaction between proteins and DNA.
The Weintraub award, established in 2000, honors the late Harold “Hal” M. Weintraub, PhD, a founding member of Fred Hutchinson’s Basic Sciences Division, who died of brain cancer in 1995 at age 49. Weintraub was an international leader in the field of molecular biology; among his many contributions, he identified genes responsible for instructing cells to differentiate, or develop, into specific tissues such as muscle or bone. The award honors Dr. Weintraub and his enthusiastic support of colleagues, students and young scientists.
Noyes will participate with other award recipients in a scientific symposium on May 1 at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.