Gold for Protein Scientist
(June 8th, 2017) Maya Schuldiner from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel is the recipient of the 2017 EMBO Gold Medal. She receives the award for significantly advancing the understanding of protein synthesis, trafficking and quality control in yeast.
The EMBO Gold Medal is awarded annually and recognises outstanding contributions to the life sciences in Europe by young independent group leaders. “Young independent group leaders are essential for a strong research ecosystem,” says EMBO Director Maria Leptin. “They identify important unanswered questions, explore new experimental approaches, and act as mentors for the next generation of scientists. The EMBO Gold Medal highlights some of the remarkable achievements through which this group of scientists drives our understanding of biology.”
Schuldiner uses yeast as a model organism to examine two aspects of organelle cell biology: how proteins that reside inside organelles are targeted to the correct destination and how different organelles interact with each other to drive cell function. Specifically, she focuses on revealing new proteins and their functions in these processes. “Although more than 15 years have passed since the publication of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome sequence, over 30% of the proteins that reside in its organelles have never been studied and more than half of them do not have a known biochemical function. Most of these proteins are conserved all the way to humans and some have been implicated in diseases. One of the great challenges of the post-genomic era is, therefore, to use novel methodologies to fill in these gaps in our knowledge, to uncover the functions of these unstudied proteins, and to delineate pathways and networks that enable the function and communication of these organelles”, Schuldiner describes on her lab's website. In her work, she combines a wide variety of high-throughout screening techniques with cell biological, genetic and biochemical approaches.
Maya Schuldiner began her career, studying developmental biology at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, under the supervision of Nissim Benvenisty. She switched fields to cellular biology for her postdoctoral research, which she carried out in the laboratory of Jonathan Weissman at the University of California, San Francisco. In 2008, she moved back to Israel to establish her own laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Rehovot. Schuldiner is passionate about mentoring and has established a course on combining motherhood and career and a course on scientific soft-skills, which she currently teaches at the Weizmann Institute.
EMBO Member and previous EMBO Gold Medal recipient Matthew Freeman, University of Oxford, UK, describes Schuldiner as “an exceptional scientist, an intellectual leader, and an inspiring character. Maya’s research stands out for successfully merging advanced high-throughput technologies with the ability to ask smart, focused questions.”
For Schuldiner, receiving the EMBO Gold Medal is “a highlight in my career.” She continues: “I’m excited to see that when one is truly passionate about being a scientist and just as devoted to being a mother it is possible to make both work together. And I would like to thank my husband Oren Schuldiner, because without his true partnership in raising our children I could not be as committed to science.”
Schuldiner will receive the EMBO Gold Medal and an award of 10,000 euros at an award ceremony at the ASCB | EMBO 2017 meeting in Philadelphia, USA, on 4 December, during which she will also present her research.
Adapted from EMBO.org
Photo: Ohad Herches, Weizmann Institute of Science