I was hoping to get round to doing this last week, but things exploded. Luckily, Peggy over at the Women in Science blog has written up a great post about Lin He and Beth Shapiro, two women scientists who received the $500,000, no-strings-attached grant this year:
Lin He’s research involves a class of small ribonucleic acid, or RNA, that are not transcribed into protein like messenger RNA. Instead, these microRNAs or miRNAs bind to messenger RNA to regulate the amount of protein produced. This entirely new level of dosage regulation in mammals was not realized until 2000, even though miRNAs were first discovered in 1993. Now, miRNAs have been shown to be involved in many aspects of development and diseases, He said.
Beth Shapiro is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Pennsylvania State University. She is “an evolutionary biologist who integrates molecular phylogenetics with advanced computational biostatistics to reconstruct the influences on population dynamics in a wide variety of organisms.” She is using the methods she and her colleagues developed to study the population history of recently extinct (like the dodo) or currently threatened species to assess the effects of environmental change on polar bear populations, an approach that will help in shaping conservation efforts. She also has been studying the evolution of RNA viruses in individual patients, an approach that may help in understanding the development of virulence in human pathogens.
Penny’s post also includes video and further links.