Copenhaver & Thomas Fellowship: Zhang & Patankar

On September 4, 2013 by Grad Forum

Copenhaver2The John H. Copenhaver, Jr., 1946 and William H. Thomas, MD, 1952 Junior Fellowship (which was first awarded during the 2008-’09 academic year) provides stipend support for one or two graduate students in the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) program, with a special interest in students in biochemistry and those beginning their fourth or fifth year of graduate education. The Copenhaver and Thomas Fellowship is made possible by a gift from the late Dr. William Thomas, DC ’52, Geisel ’59, in honor of John L. Copenhaver, Jr., a former professor of biochemistry at Dartmouth.

Past recipients of the Copenhaver and Thomas fellowship have gone on to be postdoctoral researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard, biotechnology business leaders, and others. This year’s two winners are fourth year doctoral candidate Yash Patankar (immunology) and fifth year doctoral candidate Anda Zhang (biochemistry).

When asked for a short synopsis of her work in Associate Professor Larry Myers’ lab, Zhang said, “My thesis project is to study the function of a protein complex called Mediator in epigenetic regulation, with a focus on chromatin structure. I study this question in a human fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, in the hope of developing novel anti-fungal drugs.”

Zhang plans to graduate sometime during the winter/spring of 2015 and is excited for her next adventures in science. “I look forward to a postdoc after my graduation. I would like to apply what I learned from Dr. Myers lab, the solid biochemical skills and the scientific thinking, to study how specific chromatin structures are altered and maintained in human diseases, such as cancer and autoimmune diseases.” Professor Myers observes, “Anda embodies the best principles of the pursuit of scientific knowledge; an irrepressible curiosity; a willingness to extend herself into unfamiliar scientific territory; and the acumen and work ethic to do it all successfully.

While Zhang works on the biology of a eukaryotic (multi-cellular) fungus, Patankar is interested in host-pathogen interactions and works on understanding antibacterial responses. He says, “My thesis project investigates how the innate immune system mounts a response against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic pathogen of clinical relevance and the cause of one of the most common hospital acquired infections. Specifically, I am investigating how the inflammasome is activated in white blood cells in response to Pseudomonas leading to a strong inflammatory response.”

Patankar plans to defend his PhD thesis in the summer of 2015 and continue to work in the field of infectious diseases. “I would like to work in vaccine and biotherapeutics development to devise approaches that will help us better understand pathology and fight infectious diseases,” he says. Patankar’s thesis advisor, Associate Professor Brent Berwin, is also proud of his achievements, stating, “Yash is a talented and hard-working student… I’m very happy for him, that his efforts and productivity have been recognized both with the Copenhaver Fellowship and through being awarded a Selected Talk at the national Leukocyte Biology Conference later this year.”

With this award, Zhang and Patankar join a special group of former MCB students. Congratulations to both Zhang and Patankar on their achievements!

by Jeanine Amacher

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