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Lauwers Award for Paula Gutiérrez Pérez


21 Dec 2020
Paula Gutiérrez Pérez

Despite the exceptional circumstances of 2020, the Lauwers Award for the best Monday Seminar talk has remained a constant. This year’s awardee is Paula Gutiérrez Pérez from Luisa Cochella’s lab.

Paula Gutiérrez Pérez joined Luisa Cochella’s lab at IMP as a PhD student in 2016. “I’ve always been fascinated about how a single cell is able to develop into a functional organism”, says Paula. “and I love studying the role of microRNAs in the development of organs.”

During the four years of her PhD research, Paula found that the deeply conserved and muscle-specific microRNA miR-1 represses several subunits of the vacuolar ATPase (V-ATPase) complex, a key player in the acidification of internal compartments and a hub for metabolic signaling, and of DCT-1/BNIP3, a mitochondrial protein involved in mitophagy. These results indicate that miR-1 could be essential to control the mitochondrial-lysosomal axis in muscle. Paula also found that the functional relationship between miR-1 and the V-ATPase complex is conserved in both the nematode worm C. elegans and the fruit fly D. melanogaster, suggesting a conserved regulon across animals.

Prior to her PhD studies, she did a master’s in molecular biomedicine on a research fellowship, studying the molecular basis of synaptic plasticity in the lab of Francisco Javier Díez-Guerra at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain. Specifically, Paula studied the role of phosphatidic acid and neurogranin during long-term depression and long-term potentiation in the hippocampus. Mutations in neurogranin have been identified as a risk variant for schizophrenia.

Paula did her undergraduate studies in biochemistry at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid from 2010 to 2014, a course to which she was admitted with distinction as one of the 100 best applicants university-wide.

About the Mattias Lauwers Award

The Mattias Lauwers Award recognizes a student who has given the best seminar at a Vienna BioCenter Monday Seminar in the previous academic year. The award is named after the late Mattias Lauwers, a talented young PhD Student in the group of David Keays, who tragically died in the course of a sports accident in 2014.

The Lauwers family created the award. The criteria for it aim to reflect Mattias’ dedication to research and presenting it to peers and colleagues, and the selection process draws from both peers and mentors: the students of the Vienna BioCenter PhD Program nominate who they consider the best speaker, and based on these nominations, the Steering Committee selects the laureate. The Lauwers family traditionally presents the award at the Vienna BioCenter PhD Symposium, which unfortunately will not be the case this year due to the pandemic.

Further Reading

Preprint on BioRxiv
Lauwers Award of the Vienna BioCenter PhD Program