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Melanie de Almeida wins the Lauwers Award

08 Nov 2021
Melanie de Almeida. Credit: IMP

During their doctoral studies, students in the Vienna BioCenter PhD Program present their research three times in Monday Seminar talks to the Vienna BioCenter community. Every year, the best presentation is presented with the Lauwers Award. This year, we congratulate Melanie de Almeida from Johannes Zuber’s lab for her excellent talk.

Melanie de Almeida started her PhD in the lab of Johannes Zuber in 2017, driven by the scientific curiosity that defines the spirit of the IMP. She did her undergraduate studies in molecular biotechnology at Aachen University in Germany and received her master’s degree in human biology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

For her doctoral research, she investigates the regulation of the transcription factor MYC which, when overexpressed, contributes to causing certain types of cancer. In close collaboration with her colleague Matthias Hinterndorfer from the same lab, she recently published her latest findings in the journal Nature.

She and Matthias developed a time-controlled CRISPR screening assay to systematically identify regulatory pathways controlling MYC expression. With their assay, they were able to precisely control the timing of gene editing. This control tool enabled them to study the direct effects of each gene knockout on MYC expression, independent of potential effects on cell viability.

Using their method, they identified a new regulator of MYC that they had not expected: a small protein called AKIRIN2 that seemed to regulate the turnover of nuclear proteins. They investigated the mysterious protein further and unveiled its essential role for the import of the proteasome into the nucleus.

Melanie presented this fundamental discovery in a clear, structured, and engaging talk, and has convinced the jury.

“Giving Monday Seminar talks can be daunting, because many faculty members and colleagues attend, but I really enjoy giving presentations,” Melanie says. “I feel very honoured to receive the Lauwers Award and to see that people also enjoy listening to them.”

About the Mattias Lauwers Award

The award is named after the late Mattias Lauwers, a talented young PhD Student in the group of David Keays, who tragically died in 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.

Further reading

Lauwers Award of the Vienna BioCenter PhD Program