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Jason McLellan Awarded O'Donnell Award in Medicine


McLellan c

This month, Dr. Jason McLellan received the 2022 Edith and Peter O'Donnell Award in Medicine from TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas). His research laid the groundwork for vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. They all utilized his spike protein discovery in their efforts to create and distribute life-saving vaccines. The TAMEST 2022 Edith and Peter O'Donnell Award is awarded to individuals whose contributions address the essential role that science and technology play in society, and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness. 

Last year, McLellan was selected also as recipient of the Shirley Bird Perry Longhorn Citizenship Award. This award was created by Sam Perry in 2017, with the purpose of recognizing one or more university students, members of the faculty, staff, administration, or alumni for an individual or collective act that brings honor to The University and that positively impacts civic life. The recipient of this award is to be a trusted, engaged citizen who demonstrates exceptional judgement, compassion for others, boundless energy and a strong work ethic as well as notable pride and love for The University of Texas. 

He also was named the 2021 Texas Inventor of the Year for his role in biomedical research linked to the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. The award is given annually by the State Bar of Texas' Intellectual Property Law Section in recognition of an individual whose invention "has scientifically impacted the Texas economy."

The vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and Novavax, all use the patented technology McLellan and the tram developed in 2017, when he was a faculty member in Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine. The invention also has applications for treatments such as antibody therapies. 

To date, hundreds of millions of people across the globe have been immunized against COVID-19 with vaccines that use the team's spike protein technology. 

Ilya Finkelstein Awarded Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research

Finkelstein Ilya headshotThe Norman Hackerman Award honors outstanding early-career chemical scientists in Texas. It is designed to encourage scientists who are embarking on careers dedicated to increasing our fundamental understanding of chemistry.

Finkelstein joined the Department of Molecular Biosciences in 2012. He is well regarded for his innovative methods to understand how cells repair their DNA and maintain integrity of genetic information. Most recently, Finkelstein shifted his team's focus and developed a critical reagent for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development. He is also on a team of UT Austin faculty who have been working with clinicians in Houston to understand how COVID-19 is mutating by reviewing blood plasma of 5,000 patients. 

"Dr. Finkelstein is a distinguished and impressive biophysicist", said Peter B. Dervan, chair of the Welch Foundation's scientific advisory board. His creativity in the lab continues to move the field with cutting-edge research and discoveries related to DNA repair and CRISPR gene editing. Dr. Finkelstein's recent COVID-19 research also shines light on the importance of ongoing and proactive basic chemical research."

Read more and view a video about Dr. Finkelstein...

Congratulations MBS recipients of the CNS Excellence Awards

2020 Teaching Excellence Award:

Congratulations Dr. David Taylor, Assistant Professor
David Taylor

The College of Natural Sciences is home to a large number of committed, innovative educators that help our students learn a demanding curriculum. The College of Natural Sciences Teaching Excellence Award celebrates the members of our faculty that excel in the classroom.

 

2020 Staff Excellence Award:

Congratulations Yvette Cañedo, Senior Grants and Contracts Specialist

Yvette Cañedo


The College of Natural Sciences Staff Excellence award recognizes members of our community who go above and beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of their job, including outstanding dedication, competence, resourcefulness and customer service. 

Three MBS Faculty Receive Named Professorships, Chair

The Department of Molecular Biosciences is celebrating three professors who recently received honors in the form of named professorships and chairs. To celebrate their appointments MBS has scheduled zoom seminars by each of the new endowment holders. Harshey, Huibregtse and Payne will speak during the MBS Fall 2020 seminar series (listed below).

Photo of Rasika HarsheyRasika Harshey is now the Lorene Morrow Kelley Professor of Microbiology

Seminar date: December 9th, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

 

 

Photo of Jon Huibregtse


Jon Huibregtse
is now the Benjamin Clayton Centennial Professor of Biochemistry

Seminar date: November 18th, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

 

Photo of Shelley Payne



Shelley Payne
is now the Marie Betzner Morrow Centennial Chair

Seminar date: October 28, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

 

 

 

Congratulations!  

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Brandon Okeke Wins Student Legacy Award

Brandon Okeke headshotBrandon Okeke, a biochemistry senior, is one of two accomplished undergraduates who will be honored with the Student Legacy Award at our annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights. He is also the 2020 recipient of the Texas Exes’ Edward S. Guleke Student Excellence Award. Read on to learn more about his experience here on campus, the life wisdom he gained in Beijing, China, and how his hard-working mother inspired him to pursue a rewarding career in medicine.

Programs and activities: Afrikan American Affairs, Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males (formerly AAMRI), Texas Blazers, Black Health Professions Organization, Summer Health Professions Education Program in New Orleans, La.

Finding his center…Early into his freshman year, Okeke found his community within the Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC), a space on campus that educates and empowers students to become leaders and future gamechangers. “The staff are great at finding us opportunities. Whether it’s scholarships, internships or study abroad, they provide so much in one space. While working with students and advisors and staff, especially Malik Crowder, I learned so much about myself and about how other people think.”

Getting organized and mobilized…Among his many duties, he planned and organized a number of events—from New Black Student Weekend to professional development workshops to Title IX info sessions. “It’s easy to get lost on a campus with 50,000 students, so we’re reaching out to students early on to let them know that the MEC is here for them. It has really helped me feel more comfortable with my surroundings and helped me realize that I belong here.”

Beijing bound…In spring 2017, Okeke traveled to Beijing, China with his fellow study abroad students participating in the DDCE’s signature Entrepreneurship in China and the U.S. program. Along the way, he gained new perspectives about himself and others. “I’ll never forget the moment when I climbed to the top of the stairsteps to the Forbidden City that overlooked the entire city of Beijing. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I’m here—and there’s really nothing I can’t do.’ I made this reality for myself.”

A scientist at heart… After his trip abroad, Okeke followed his career path with a renewed sense of confidence—a path that aligns with his lifelong passion for science. “Science has had my heart right from the jump. When I was young, I used to make my own chemistry sets and conduct experiments to see how things worked. During my freshman year, I read my biology book just for fun.”

Rising to greatness…Now as Okeke closes in on his senior year, he’s excited to study medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. His interest in the medical field stems from his admiration of his mother, who overcame a great deal of adversity to become a senior-level nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston, Texas. “She was one of the best nurses in the hospital. She worked really hard and I’ve always looked up to her. I know that if I work just as hard, I could be great as well.”

 

Cross-posted from the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement.

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