Essays on Science and Society

2004 Grand Prize Winner

Science  11 Feb 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5711, pp. 864
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5711.864

Saba Valadkhan was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. She attended medical school at the Iran University of Medical Sciences from 1989 to 1996 and in 1993 placed fourth in the country in the nationwide Basic Sciences Medical Board Exam. She moved to the United States in 1996 to attend graduate school at Columbia University, New York. There she studied the role of small nuclear RNAs in the human spliceosome under the supervision of Prof. James Manley. While at Columbia University she received awards for both teaching and research. Her thesis was recognized with a Harold Weintraub award from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. In 2004 she joined Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, as an assistant professor and was named a Searle Scholar the same year.

Regional Winners

North America: Benjamin Tu for his essay, “Deciphering Disulfide Bonds.” Dr. Tu was born in Stanford, California, but grew up in Pennsylvania. After graduating from Harvard in 1998, he moved to the University of California, San Francisco. He was awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship and joined the laboratory of Dr. Jonathan S. Weissman, where he worked on a long-term problem in protein folding—how disulfide bonds are formed in proteins that traverse the secretory pathway. Dr. Tu obtained his Ph.D. in 2003 and moved to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where he is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Steven L. McKnight with a fellowship from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. He is currently studying the metabolic cycles of yeast and hopes to apply what he learns to the study of circadian rhythms. In his spare time, he enjoys ultimate frisbee, tennis, ping-pong, puzzles, and Starcraft.

Europe: Christian Haering for his essay, “A Ring for Holding Sister Chromatids Together?” Dr. Haering grew up in Bavaria, Germany. He graduated from the University of Regensburg, Germany, with a diploma in biochemistry in 1999 and in 2000 joined Prof. Kim Nasmyth's group at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna, Austria. Dr. Haering showed that the cohesin complex, required for proper chromosome segregation during cell division, forms a large ring structure with the potential to hold sister chromatids together by trapping them inside rings. His work was recognized with the Austrian Cell Cycle Publication Award in 2002. He received his Ph.D. in 2003 and has recently moved to the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, UK, where he plans to continue working on the mechanism of the cohesin complex.

Japan: Kunihiko Nishino for his essay, “Analysis of Drug Exporter Gene Libraries Based on Genome Information and Study of Their Regulatory Networks.” Dr. Nishino was born in Kyoto, Japan. After graduating from Kyoto Pharmaceutical University he joined the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Osaka University in 1998. Working in the laboratory of Dr. Akihito Yamaguchi, he developed a postgenomic approach to understanding the regulation and function of xenobiotic exporters. He was awarded a Research Fellowship for Young Scientists from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in 2001 and the Kuroya Award from the Japanese Society for Bacteriology in 2002. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2003, he collaborated with Dr. Takeshi Honda at the Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, to extend his knowledge of bacterial pathogenesis. He is now a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Eduardo A. Groisman at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.

All Other Countries: Suvendra Bhattacharyya for his essay, “Mitochondrial tRNA Import: Glimpses of a Complex Molecular Machine.” Dr. Bhattacharyya was born in Calcutta, India. He attended the University of Calcutta, where he obtained his B.S. in chemistry in 1996 and M.Sc. in biochemistry in 1998. He then joined the laboratory of Dr. Samit Adhya at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), where he purified the first mitochondrial RNA import complex (RIC) and established a model of tRNA import in Leishmania mitochondria. After completing his Ph.D. in 2003, he went to Basel, Switzerland, to join Prof. Witold Filipowicz's group at the Friedrich Miescher Institute (FMI), of the Novartis Research Foundation, with postdoctoral fellowships from the European Molecular Biology Organisation and the Human Frontier Science Program Organization. At FMI he is engaged in research on microRNA metabolism in mammalian cells. In 2004 he received the Young Scientist Award of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), India.

For the full text of essays by the regional winners and for information about applying for next year's awards, see Science Online at


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