Alberta honors Kay; Lemmon named deputy director; astronaut scholarships for chapter members

Order of Alberta for Cyril Kay

Cyril Kay, ASBMB Emeritus and Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta, has received the Alberta Order of Excellence, the highest award bestowed by the Canadian province’s government.

Cyril Kay

Kay was born in Calgary in 1931 and attended McGill University, where he studied biochemistry. He earned his Ph.D. at Harvard University, where he worked with John Edsall to study the kinetics of bovine albumin dimerization; He then went to Cambridge University as a postdoctoral researcher, working on the structures of muscle motor proteins using a variety of techniques, most notably circular dichroism.

After returning to Canada in 1958 as a biochemist at the University of Alberta, Kay continued to study muscle motor proteins while also becoming interested in RNA structures in wheat embryos. Eventually, he became interested in the structures of a variety of other types of enzymes, glycoproteins, and lipid-binding proteins, particularly how binding affected the structure and other important properties of proteins. He has published extensively in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research along with Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Biochemistry, and other journals.

Kay’s career as a scientific leader and administrator began when he was asked to co-chair the first protein-focused medical research council group in Canada. He led the group from 1974 until the 1990s, when the Canadian government transitioned from supporting medical research council groups to national centers of excellence. He was a founding member of the Protein Engineering Network of Centers of Excellence and later became Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board.

Although Kay retired in 1995 after 37 years as a professor, it didn’t stop there; In 1998 he joined the Board of Directors of the Alberta Science and Research Authority and soon became Vice President for Research at the Alberta Cancer Board. He continued to contribute to research administration, and the late 1990s and early 2000s were among his most productive years in terms of research.

Lemmon was appointed associate director of the Yale Cancer Center

Mark Lemmon, professor of pharmacology, molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University and co-director of the university’s Cancer Biology Institute, was appointed associate director of the Yale Cancer Center, a clinical and research institute, in February.

Markus Lemmon

Research at Lemmon’s lab, which has been part of the Yale Cancer Center since 2015, focuses on receptor tyrosine kinases, or RTKs. These transmembrane receptors include proteins that recognize insulin, epidermal growth factor, and other physiologically important signaling molecules. The team is interested in how ligand binding leads to receptor dimerization and activation, and how the same receptor can bind to and respond differently to multiple different ligands. They are also studying how mutations to RTKs alter protein structures and signaling, driving a variety of cancers, and what inhibitors might be effective in patients with cancers that carry different mutations. Finally, the lab is interested in RTK-related pseudokinases, some of which can activate signaling through the Wnt pathway.

Lemmon earned his bachelor’s degree from Oxford University and his Ph.D. from Yale, where he studied the structural interactions between alpha helices in membrane-spanning proteins. He did postdoctoral research at New York University on the structures of lipid-binding pleckstrin homology domains. Before joining the faculty at Yale, Lemmon was Professor and Chair of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, where he served on the faculty for 19 years. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Astronaut Scholarships for Chapter Members

Two of the 2021 Astronaut Scholars announced by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation late last year are members of the ASBMB Student Chapter: Qianyun Luo and Abigail Sipes.

Qianyun Luo

Abigail Sipes

Qianyun Luo, who calls himself Lexi, is a senior at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, majoring in biochemistry and statistics. Since her freshman year at Madison, she has worked as a research associate in an oncology laboratory studying the metabolism of tumor cells. During the summers she worked at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. She also received a Goldwater Fellowship this year. Upon graduation, Luo will attend the University of Minnesota’s Medical Science Training Program to earn an MD/Ph.D. with a focus on cancer biology and immunology.

Abigail Sipes, who is from Hawaii, is about to graduate from Purdue University with a degree in biochemistry. During the summers, Sipes worked as a research assistant in a lab studying tumor progression at the University of Hawaii Cancer Research Center. At Purdue, she worked in a plant genetics lab during the school year. She also spent a summer as an intern at Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Sipes plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedicine, most likely with a focus on immuno-oncology.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, established in 1984 by a group of astronauts from the Mercury 7 missions, awards scholarships to about 60 science, technology, engineering, and math students each year. The award includes a $15,000 stipend and a weekend conference and gala.

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