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Beckman Scholars




VU Beckman Scholar: Claire Cato

B.A., Molecular and Cellular Biology (anticipated), 2014, Vanderbilt University Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Claire arrived at Vanderbilt University in 2010. She began undergraduate research under the direction of Dr. Brandt Eichman in the spring semester of 2011. Her work focused on determining the atomic structure of a DNA repair enzyme using X-ray crystallography with the goal of optimizing the binding affinity of small molecule inhibitors to this enzyme. These DNA repair enzyme inhibitors may have therapeutic potential for cancer patients when used in combination with DNA damaging drugs in chemotherapy. In addition to conducting research through the VU Beckman Scholars Program, Claire enjoys performing in dance recitals and playing the piano.


VU Beckman Scholar Mentor: Brandt Eichman, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Biochemistry

Dr. Eichman received his B.S. in chemistry in 1993 from the University of Mississippi, where he trained in organic synthesis and physical biochemistry. As a graduate student with P. Shing Ho at Oregon State University, Eichman used X-ray crystallography to study the effects of small molecules on the atomic structure of DNA and determined the landmark structure of the Holliday Junction, the four-stranded DNA intermediate formed during genetic recombination. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics in 2000. From 2000-2004, Eichman was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Tom Ellenberger at Harvard Medical School, where he investigated the crystal structures and biochemical mechanisms of DNA replication and repair proteins. Since joining the faculty at Vanderbilt University in 2004, Dr. Eichman continues to study the structural biology of protein machines involved in genome maintenance and DNA processing, and holds major research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the National Science Foundation. With appointments in both the College of Arts and Science and Vanderbilt Medical School, Dr. Eichman teaches introductory and advanced biochemistry, protein biophysics, and macromolecular X-ray crystallography. He is an active member of the Vanderbilt Center for Structural Biology, the Center in Molecular Toxicology, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology. He belongs to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Chemical Society, and the American Crystallographic Association. Dr. Eichman holds the 2009 Young Investigator Award from the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, and was awarded the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Impact Award in 2010 and the Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Award for Research in 2011.


VU Beckman Scholar: Shyam Murali

Shyam Murali, a senior at Vanderbilt University, was selected to be a Beckman Scholar in April 2012. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and hopes to attend medical school. Throughout grade school, he was an active participant in the science fair and won many state and national awards and honors. When he reached high school, his interests turned toward biomedical research. After working in a neuroscience lab, where he investigated the effects of antioxidants on learning and memory, Shyam worked for three summers in an endocrinology lab at the University of Texas Southwestern. There he studied Congenital Generalized Lipodystrophy (CGL) and the isoforms of 1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate-O-acyltransferase (AGPAT), which, when mutated, can lead to a general lack of fat. At Vanderbilt University as part of the Beckman Scholars Program, Shyam will be working with Dr. Katherine Friedman on the effects of telomerase at telomere-addition hotspots within the chromosome. Over the course of the next 15 months, he will be investigating the mechanisms that result in de novo telomere addition in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. His other interests include music and sports (basketball, soccer). As a professional Indian Classical saxophonist, he travels the country giving concerts for cultural programs, fundraisers, and other events.


VU Beckman Scholar Mentor: Prof. Katherine Friedman, Department of Biological Sciences

Dr. Friedman began her research career as an undergraduate student at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. She received her Ph.D. in 1996 from the University of Washington in Seattle and completed post-doctoral work with Dr. Thomas Cech at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She joined the Vanderbilt faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2001. Dr. Friedman's lab uses the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model organism to understand the replication of chromosome ends, or telomeres. Telomeres serve to protect chromosome ends from degradation and to facilitate complete chromosome replication. This replication is catalyzed by the enzyme telomerase. Recent evidence that the activation of telomerase plays a vital role in the growth of cancer cells has raised interest in the development of drugs that inhibit telomerase as potential cancer chemotherapeutics. Dr. Friedman's lab uses genetic and biochemical approaches to examine the structure, assembly, and regulation of yeast telomerase, with the long term goal of applying this knowledge to the development of strategies for the inactivation of telomerase in human cancer cells. Her lab is powered by a vigorous group of graduate and undergraduate researchers.

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