Nelson Lau is named a Searle Scholar

The university biologist is chosen for his innovative research and potential to advance the understanding of his field

Nelson Lau

Brandeis biologist Nelson Lau was named a 2010 Searle Scholar, an honor that carries $300,000 in research support over three years. Lau was chosen because of his demonstrated innovative research and his potential for making significant contributions to biological research over an extended period of time. In addition, two former Brandeis post-doctoral students were also named Searle Scholars at their current institutions.

The Searle Scholars award will support Nelson Lau’s effort to decipher the molecular function of a class of small RNA molecules that are required for fertility. Germ cells make sperm and eggs, and while germ cells grow, they make a unique group of small RNA molecules called piRNAs. The piRNAs are thought to protect the DNA of germ cells from damage by parasitic elements lurking in the genome, but how they perform that function molecularly and how they shape gene expression is not clear.  The Lau lab will utilize cutting-edge biochemical, computational, and molecular techniques to unravel the mystery of how piRNAs work and how they are made.

Two former Brandeis researchers were also named Searle Scholars: Washington University professor Katie Henzler-Wildman, a former postdoc in biochemist Dorothee Kern’s lab; and David Biron, an alumnus of Piali Sengupta’s lab now at the University of Chicago.
The Searle Scholars Program makes grants to selected universities and research centers to support the independent research of exceptional young faculty in the biomedical sciences and chemistry. This year, 180 applications were considered from recently appointed assistant professors, nominated by 120 universities and research institutions. The final selection of scholars was based on recommendations made by a scientific advisory board of twelve scientists distinguished for their research and leadership in fields of interest to the Searle Scholars program.

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