Turkish scientist's discovery of how proteins work

Sponsored by GE Healthcare and Science

WASHINGTON, DC — For his discovery of how proteins work within cells, Ahmet Yildiz, a regional winner from North America and the Grand Prize winner, today was named to receive the $25,000 Young Scientist Award, supported by GE Healthcare and the journal Science.

He will receive his award in St. Louis on Saturday, February 18, during the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, which publishes Science.

"First, Ahmet has improved single molecule fluorescence by developing a technique that can locate the position of a single dye to within 1.5 nanometers, which is 20 times better than has previously been achieved and 200 times better than the classical diffraction limit of light," said Professor Paul R. Selvin, who supervised his graduate work at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. "Ahmet then applied this technique to measure how Myosin V, a biomolecular motor involved in intracellular transport, moves."

Ahmet Yildiz received the grand prize for his essay, "Elucidating the Mechanism of Molecular Motor Movement." Yildiz grew up in Sakarya, Turkey. In 2001, he received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Bogazici University, Istanbul, and started his graduate studies in biophysics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

"Science is delighted to name Ahmet Yildiz as a Grand Prize winner in the 2006 Young Scientist Award competition," said Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science. "After his arrival at the University of Illinois from his native Turkey, Yildiz developed a new technique for fluorescence imaging that allowed him to identify the ‘walking mechanism’ used by protein motors in living cells."

Working in the research group of Paul Selvin, he developed the technique of fluorescence imaging with one-nanometer accuracy (FIONA). This work was recognized with a Foresight Institute Distinguished Student Award in 2003. He went on to use FIONA to study the molecular walking mechanism of the motor proteins myosin V, myosin VI, and kinesin. Yildiz received his Ph.D. degree in 2004, and his thesis was awarded the Gregorio Weber International Prize in Biological Fluorescence. In 2005, he moved to the University of California, San Francisco, where he is a postdoctoral fellow in the research laboratory of Ronald Vale. He is currently studying the structural mechanism of cytoplasmic dynein.

"Young researchers drive progress in science," said Christoph Hergersberg, global technology leader of biosciences at GE Global Research. "They are also the scientists who probably combine most time in the lab with creative thinking. Hence, an accomplishment like the one from Ahmet Yildiz is a true inspiration not only for young scientists but also for senior scientists and the whole community. GE Healthcare and GE Global Research are proud to support this growth of talent through the Young Scientist Award."

Each year since 1995, the Young Scientist Award has recognized outstanding young molecular biologists at an early stage of their careers. Some 53 young scientists have so far received the award, honoring exceptional thesis work in the field of molecular biology.

Applicants for the 2005 Young Scientist Award earned their Ph.D. degrees in 2004 and submitted a 1,000-word essay based on their dissertations. Their essays were judged on the quality of research and the applicants’ ability to articulate how their work would contribute to the field of molecular biology, which investigates biological processes in terms of the physical and chemical properties of molecules in a cell.

A judging panel selects the Young Scientist Award grand prize winner and may present regional awards in four geographic regions: North America, Europe, Japan and all other countries. These regional winners receive $5,000 awards. In addition to the grand prize, the 2005 awards also recognize the following regional winners:

Nieng Yan (North America): For her essay, "Mechanisms of Programmed Cell Death in Caenorhabditis elegans." Yan was born in Jinan, China, in 1977 and grew up in Beijing. As an undergraduate at Tsinghua University, she developed a strong interest in science and was also deeply influenced by Beijing’s unique civil milieu. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2000, she traveled to New Jersey to pursue graduate training in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. Under the guidance of Yigong Shi, she used structural biology and biochemistry techniques to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of cell death regulation. Yan received her Ph.D. degree in December 2004 and is completing research projects in Shi’s lab. Her goal is to continue in an academic career.

Marina Aspholm (Europe): For her essay, "Adaptation of Helicobacter pylori Adherence Properties in Promotion of Host Tropism and Inflammatory Disease." Aspholm comes from Kiruna, Sweden, a city famous for an ice hotel that is constructed anew each winter. She studied chemistry and molecular biology at Umeå University and received a master’s of science degree in 1998, remaining there for Ph.D. studies through a fellowship from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. Under the guidance of Thomas Borén, she examined how the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori adapts its adherence properties to fit predominant patterns of gastric mucosal cell surface glycosylation, collaborating with Douglas Berg’s group at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo. She defended her Ph.D. thesis in 2004. She holds a long-term fellowship from the European Molecular Biology Organization and is a research scientist in the laboratory of Michael Koomey at the University of Oslo, Norway.

Rikinari Hanayama (Japan): For his essay, "Impaired Phagocytosis of Apoptotic Cells and Development of Autoimmune Diseases." Hanayama was born in 1974 and grew up in Osaka, Japan. He obtained a medical degree from Osaka University in 1999. After a year as a medical intern, he decided to pursue basic research and joined the laboratory of Shigekazu Nagata as a graduate student. There he identified a molecule that promotes the phagocytosis of apoptotic cells and showed that the inefficient removal of the apoptotic cells can lead to autoimmune diseases. Hanayama was awarded a predoctoral fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in 2002 and received his Ph.D. degree and the Yamamura Award from Osaka University in 2004. After working as an instructor in genetics with Nagata, he joined the laboratory of Michael E. Greenberg at Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School with a long-term postdoctoral fellowship from the Human Frontier Science Program.

Jianmin Zhang (All Other Countries): For his essay, "Establishment of Transcriptional Competence in Early and Late S Phase." Zhang was born in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China. After graduating from Tianjin Medical University, he worked as a research associate at Tianjin Infectious Diseases Hospital. In 1996, he began graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he first obtained a master’s of science degree under the guidance of Hagai Ginsburg in the Department of Biological Chemistry and then joined Howard Cedar’s lab at the Hadassah Medical School. Life in a foreign country was made easier by the support he received from Cedar. His studies on gene repression suggested a mechanistic connection between DNA replication timing and gene expression. Zhang received his Ph.D. degree in 2004 and was awarded the Aharon Katzir Prize. He is a postdoctoral fellow in Daniel Haber’s laboratory at the Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.


Science is a leading international journal covering all scientific disciplines. It is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific organization. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world.

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Information about the prize and copies of the winning essays are posted on Science Online at sciencemag.org.

For more information on AAAS awards, see http://www.aaas.org/aboutaaas/awards. Awards will be bestowed at the 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Mo., on February 18.

AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, dedicated to "Advancing science ● Serving society."

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