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Three from Hopkins BME recognized at Young Investigators’ Day

April 10, 2021
Three headshots are lined up in a row.

Young Investigators’ Day at Johns Hopkins University was established in 1978 to recognize the outstanding research contributions made by our trainees: medical and graduate students, postdoctoral and clinical fellows, and residents. Awardees each receive a cash prize as well as recognition during convocation ceremonies. Many Young Investigators’ Day winners have gone on to very successful careers in biomedical research.

Each award carries a distinct honor and specific history to the legacy of biomedical research here at Johns Hopkins, and a number of named awards were established and are generously supported by friends and family in memory of past students or faculty members.

From 3D printing medical devices to understanding telomere length regulation, discoveries by trainees have helped propel research endeavors at Johns Hopkins. Marking its 43-year anniversary, the Young Investigators’ Day ceremony celebrates the unique contributions of junior researchers and the mentors who helped them excel in their fields. 23 awardees were selected this year.

Award winners affiliated with Hopkins BME include:

Shannon Wongvibulsin

Shannon Wongvibulsin – David Yue Award

“Through the use of big data, informatics and machine learning, we created tools with high predictive ability for identifying patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who are at high risk of progression to severe disease or death. First, we developed an interactive web tool (Severe COVID-19 Adaptive Risk Predictor) that provides risk predictions as well as explanations of the prediction logic in terms of interpretable decision trees. Afterward, we integrated our risk calculator into Epic at Johns Hopkins in record time to facilitate use within the clinical workflow and incorporation of risk scores as part of the electronic medical record. This work is important both in the context of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the broader field of machine learning in health care. I conducted this research in the lab of Scott Zeger, as part of the Johns Hopkins Individualized Health Initiative (Hopkins inHealth).”

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Wang Xi

Wang Xi – Bae Gyo Jung Award

“In the Beer lab, we study computational genomics and gene regulatory mechanisms. My research focuses on the regulation of higher order chromatin architecture in mammalian cells. I developed a computational model to predict the interaction of chromatins in three-dimensional space based on a process called loop extrusion. It explains how factors like CTCF and cohesin work together to form loops between distant regions quantitatively, which has important implications in nuclear DNA packing and gene expression regulation.”

Wang Xi also had a paper recently accepted in Nature Communications.

Read More About Wang

Roger Zou

Roger S. Zou – Michael A. Shanoff Award

“CRISPR-Cas9 has catalyzed a biotechnological revolution through convenient and programmable genome editing. Cas9 itself, however, only performs the first step — site-directed induction of DNA damage. Completion of editing relies on the cell’s DNA repair machinery, which has been challenging to characterize due to the lack of control over DNA damage induction. In the laboratory of Taekjip Ha, we sought to tackle this problem by developing two systems for very fast light-mediated control over Cas9 activation and deactivation. First, we demonstrated Cas9 activation within seconds of light exposure, which allowed greatly improved kinetic measurements of DNA damage induction and repair. We discovered that Cas9-induced DNA damage could be detected within two minutes and repaired within 15 minutes, which is much faster than previously believed. Second, we demonstrated Cas9 deactivation within seconds of light exposure. Using this system, we discovered that only a few hours of CRISPR activity were sufficient for efficient genome editing. This system also greatly reduced editing at unintended “off-target” sites, which enhances the safety of genome editing. Together, my work in Dr. Ha’s lab opens the door for control of CRISPR-Cas9 as an effective method for studying genome editing and DNA repair.”

Read More About Roger

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