by Bill Snyder
Katherine Amidon, a PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, has been selected as the 2020 Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar.
She will receive a $1,000 cash prize and will be mentored by the recipient of the 2020 Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science, Jennifer Doudna, PhD, who led development of the revolutionary genome editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9.
Doudna is the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair in Biomedical and Health Sciences, and professor in the departments of Molecular & Cell Biology and Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.
Amidon is a doctoral candidate in the lab of Brandt Eichman, PhD, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Chair, professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, and professor of Biochemistry in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholars usually are recognized during the presentation of the Vanderbilt Prize. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Doudna’s award presentation has been postponed and will be rescheduled in the coming months.
Established in 2006, the Vanderbilt Prize honors women scientists with “stellar records” of research accomplishments who have made significant contributions to mentoring other women in science. Recipients mentor female graduate students — Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholars — who are pursuing doctorates in the biomedical sciences.
Amidon received her Bachelor of Science dual degrees in Biochemistry and Microbiology in 2017 from the University of Vermont, and completed an independent Honors thesis on thyroid cancer biology in the lab of Frances Carr, PhD. That fall she enrolled in Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biological & Biomedical Sciences.
Amidon’s research focuses on a novel DNA repair mechanism that protects against abasic sites — a highly abundant and toxic form of DNA damage.
She is co-first author of a scientific paper published last year in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology and first author of a subsequent invited review, and she has contributed to two other papers in preparation for publication.
Her strong academic performance and undergraduate research earned her one of five highly competitive slots in the Molecular Biophysics Training Program at Vanderbilt, and she recently received an F31 Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health.
This year she also received the Ann Bernard Martin Award for Excellence in Graduate Research from the Department of Biological Sciences.
“Katherine is a phenomenal student and a talented structural biologist,” Eichman wrote in his nomination letter. “She has already established herself as being one of the best graduate students I have had the pleasure of mentoring in (my) 16 years at Vanderbilt.”
To be eligible for the Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar award, candidates must be enrolled in the medical school’s PhD track (includes PhD and MD/PhD trainees), have completed the qualifying exam and have at least one year left to complete the PhD degree.
Nominations are accepted from department chairs or program directors in the biomedical sciences, as well as from directors of graduate studies and faculty mentors.
Competitive nominees demonstrate excellent leadership qualities through their research and service to the scientific community as well as characteristics that exhibit outstanding potential to impact medicine through research during their careers.
For more information about the Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar, visit https://www.vumc.org/oor/vanderbilt-prize-student-scholar.