The Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas (TAMEST) announced that two UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers are among the four chosen for the 2013 Edith and Peter O'Donnell Awards.
Dr. Lora Hooper, associate professor of immunology and microbiology, and Dr. Youxing Jiang, professor of physiology, will be honored at a banquet at the Westin Galleria in Dallas on Jan. 17 in conjunction with TAMEST's 10th annual conference. Both are accomplished Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators, and Dr. Hooper also has an appointment in UT Southwestern's Cancer Immunobiology Center. Each year, the awards honor outstanding achievements by early-career investigators in science, medicine, engineering, and technology innovation. Each award consists of a $25,000 honorarium, a citation, a trophy, and an invitation to speak at the conference.
The 2013 O'Donnell Award in Medicine honors Dr. Hooper for her discovery of immune mechanisms that promote host-bacterial interactions. These discoveries in part explain how beneficial bacteria can safely exist in the intestinal tract and may ultimately reveal what to do when illness-causing bacteria predominate. The 2013 O'Donnell Award in Science recognizes Dr. Jiang's efforts to elucidate the atomic structures of membrane-bound ion channels, which are cell surface proteins that allow specific charged particles like sodium and potassium ions to pass through or be blocked by cell membranes.
"The achievements of Dr. Hooper and Dr. Jiang exemplify the breadth of research under way at UT Southwestern, important work with benefits we hope will extend across the state of Texas and throughout the world of medical science," said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern.
"We are grateful to Edith and Peter O'Donnell for their support of scientific advancement." Ion channels are so fundamental to human existence that problems in these proteins are blamed for a range of conditions called channelopathies, which include some forms of epilepsy, migraine, fibromyalgia and paralysis. Solving the atomic structure of ion channels, a very high-tech way of visualizing them at the atomic level, is a major step toward understanding and better treating these conditions, Dr. Jiang explained.
"I am deeply honored," said Dr. Jiang. "This award recognizes the hard work of many outstanding scientists in my lab. I am also grateful for the incredible support that the physiology department and the university have provided to us."