Anne Carpenter and Daniela Nicastro receive WICB Mid-Career Award for Excellence in Research

The 2020 Women in Cell Biology Mid-Career Award of the American Society for Cell Biology is being shared by Anne Carpenter, Institute Scientist and Senior Director of the Imaging Platform, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; and Daniela Nicastro, a professor in the Department of Cell Biology at University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center.

Anne Carpenter

Carpenter’s nominator, Jason Swedlow, University of Dundee, stated: “I’ve been continuously impressed by her scientific performance, her commitment to the community, and her support of and development of younger colleagues. Her work, her group, and her scientific persona stand out as a model for scientists everywhere and certainly for the ASCB community of established and developing scientists.”

Carpenter’s research group develops algorithms and data analysis methods for large-scale experiments involving images. The team’s open-source CellProfiler software (which will hit 10,000 citations this year!) is used by thousands of researchers worldwide. Carpenter is a pioneer in assays and algorithms for image-based profiling, the extraction of rich, unbiased information from images, which has enormous potential for contributing to drug discovery and contributing to a better understanding of gene function.

“I’m beyond delighted. It is SUPER meaningful to me: for 13 years I’ve run a lab with no pipettes, cells, or microscopes. Even though my lab is focused on creating open-source software for biologists and is entirely computational, I am still very deeply a cell biologist, aiming to help cells tell us about their functions and diseased states through microscopy. As much as I love discussing and advancing the latest tech, I’m at my warm-fuzziest when talking to cell biologists about their favorite phenomena,” said Carpenter.

Her talk at Cell Bio Virtual 2020 will be on Accelerating Drug Discovery through the Power of Cell Morphology.

Sandra Schmid, now at Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub, who nominated Daniela Nicastro, pointed out Nicastro’s notable scientific accomplishments at the technological forefront of EM and cryo-EM tomography, her outstanding mentorship of students and postdocs, and her leadership as the central player in the introduction of cryo-EM to the UTSW campus.

Daniela Nicastro

Nicastro’s lab studies the three-dimensional structure of macromolecular complexes, organelles, and cells using a combination of cutting-edge methods, including in situ molecular imaging with cryo-electron tomography. Special areas of interest include the structure of cytoskeletal assemblies (like cilia and basal bodies) and molecular motors, host-pathogen interactions, as well as the development of cryo-EM and image processing techniques.

She started her career as a classically trained zoologist in Germany, chasing bugs (or better, dipteran larvae) on field trips for her thesis study (“SEM and TEM study of the sensory neurons of mosquito and fly larvae from 37 different dipteran families”), teaching students about marine life during excursions to the Mediterranean Sea, and snorkeling/diving with wild minke whales (Australia), dolphins (Bahamas), and sea lions (Mexico).

Said Nicastro, “It is a great honor for me and my lab to receive this award. It recognizes the talent and work of all of my lab members over the years and shows that our research matters. (Receiving an award is always exciting, but I feel particularly lucky to receive this during a time of challenges and changes due to the pandemic—it is exciting and re-energizing for my entire lab!)”

She will give a talk on Probing the Molecular Organization of Cells and Organelles using Cryo-Electron Microscopy at Cell Bio Virtual 2020.

About the Author:

Thea Clarke is the Director of Communications and Education at the American Society for Cell Biology.