Termini and Cook Win 2021 ASCB Porter Prizes for Research Excellence

Postdoctoral fellow Christina Marie Termini and doctoral candidate Katelyn Camille Cook have been named as the recipients of the 2021 Porter Prizes in Research Excellence by ASCB. Each year ASCB selects one postdoctoral researcher and one graduate student based on scientific excellence and “individual contributions to the advancement of science and on the novelty and creativity of their findings.” The prizes are named for Keith Porter, a founding member of ASCB.

Christina Marie Termini

Christina Marie Termini

Termini is a postdoc at the University of California, Angeles (UCLA), and will be taking a position as an assistant professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2022. 

She says her current research projects “aim to understand the basic mechanisms of hematopoietic stem cell maintenance and how these processes are manipulated during states of injury.”

“My work identified the heparan sulfate proteoglycan, Syndecan-2, as a novel marker and regulator of murine hematopoietic stem cells,” Termini wrote to ASCB. “I demonstrated that the loss of Syndecan-2 diminishes long-term hematopoietic stem cell function through p57-mediated alterations in cell cycling. As I prepare to launch my independent research career, my lab will analyze how proteoglycans regulate hematopoietic regeneration following myelosuppressive stress and how these processes are altered in hematological malignancies.”

Termini presented the talk “Syndecan-2 expression marks hematopoietic stem cells and controls stem cell repopulating capacity” at Cell Bio Virtual 2021. 

During her time at UCLA, Termini wrote that she had “mentored several trainees from disadvantaged backgrounds as they performed laboratory research and pursued their scientific goals. Additionally, I recently worked with Molecular Biology of the Cell editors Valerie Weaver and Matthew Welch to help launch the newly established Voices initiative. This collection of essays provides a platform for diverse scientists to share insight, struggles, and ideas to support a more inclusive environment within cell biology. While this initiative has only been active for about a year, the published works are valuable resources for educating the cell biology community about how they can support a diverse, equitable, and inclusive ecosystem.”

Termini also reports that she “led the publication of a list of ‘100 Inspiring Hispanic/Latinx Scientists’ on Cell Mentor to highlight the outstanding scientific contributions from those in my community. This work now serves as an essential resource to provide visibility to diverse role models to members of the scientific community. As a postdoc, I have also worked with a community of scholars to publish articles covering a broad range of topics such as mentoring minority trainees, reimagining the academic pipeline, promoting inclusivity, using digital platforms for virtual mentorship, and beyond. These scholarly works will serve as important resources for the cell biology community to support diversity, equity, and inclusion for years to come as the ASCB continues to grow.”

Katelyn Camille Cook

Katelyn Camille Cook

Cook is a PhD candidate in the Molecular Biology Department at Princeton University where she is trying to understand the structure–function relationships of organelles and how events like protein translocations and inter-organelle contacts can shift subcellular organization in response to perturbation. 

“During my PhD in the lab of Ileana Cristea, I have used multidisciplinary approaches (proteomics, advanced microscopy, computational development) to explore how human viruses remodel organelles to achieve an infection process,” Cook wrote to ASCB. “I am investigating the modulation of peroxisomes and mitochondria for virus-host control of the metabolism-immunity axis, reorganization of secretory compartments for virus assembly, and the global regulation of membrane contact sites during herpesvirus, influenza, and coronavirus infections.”

She presented the talk “Human viruses rewire membrane contact site tethering interactions, structures, and functions for pro-viral organelle remodeling” during the annual meeting.

Cook says she is passionate about sharing scientific knowledge and fostering inclusive relationships both
within and without the scientific community. In the academic sphere, she describes making “long-term investments in peer mentorship, teaching, and leadership roles in the Molecular Biology department at Princeton University, as well as remaining a volunteer for the Biological Sciences Initiative at the University of Colorado [her alma mater].”

She also ran a sci-comm social media platform and has chaired two branches of the Princeton Molecular Biology Outreach Program: Adult Outreach, where she extended the program’s scope by partnering with businesses beyond the Princeton area, and the recently established Virtual Programming, for which she designed, launched, and manages their new website (mbop.princeton.edu). Through these endeavors, Cook aims to promote scientific literacy and positive perceptions of scientists among non-experts, and cultivate a thriving research environment built on diverse perspectives.

About the Author:

Mary Spiro is ASCB's Strategic Communications Manager.