Pathway for Early Independence

In 2001 donations from various sources helped establish an endowment in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Frank McKnight, the parents of Dr. McKnight.  The corpus of this endowment allows the annual investment of roughly $300,000 in support of research conducted by young scientists.  These funds are used in three ways.  First, they provide support for young postdoctoral fellows who choose to conduct independent research within the Department of Biochemistry.  This program is modeled after an independent fellows program at the Department of Embryology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, where Dr. McKnight was able to receive the opportunity for early independence in the late 1970’s.  The UTSWMC fellows are provided funds for a three year period to cover their own salary, that of a technician, and the expenses necessary for their lab research.  Past fellows in this program include Dr. Jared Rutter, who is now an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Utah; Dr. Charles Dann, who is now an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Indiana; Dr. Trey (John) Fondon, who is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington; and Dr. Benjamin Tu, who is now an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry here at UTSWMC.  The program is currently supporting Dr. Ryan Potts here in the Department of Biochemistry.  Photographs of past and current fellows are shown below.

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Dr. Jared Rutter
Dr. Charles Dann
Dr. Trey Fondon
Dr. Benjamin Tu
Dr. Ryan Potts

Graduate Students Stipends

The second program funded by the Sara and Frank McKnight Fund for Biochemical Research is designed to support the stipends of graduate students working within the Department of Biochemistry here at UTSWMC.  As graduate students complete their second year of training, individuals are nominated by their mentors and a selection committee composed of Drs. Richard Bruick, Joseph Ready and Mike Rosen choose the top candidate.  The annual graduate student stipend is then funded for this candidate for his/her 3rd, 4th and 5th years of graduate school.  Since one candidate is chosen for funding each year, this program provides steady-state support for three graduate students.  Past students include Han Dai, who is now conducting postdoctoral studies with Dr. Stephen Harrison at Harvard University; Feng Jiang, who is currently a research fellow with Dr. Helen Hobbs at UT Southwestern.  Currently funded students include John DeBergh, who is working under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph Ready; Irnov Irnov who is working under the mentorship of Dr. Wade Winkler; Ying Liu, who is working under the mentorship of Dr. Qinghua Liu; Julio Ruiz, who is working under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Bruick.  Photographs of past and current fellows are shown below.

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Han Dai
Feng Jiang
John DeBergh
Irnov Irnov Ying Liu Julio Ruiz

Undergraduate Research Prizes

The final program funded by the Sara and Frank McKnight Fund for Biomedical Research offers undergraduate prizes in the fields of chemistry, biophysics and biochemistry.  In the late summer of each year a national announcement of the awards is distributed, leading junior and senior level undergraduates to be nominated for these awards.  Selection committees in chemistry (Joseph Ready and Jef DeBrabander), biophysics (Kevin Gardner and Luke Rice) and biochemistry (Benjamin Tu and Wade Winkler) then review all applicants to select the top five to be invited to the annual research retreat of the Department of Biochemistry that takes place in early November of each year in New Braunfels, Texas.  While at the departmental research retreat, the undergraduates present posters that are viewed and judged by faculty members to select the 1st place ($2,000), 2nd place ($1,000) and 3rd place ($500) winners.  A listing of past winners in the fields of chemistry, biophysics and biochemistry is shown below, as are photographs of the 2007 awardees and finalists for 2008 and 2009 taken at the departmental research retreat.  Given that there are precious few awards and prizes for undergraduate research accomplishments, we feel that this program – despite its modest size – offers well-deserved recognition for young scientists at an early stage of their respective careers.


1st Place: Kaylie Young (Brown University)
2nd Place: Brian Shuler (Washington State)
3rd Place: Jesse Jacobsen (University of Louisville)


1st Place:  Andrew Hoover (University of Illinois, Urbana)
2nd Place: Jonathan Stefely (University of Notre Dame)
3rd Place: Jacob Kanady (University of California, Irvine)

1st Place: Rathi Srinivas (Columbia)
2nd Place: Alex Augustyn (University of Chicago)
3rd Place: Molly Plovanich (Johns Hopkins)


1st Place: Susanna Lynch (Calvin College)
2nd Place: Noam Prywes (Columbia)
3rd Place: Alex Zevin (Colorado State)
Runners Up: Justin Drake (University of Texas) and Tran Nguyen (Ohio State)

1st Place: Celine Santiago (Rice)
2nd Place: Chirstopher Novotny (University of Illinois, Urbana)
3rd Place: David Hershey (Iowa State)
Runners Up: Eric Abhold (University of California, San Diego) and Amanda Olivo (Columbia)

1st Place: Anish Shah (Columbia)
2nd Place: Yongho Park (Duke)
3rd Place: James Masters (University of Notre Dame)
Runners Up: Kevin Arendt (Texas A&M) and Kathleen Richert (University of Illinois, Chicago)

2007 Winners    
Kaylie Young
Brian Shuler
Jesse Jacobsen
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2008 Finalists in Biophysics
2008 Finalists in Chemistry
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2009 Finalists in Biochemistry
2009 Finalists in Chemistry
2009 Finalists in Biophysics
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