Annual Thesis Prize of the PhD School of Life Sciences

Awarded annually for the two best doctoral theses in any of the programs of the PhD School of Life Sciences at the Faculties of Medicine and Science.


The Annual Thesis Prize is awarded for the two best doctoral theses, one per faculty, defended for a PhD in Life Sciences in any of the specializations recognized by the PhD School of Life Sciences at the Faculties of Medicine and Science.

The prize of 1’000 CHF (500 CHF per thesis) is awarded at the Annual Forum.

All students who have obtained their PhD in the two semesters preceding the Forum are considered for the prize. Theses are evaluated by a committee composed of the program directors and co-directors and the vice-deans of the School.

Regulations of the prize : download PDF


Winners

Aurélia BALESTRA

Aurélia BALESTRA

Regulation of Plasmodium gametogenesis
Director: Mathieu Brochet


Previous recipients of the Annual Thesis Prize

Year Winner Affiliation Thesis title Thesis director
2021 Emmanuelle STEIB Molecular Biosciences Characterization of POC16/WDR90 Proteins in Centriole Integrity Paul Guichard & Virginie Hamel
2021 Stefano LEO Genomics and Digital Health Dynamics of changes of human gut microbiota in response to multidrug resistant bacteria colonization and following antibiotic treatment Jacques Schrenzel
Laemmli Prize

Awarded exceptionally for an outstanding doctoral thesis in Life Sciences in a field related to molecular biology.


The Laemmli Prize is awarded for an exceptional thesis in Life Sciences in a field related to molecular biology. The prize is generously sponsored by the royalties of a patent endowed to Ulrich Laemmli’s former departments at UNIGE. The prize of 6’000 CHF is awarded during the Diploma Ceremony of the Faculties of Medicine or Science.


Ulrich Laemmli obtained his doctorate in the laboratory of Eduard Kellenberger at UNIGE in 1969, and returned to UNIGE in 1980 as full professor at the Departments of Biochemistry and of Molecular Biology. We owe Ulrich Laemmli numerous discoveries on the structural organization of nuclei and chromatin within the cell that have profoundly changed our view of the structure of chromosomes.

To map the genomic interaction sites of chromatin proteins, Ulrich Laemmli and Manfred Schmid developed and patented the ChIC method (chromatin immunocleavage). Royalties of this patent were endowed to Laemmli’s former departments at UNIGE to promote young investigators in a field related to molecular biology.

Requirements

Candidates must have obtained a PhD in Life Sciences in any of the specializations recognized by the PhD School of Life Sciences at the Faculties of Medicine and Science in the 4 semesters preceding the attribution of the prize.

Procedures

A call for nominations is sent out to members of the School at the end of the Spring semester. Applications from nominated candidates should be submitted in electronic format to phd-lifesciences-sciences@unige.ch and must include:

  • Cover letter detailing the career outlook of the candidate (max. 2 pages)
  • Curriculum Vitae (max. 2 pages)
  • List of publications
  • At least one letter of support from an external thesis jury member

Candidates are evaluated by a committee composed of members of the PhD School of Life Sciences at the Faculties of Medicine and Science and approved by the heads of the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Regulations of the prize: download PDF


Winners

Aarti KRISHNAN (ex aequo)

Aarti KRISHNAN (ex aequo)

Metabolic networks governing Toxoplasma gondii persistence and transmission
Director: Dominique Soldati-Favre

Aarti completed her PhD in the lab of Dominique Soldati-Favre, in collaboration with labs at EPFL and UZH, in the field of systems biology. During her thesis, Aarti built a comprehensive stage-specific metabolic network of Toxoplasma gondii, an infectious protozoan parasite with a complex life cycle. She validated her model with in vitro and in vivo experiments, generating CRISPR knockouts of crucial metabolic genes and assessing their phenotypes via transcriptomics and metabolomics (1). Her interdisciplinary approach revealed striking flexibilities in the biosynthesis and scavenging of key metabolites for parasite survival (2,3) and allowed for the discovery of biologically relevant and accurate predictions to target both the acute and chronic stages of infection.

Aarti Krishnan defended her thesis in Biomedical Sciences in March 2020 and is currently an SNF Postdoc.Mobility fellow in the Collins lab at MIT, where she hopes to leverage machine learning and experimental technologies for novel antibiotic discovery against multi-drug resistant bacteria. 


(1) Krishnan A, Kloehn J, Lunghi M, Chiappino-Pepe A, Waldman BS, Nicolas D, et al. Functional and Computational Genomics Reveal Unprecedented Flexibility in Stage-Specific Toxoplasma Metabolism. Cell host & microbe 2020, 27(2): 290-306 e211.

(2) Krishnan A, Kloehn J, Lunghi M, Soldati-Favre D. Vitamin and cofactor acquisition in apicomplexans: Synthesis versus salvage. The Journal of biological chemistry 2020, 295(3): 701-714.

(3) Krishnan A, Soldati-Favre D. Amino Acid Metabolism in Apicomplexan Parasites. Metabolites 2021, 11(2).

   

Roman PODOLEC (ex aequo)

Roman PODOLEC (ex aequo)

From perception to transcriptional regulation: an analysis of mutants affected in the UV-B signaling pathway in plants
Director: Roman Ulm

Roman’s thesis in the Ulm lab focused on how plants perceive and respond to sunlight, specifically solar UV-B rays (1). Starting out with a large-scale random mutagenesis screen, Roman identified key players and mechanisms in UV-B perception and the downstream transcriptional response (2). In addition, in collaboration with the Hothorn lab, Roman used a combination of genetic, molecular, biochemical, and structural approaches to elucidate how the UV-B receptor interacts with the ubiquitin E3 ligase COP1 on a mechanistic level (3). Roman’s meticulous dissection of photoreceptor signalling shines light on a long-standing mystery in plant photobiology. 

Roman Podolec defended his thesis in Molecular Biosciences in July 2021 and presently remains as a postdoc in the Ulm lab at UNIGE, where he is now taking advantage of the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha as a new model organism to better understand plant UV-B perception and signaling. 


(1) Podolec R, Demarsy E, Ulm R. Perception and Signaling of Ultraviolet-B Radiation in Plants. Annual review of plant biology 2021, 72: 793-822.

(2) Podolec R, Lau K, Wagnon TB, Hothorn M, Ulm R. A constitutively monomeric UVR8 photoreceptor confers enhanced UV-B photomorphogenesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2021, 118(6).

(3) Lau K, Podolec R, Chappuis R, Ulm R, Hothorn M. Plant photoreceptors and their signaling components compete for COP1 binding via VP peptide motifs. The EMBO journal 2019, 38(18): e102140.