2020 Kadesch Prize goes to Marco Carpenter

Posted On: September 04, 2020

2020 Tom Kadesch Prize in Genetics 

In 2011, the Department of Genetics established the “Tom Kadesch Prize in Genetics” to honor the legacy of our friend and colleague Dr. Tom Kadesch. Dr. Kadesch was a member of the Genetics Department from 1984 until his death in 2011 and served as Interim Chairman for his final 4 years. He was not only an excellent scientist but also a tremendously dedicated mentor, teacher, and University citizen whose contributions inspired those around him. In his memory, with the help of many generous donors, we were able to set up an endowed fund that will support in perpetuity an annual award to “a graduate student demonstrating excellence in research achievement and citizenship”.

We are pleased to announce that this year’s Tom Kadesch Prize in Genetic Research will be awarded to Marco Carpenter. Marco is a PhD student in the Pharmacology graduate group (PGG) and is performing his thesis work in the lab of Dr. Elizabeth Heller.  His research focuses on neuronal mechanisms underlying drug addiction. Using transcriptional profiling in the mouse, he found that cocaine activates a nuclear hormone receptor, Nr4a1, and multiple of its target genes, including Cartpt, which is involved in dopamine metabolism. He then used genetic manipulations to demonstrate that Nr4a1 and Cartpt are part of a homeostatic mechanism that attenuates cocaine-evoked behaviors. Finally, he showed that Cytosporone-B, a small molecule that activates Nr4a1, can also attenuate cocaine-evoked behaviors. This project identified Nr4a1 as a possible therapeutic target for treating cocaine addiction and resulted in a first-author publication in Nature Communications. Marco also secured an NIH R36 dissertation award to continue this research. In addition to his research accomplishments, Marco has been active in mentorship and outreach activities to increase diversity in science. He initially came to UPenn as part of the PENN-PREP (post-baccalaureate research education) program, and as a graduate student, he has volunteered with the Leadership Alliance Research Symposium to recruit additional students to this program. He has also worked with the Science Education Academy (SEA), which develops science programs for elementary school students who have poor access to STEM education. Furthermore, as a member of the Penn Biotechnology Group, Marco served as vice president of career development and facilitated a bi-monthly seminar for 100+ students interested in biotechnology careers.

The Kadesch prize will be presented to Marco Carpenter at a special session of the Genetics Friday Research Talks this winter (date TBD). In addition to receiving a $1000 cash prize, Marco will present a short seminar on his research. Please join us in congratulating him!

The 2020 Kadesch Prize Selection Committee

(Shelley Berger, Doug Epstein, Mitch Lazar, Meera Sundaram)

Year    Kadesch Prize Awardee   Graduate group    Thesis Advisor
2011 Andrew Edmondson CAMB/GTV Dan Rader
2012 Ishmail Abdus-Saboor CAMB/GGR Meera Sundaram
2013 Maria Elena De Obaldia IGG Avinash Bhandoola
2014 Judy I-Ting Wang NGG Zhaolan Zhou
2015 Derek Oldridge GCB John Maris
2016 Celine Santiago CAMB/DSRB Greg Bashaw
2017 Philipp Mews CAMB/GGR Shelley Berger
2018 Katherine Palozola CAMB/GGR Ken Zaret
2019 Camille Syrett CAMB/DSRB Monserrat Anguera
2019 Enrique Lin Shiao BMB Shelley Berger