2021 Tom Kadesch prize in Genetics awarded to Qin Zhu

Posted On: July 22, 2021

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 Qin Zhu. Qin is a PhD student in the Genomics and Computational Biology (GCB) graduate group and recently completed his thesis work in the labs of Drs. Kai Tan and Junhyong Kim.  His research focuses on computational methods for single cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) data analysis to identify different cell types and their fate transitions during development and disease. Qin has been involved in multiple different scRNAseq projects across different systems, ranging from a lineage-resolved molecular atlas of C. elegans embryogenesis to single-cell transcriptomes of the kidney and of developing hematopoietic stem cells in the mouse, to profiling of various human tumors. These works have resulted in 11 publications (so far) during his PhD, including first or co-first author publications in ScienceBlood, and BMC Bioinformatics. As part of his work, Qin developed user-friendly interfaces like VisCello that allow non-programmers to easily mine scRNAseq data relevant to their own biological questions. Not only has Qin been a valuable collaborator for many groups on campus, but he also helped introduce scRNAseq technology and analysis methods to the Penn community more broadly by running multiple workshops, serving as a teaching assistant in BIOL437, and giving lectures on this topic in UPenn undergraduate and graduate courses. Finally, he has been active in admissions and recruitment activities for the GCB graduate group.

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

The 2021 Kadesch Prize Selection Committee

(Shelley Berger, Doug Epstein, Celeste Simon, Meera Sundaram, Ken Zaret)