Two Receipients Awarded the Kadesch Prize in Genetics: Camille Syrett & Enrique Lin Shiao

Posted On: January 10, 2020

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, an endowed fund was established that will support in perpetuity an annual award to “”a graduate student demonstrating excellence in research achievement and citizenship””. This year, the Department was pleased to recognize two outstanding recipients: Drs. Camille Syrett and Enrique Lin Shiao. Both have proven to be exemplary scientists and active citizens in their community and beyond. We were joined by faculty, students, friends, and members of the Kadesch Family for a special award ceremony with presentations by the recipients on Friday, January 10.

Enrique recently completed his PhD in the lab of Dr. Shelley Berger. His research addressed how mutations in the p63 transcription factor cause cleft lip/cleft palate (CL/P). He identified a large set of gene enhancers whose establishment requires p63 and which are enriched for SNPs associated with CL/P; some of these genes play known roles in craniofacial development, suggesting how their misregulation could lead to CL/P. Enrique was an author on 5 papers during his PhD training, including 2 as first author. In addition to his research accomplishments, Enrique led multiple new initiatives to promote diversity in science. He founded the Penn Diplomacy Group, which helps establish scientific collaborations and arranges visits between scientists and ambassadors from different countries. He cofounded a Spanish language podcast, “”Caminos en Cienca””, that features interviews with scientists, to encourage young Spanish speakers to pursue scientific careers. He also attended multiple conferences to promote diversity in science and helped recruit students to Penn’s programs. Finally, he also mentored many junior students conducting research in the Berger lab and worked as a TA for the undergraduate Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Superlab (BIOL425).

Camille performed her thesis work in the lab of Dr. Monserrat Anguera. Her research identified a novel mechanism used for regulating X chromosome inactivation (XCI) in immune cells, and showed how errors in XCI can contribute to autoimmune diseases like lupus that are more prevalent in females. She was an author on 11 papers related to this work, and first author on 5 of these. In addition to her research accomplishments, Camille was a prominent leader in the graduate student community at Penn and in several public outreach activities. She was the co-founder and editor of the CAMB student newsletter, which highlights the accomplishments and varied career paths of current students, faculty and graduates. She helped organize and run a booth about model organism research at the Philadelphia Science Festival, and she gave public science talks at the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. She served as a student representative for DSRB and as a member of the Penn Biotech group. Finally, she also mentored many junior students conducting research in the Anguera lab and worked as a TA for a  Transcriptomics course at the Vet school.