2020 RNA Society/Scaringe Award Winners

The RNA Society is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 RNA Society/Scaringe Awards. There were three awardees this year; two post-doctoral recipients and one graduate student recipient. Please join us in congratulating the award recipients at the RNA 2020 conference to be held May 26-31, 2020, in Vancouver, Canada.

RNA Society/Scaringe Post-Doctoral Award

Furqan Fazal is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Howard Y. Chang at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California. While in the Chang lab, Furqan worked on a method to map RNA secondary structures in different compartments of the cell. The method, APEX-Seq, has excellent spatial and temporal resolution that can be applied to map RNA localization at sites not amenable to biochemical purification. Using this technique, Furqan has discovered that that mRNA isoforms of the same gene often have distinct localization patterns and has identified specific RNA elements that direct localization to distinct nuclear territories and cytoplasmic organelles. Furqan has been awarded the Stanford Genomics Training T32 Award, the prestigious Beckman Fellowship, as well as an NHGRI K99/R00 award. He has been a member of the RNA Society since 2018.


RNA Society/Scaringe Post-Doctoral Award

Sebastian Fica is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Professor Kiyoshi Nagai at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. Sebastian has utilized CryoEM to elucidate the three-dimensional structure of splicing complexes at near atomic resolution, which rationalized decades of functional studies. He has solved the structure of the yeast C* complex, which elucidated how exon ligation proteins remodel the spliceosome after the first catalytic step to promote mRNA synthesis. He then developed a strategy to purify yeast post-catalytic P spliceosomes stalled after exon ligation, which allowed discovery of the mechanism for recognition of the 3’ splice site. Sebastian then used this same strategy to purify and solve the structure of mammalian P complexes, which revealed four novel proteins that associate with spliceosomes only in higher eukaryotes to promote exon ligation. His work was supported by an EMBO Long Term Fellowship and by a Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship from the EU. He has been a member of the RNA Society since 2009.


RNA Society/Scaringe Graduate Student Award

Robert Battaglia is a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Ailong Ke at Cornell University in Cornell, New York. While working in the Ke lab, Robert first crystalized and elucidated the structure of the guanidine-sensing ykk riboswitch using X-ray crystallography. He then worked with an undergraduate, Itai Levi, to establish a genetic screen to identify the genetic conditions that turn on or off a number of orphan riboswitches. Robert than turned his attention to determining the X-ray crystal structures of the Glycine T-box riboswitch bound to its cognate tRNA. He succeeded in obtaining first the structure of the complex with uncharged tRNA (at 2.9 Å resolution), then the structure of the T-box bound to tRNA containing a 2’3’-cyclic phosphate. The latter mimics a charged tRNA and showed that the T-box riboregulator initially can accommodate the binding of both forms of tRNA, uncharged and charged. He has been a member of the RNA Society since 2017