Profiles: Schimmel Scholars

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Natalie Heer PhD ’18

Martin Lab

Natalie Heer was a graduate student in Adam Martin’s lab studying tissue folding in the Drosophila embryo. She grew up in Edina, MN, and received her undergraduate degree from Harvard in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Since high school, Natalie has been interested in the sub-cellular movement of organelles and proteins along the cytoskeleton. As an undergraduate, she worked in the lab of Dr. Reck-Peterson at Harvard Medical School studying the regulation of dynein, a motor protein.

Natalie researched tissue-scale movement, specifically how sheets of cells fold into more complex shapes. Along with colleagues in the biology, math, and physics departments, she discovered that a gradient in the motor protein myosin is required for correct tissue shape and that signaling from a morphogen gradient establishes the myosin gradient (Heer et al., Development, 2017). Natalie presented her findings at  the Development Gordon Research conference at Mount Holyoke College in June 2017 and at the Allied Genetics meeting in Orlando the summer before.


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Kristin Knouse PhD ’17

Amon Lab

Kristin Knouse grew up in Allentown, PA. In college, she discovered the excitement of scientific inquiry and the power of basic science and clinical medicine to inspire and advance one another. For this reason, she decided to pursue an MD-PhD degree through Harvard Medical School and MIT.

Kristin conducted her thesis research in Angelika Amon’s lab. There, she developed new tools to investigate the prevalence of large-scale copy number alterations in somatic tissues and used the mouse liver to discover cell non-autonomous regulation of chromosome segregation. Her research has implications for liver disease and cancer. After finishing medical school, she plans to return to research where she will use the mouse liver to study cell cycle regulation with applications to regenerative medicine.


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Rebecca Estelle Silberman PhD ’20

Amon Lab

Rebecca Estelle Silberman was a graduate student in the laboratory of Angelika Amon. She grew up in Somers, NY, and graduated from Colgate University in 2013 with a degree in Biology.

Rebecca’s research focused on the role of aneuploidy, or chromosome imbalances, in cancer. Her research goal was to understand how these large-scale genetic changes, which are very damaging to healthy cells, may provide a benefit for cancer cells. Rebecca was named as the recipient of the 2016 Teresa Keng (1982) Graduate Teaching Prize and the 2017 MIT School of Science Fellowship in Cancer Research.