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Congratulations Celia Churchill & Wenfeng Qian for receiving the EEB Outstanding Student Paper Award


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celia churchill

EEB graduate students Celia Churchill and Wenfeng Qian won the 2012 EEB Outstanding Paper Award. Churchill’s cover story in Current Biology (October 2011), “Females Floated First in Bubble-Rafting Snails” and Qian’s “Balanced codon usage optimizes eukaryotic translational efficiency” in PLoS Genetics (March 2012) were selected by the review committee of Ya Yang and Sourya Shrestha, EEB postdoctoral fellows.

Regarding the paper Churchill coauthored with her advisor, Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil, and others, Yang and Shrestha wrote, “As the paper's opening states, it is indeed a challenge to explain drastic evolutionary changes mechanistically, and this paper – by providing phylogenetic evidence for a sequence of morphological evolutionary changes that shows how exactly neustonic (microscopic organisms that float on the surface of open water) bubble-rafting snails arose from its benthic (organisms living on sea or lake bottoms) ancestors – does that. The exposition is first rate, concise yet mostly accessible to non-experts, and the results are conclusive and impressive.”

Qian’s paper was coauthored with Jian-Rong Yang,former visiting student, Nathaniel M. Pearson, former postdoctoral fellow, Calum Maclean, postdoctoral fellow, and Qian’s advisor, Professor Jianzhi Zhang. The review committee wrote, “The paper attempted a very difficult question of the mechanisms behind codon usage bias. The authors used multiple arguments, including an elegant experimental manipulation in yeast. In the end, the author proposed a general evolutionary model that translation accuracy, coevolution between tRNA recycling and codon usage, and mutation and drift together determine the patterns of codon usage bias. The article is well written and well organized. The message is clear and convincing for evolutionary biologists in general.”

Shrestha wrote, “Ya and I enjoyed reading five nominees for this year's outstanding student papers. The papers spanned a wide range of topics and employed various techniques, each making substantive contribution in their areas.” Every year a graduate student paper is selected based on approach of study, scope of findings, and insights into questions of broad scientific interest using multiple lines of evidence. The winners will share the $500 prize.