2018 Whitfield Randolph Scholarship Award Winner

Congratulations to Jessica Neville Little, co-recipient of this year’s Whitfield Randolph Scholarship in Neuroscience.  Jessica is an MSTP (MD-PhD) student in her 3rd year of graduate training in Dr. Noelle Dwyer’s laboratory in the Department of Cell Biology. The other co-recipient is Mark Rudolph, an MSTP student working in Dr. Jeffrey Corwin’s laboratory in the Department of Neuroscience.

The scholarship was established by Dr. Randolph Whitfield, a MacArthur Foundation Fellow who received both his medical and graduate degrees from the University of Virginia in 1965 under a similar dual degree program.

Jessica is studying the causes of small brain size in a genetic mouse model of human microcephaly. She has discovered that the major cause of microcephaly, in this case, is programmed cell death of neural stem cells that is dependent on the tumor suppressor gene p53. In a very exciting finding, she was able to rescue the microcephaly phenotype of this mutant (in the gene Kif20b) by crossing it to a knockout mouse lacking p53. Now she is working to determine whether the p53 activation in the mutant brains is caused by specific defects in a late step in cell division called abscission.