James Eaton Wins 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Award

March 25, 2014 by zrb8mf@virginia.edu

Pharmacology Graduate Student James Eaton won the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Pharmacology. James is a trainee in Thurl Harris‘s lab, where his research project centers around his own independently conceived and hypothesis-driven finding that lipin 1, a phosphatidic acid phosphatase downstream of the mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR), binds to its substrate (phosphatidic acid) via what appears to be an ‘electrostatic-hydrogen bond switch mechanism’.

As the recipient of this award, James will be nominated for the prestegious Michael J. Peach Award and Jill Hungerford Prize. The winners of these awards will be announced at the 2014 GBS Spring Symposium. The Outstanding Graduate Student Award recipients from all Biomedical Sciences programs will be acknowledged at the GBS Symposium. Please come out and show support for James!

According to Dr. Harris, “James has elaborated on previous discoveries in chemistry, biophysics and biochemistry to synthesize his own original hypothesis on the mechanism of lipin 1 binding and activity towards a phosphomonoester, phosphatidic acid. His discoveries have conceptually changed how lipin 1 may play a role to integrate pH dependent regulation of lipid biosynthesis with the phosphorylation-mediated control of lipid biosynthesis by the mTOR signaling pathway. After his initial paper describing lipin 1 mechanism of action he has intently pursued expanding these discoveries to the entire family of Mag-dependent phosphatidic acid phosphatases. Although his work is basic and fundamental biochemistry, it does have important implications for human health health as suggested by the importance of the lipin proteins in obesity and diabetes, as well as recent links to inflammatory disease and rhabdomyolysis.” Other recommenders said that James “has a strong work ethic…he is among our hardest working graduate students,” that he “has a good sense for lab work, good hands, and a willingness to work hard,” and that he “has the intelligence, persistence and work ethic to succeed professionally.” All noted his impressive publication record, which currently includes the following publications (and two more on the way, one of which is a first-author paper expected to be accepted by The Journal of Biochemistry in the next week or two):

Eaton, J. M., Mullins, G. R., Brindley, D. N.; Harris, T. E., Phosphorylation of lipin 1 and charge on the phosphatidic Acid head group control its phosphatidic Acid phosphatase activity and membrane association. The Journal of Biological Chemistry 2013, 288 (14), 9933-45. Selected by Faculty 1000

Creutz, C. E., Eaton, J.M., Harris, T.E. Assembly of High Molecular Weight Complexes of Lipin on a Supported Lipid Bilayer Observed by Atomic Force Microscopy. Biochemistry 2013, 52(30), 5092-102

Creutz, C. E., Hira, J.K., Gee, V.E., Eaton, J.M. Protection of the membrane permeability barrier by annexins. Biochemistry 2012, 51(50), 9966-83.