2018 Kadesch Prize in Genetics

August 8, 2018

In 2011, the Department of Genetics established the “Tom Kadesch Prize in Genetics” to honor the legacy of our friend and colleague Dr. Tom Kadesch. Dr. Kadesch was a member of the Genetics department from 1984 until his death in 2011, and served as Interim Chairman for his final 4 years. He was not only an excellent scientist, but also a tremendously dedicated mentor, teacher and University citizen whose contributions inspired those around him. In his memory, with the help of many generous donors, we were able to set up an endowed fund that will support in perpetuity an annual award to “a graduate student demonstrating excellence in research achievement and citizenship”.

We are pleased to announce that this year’s Tom Kadesch Prize in Genetic Research will be awarded to Dr. Katherine Palozola. Kate recently completed her PhD in the Cell and Molecular Biology (CAMB) graduate group, and performed her thesis work in the lab of Dr. Ken Zaret.  Her research focused on how mitotically cycling cells maintain their identities. Prior to Kate’s work, it was thought that mitotic cells were largely transcriptionally quiescent, so that proper programs of gene expression needed to be re-activated after each division. Kate developed novel biochemical and analytical approaches to monitor gene expression patterns during mitosis, and found that, contrary to prior dogma, thousands of genes continued to be expressed. These findings shifted the focus of cell identity maintenance from an on/off model of gene expression to one of more nuanced regulation at basal promoters, and resulted in a first-author publication in Science. In addition to her research accomplishments, Kate was a prominent leader in the graduate student community and was involved in numerous outreach activities to communicate science to the general public. She ran recruitment weekends, organized orientation activities for new students, and served as a Program Representative to the Biomedical Graduate Studies Association. She was the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the CAMB student newsletter, which highlights the accomplishments and varied career paths of current students, faculty and graduates. For many years, Kate helped organize and run the Genetics booth at the Philadelphia Science Festival, and she gave public science talks at the Franklin Institute, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and a variety of other forums. She travelled to Washington D.C. with the Penn Science Policy Group to discuss research funding with members of Congress. She also participated in monthly mentoring events with the Philadelphia chapter of the Association for Women in Science, supervised a high school student conducting research in the Zaret lab and worked two semesters as a TA for the first year graduate course, BIOM555/Regulation of the Genome.

The Kadesch prize will be presented to Dr. Palozola at a special session of the Genetics Friday Research Talks on February 1, 2019 (12:30pm in Austrian Auditorium CRB). In addition to receiving a $1000 cash prize, Dr. Palozola will present a short seminar on her research. Please join us in congratulating her and make plans to attend the award ceremony and seminar on February 1.

The 2018 Kadesch Prize Selection Committee

(Shelley Berger, Tom Jongens, Celeste Simon, Zhaolan Zhou)