2021 Dennis Shields Prize Celebrates Postdoctoral Research Excellence

The Belfer Institute for Advanced Biomedical Studies hosted the 18th annual Dennis Shields Postdoctoral Research Prizes ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 28, to honor two postdoctoral fellows whose research and published work exemplify excellence in their fields.

This year's winners were Coralie Berthoux, Ph.D., neuroscience, and Jens Maximilian Fels, Ph.D.microbiology & immunology.

Anne R. Bresnick, Ph.D.

Anne R. Bresnick, Ph.D.

The hybrid ceremony was held in person at LeFrak Auditorium in the Michael F. Price Center and via videoconference. Each of the winners presented their published research to an audience of faculty, students, staff, and their fellow postdocs. Anne Bresnick, Ph.D., associate dean for postdoctoral affairs and director of the Belfer Institute, greeted the crowd, and Gordon Tomaselli, M.D., the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz dean at Einstein, presented each winner with a check for $5,000.

The annual award, established in 2004, was renamed for Dennis Shields, Ph.D., who was a professor of developmental and molecular biology and of anatomy and structural biology at Einstein for 30 years until his death in 2008.

“It's so important that we maintain traditions such as this event, which recognizes postdoc excellence at Einstein,” said Anne Bresnick, Ph.D., who is also a professor of biochemistry. “Dennis was a champion for postdocs, and the prizes honor his memory and the legacy he established as the first director of the Belfer Institute.”

Dennis was a champion for postdocs, and the prizes honor his memory and the legacy he established as the first director of the Belfer Institute.”

Anne Bresnick,, Ph.D.

Both of the honorees presented their research during the event. Dr. Berthoux’s work, “Controlling Spatial Memory and Epilepsy by Cannabinoid Signaling,” was conducted in the laboratory of Pablo Castillo, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Dominick P. Purpura department of neuroscience and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and the Harold and Muriel Block Chair in Neuroscience at Einstein.

Published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it shows that cannabinoids—THC and other psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—dampen neuronal activity in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, a brain region important for learning and memory. The dentate gyrus is also known to act as a critical regulator of epileptic seizures, so cannabinoid use might be a useful strategy for treating epilepsy.

The title of Dr. Fels’ talk was: “Protective Neutralizing Antibodies From Human Survivors of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever,” completed in the lab of Kartik Chandran, Ph.D., professor of microbiology & immunology and the Harold and Muriel Block Faculty Scholar in Virology at Einstein.

In his study, published in the journal Cell in June 2021, Dr. Fels isolated antibody-producing B cells from four survivors of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHHFV) infection and tested the virus-neutralizing potential of the resulting 361 monoclonal antibodies. Dr. Fels took the best-neutralizing antibodies and engineered them, resulting in potently neutralizing antibodies able to protect a mouse model from challenge with CCHFV.