Einstein scientists gathered virtually on March 21 to celebrate the four winners of the annual Julius Marmur Award at an afternoon research symposium. Einstein's Graduate Programs in the Biomedical Sciences present the award each year to a select group of graduate students in recognition of their exceptional contributions to research.
“To be chosen for this award is truly a distinctive honor,” said Victoria Freedman, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate programs in biomedical sciences. The prize was established 26 years ago in memory of pioneering molecular biologist Julius Marmur, Ph.D., who developed the first method to isolate highly purified and high-quality DNA. He was a member of Einstein’s faculty for 33 years until his death in 1996. “Dr. Marmur was an exceptional mentor who brought 20th century understanding of molecular biology to students, and he was very supportive, always encouraging us to aim for the highest scientific goals,” Dr. Freedman said.
2022 Marmur Awardees
This year’s winners—Hayden A.M. Hatch, Pablo J. Lituma, Ph.D., Maxim I. Maron, and Bianca A. Ulloa—represent a range of basic science fields. They presented their research during an afternoon online symposium, and all four spoke of the meaning the award held for them.
Hayden A. M. Hatch, M.D./Ph.D. candidate, was recognized for his thesis work using Drosophilia melanogaster (the fruit fly) to understand how the enzyme KDM5 functions in the brain to influence nerve development and how genetic variants of the enzyme may lead to intellectual disability. Mr. Hatch’s mentor is Julie Secombe, Ph.D., professor of genetics and in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience.
“I am truly honored and humbled to have been one of the students selected for this prestigious award.” Mr. Hatch said. “Dr. Julius Marmur was well known for the tremendous impact he made as both an educator and mentor, so, to me, this award represents the excellence that can be achieved both in and out of the lab through excellent mentorship.”
During his time at Einstein, Mr. Hatch has served in many leadership roles, including as president of the student interest group in neurology and psychiatry (SIGNAP), vice president of the Medical Student Training Program (MSTP) Student Council, a peer mentor in the office of academic support and counseling, chair of the MSTP recruitment committee, secretary of the American Physician Scientists Association, and as a representative on numerous diversity and inclusion committees. He recently received a Graduate Student Service Award.
Mr. Hatch will defend his Ph.D. in May 2022 before completing his clinical clerkships at Einstein.
Pablo J. Lituma, Ph.D., was honored for his research into how information is transferred and stored in the mammalian hippocampus. Dr. Lituma’s mentor is Pablo Castillo, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and the Harold and Muriel Block Chair in Neuroscience.
“History has shown us that anyone from anywhere can achieve magnificent accomplishments with the right opportunity and community,” Dr. Lituma said. “The Marmur Award is a testament to this truth as I was inspired by past recipients to aim high. As we continue to support diversity and inclusion here at Einstein, the possibilities to advance science and society are endless.”
Dr. Lituma, who graduated from Einstein in June 2021, is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Neurogenetics at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.
Maxim I. Maron, M.D./Ph.D. candidate, was recognized for studying the mechanisms by which a family of enzymes called protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) regulate gene expression. PRMTs play crucial roles in many cellular functions and are often implicated in cancer development and progression. Mr. Maron’s mentor is David Shechter, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry.
“Every year at Einstein I look forward to the Marmur Symposium,” Mr. Maron said. “We spend so much time focused on our own research that we forget about the breadth of science being accomplished at Einstein. This event serves as a reminder of how impressive the graduate program is and how privileged we are to be here. I have always equated the Marmur awardees with scientific excellence, and I am thrilled and humbled to be among them.”
Mr. Maron’s work has led to multiple publications and served as the basis for a Department of Defense Idea Award. In addition to his work in basic science, he has been an integral member of the Einstein Community Health Outreach (ECHO) free clinic. Mr. Maron is currently finishing his clinical clerkships and will be applying for an internal medicine residency with plans to specialize in hematology and oncology.
Bianca A. Ulloa, M.D./Ph.D. candidate, was honored for her research on zebrafish to better understand how hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells contribute to hematopoiesis in embryos. Ms. Ulloa’s mentor is Teresa Bowman, Ph.D., associate professor of developmental & molecular biology and of medicine.
In 2021 Ms. Ulloa received the International Society of Experimental Hematology Young Investigators Award and was a Minority Graduate Student Abstract Achievement awardee at the American Society of Hematology meeting and exposition last year. She will be starting her clinical clerkships in the summer and plans to specialize in hematology-oncology.
“I am honored to be selected for this prestigious award,” Ms. Ulloa said. “This award also recognizes my mentor, Dr. Bowman, and everyone who has supported me along the way. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my work with the Einstein community and look forward to continuing to contribute to the field of hematology.” In addition to her work in basic science, she has been active in the Latina Medical Student Association at Einstein, serving as its regional Northeast co-director.
Dr. Marmur was an exceptional mentor who brought 20th century understanding of molecular biology to students.
Victoria Freedman, Ph.D.
Marmur Alumni Offer Advice
Five previous Marmur winners participated in a virtual panel discussion during the symposium, where they shared their experiences and offered career advice.
They included Marta Gronska-Peski, Ph.D. (2021 awardee), a postdoctoral fellow at the NYU School of Medicine; Michelle Antoine, Ph.D. (2014 awardee), the Earl Stadtman Investigator, chief of the section on neural circuits, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; Clarissa Melo Czekster, Ph.D. (2013 awardee), the Sir Henry Dale Fellow at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland; Anthony Gizzi, Ph.D. (2019 awardee), senior scientist at Autonomous Therapeutics; and Halley Pierce, Ph.D. (2017 awardee), group director, medical affairs, Imprint Science.
Posted on: Wednesday, April 20, 2022