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Susan J. Baserga honored for work on ribosomes and commitment to teaching and mentoring

March 18, 2016
by John Curtis

Susan J. Baserga, M.D. ’88, Ph.D. ’88, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, genetics, and therapeutic radiology, is the winner of this year’s American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology William C. Rose Award for her contributions to ribosome biogenesis research and her dedication as a teacher and a mentor. The Rose award is given to scientists who have made outstanding contributions to biochemical and molecular biology research and have a proven commitment to the education of younger scientists.

Baserga has a long-standing interest in fundamental aspects of ribosome biogenesis, the nucleolus, human diseases of making ribosomes (ribosomopathies), and on the impact of ribosome biogenesis on cell growth, cell division, and cancer. Her work established the SSU processome as the large ribonucleoprotein required for processing and assembly of the small ribosomal subunit, and has continued to study the 17 new proteins that were first described in the Nature 2002 report to define their role in making ribosomes as part of a large RNA--‐protein complex.

Baserga was the first to show that nucleolar RNA helicase activity was regulated by protein co-factors, and demonstrated Esf2 activation of Dbp8 ATPase activity in vitro. Furthermore, she proposed the Utp24 protein as a pre‐rRNA cleavage enzyme for the first time.

At Yale, Baserga is a driving force for education at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. She is chair of the Beckman Scholars Program, which funds a research program for Yale undergraduates, and served on the steering committee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Program; her school’s Teaching Support Committee; and the Undergraduate Advisory Committee of the Science, Technology and Research Scholars Program. Baserga also has been the associate director of Yale’s M.D. /Ph.D. program and was a member of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences study section for training grant review, influencing national policies, and improving medical scientist training and Ph.D. programs. She is the program director for the largest graduate training grant at Yale (in cell and molecular biology), is the director of medical studies and has been the course director for the medical student biochemistry course since 2002. In 2014, Baserga was awarded the Charles W. Bohmfalk Prize for teaching in the basic sciences at the Yale School of Medicine.

Submitted by John Curtis on March 18, 2016