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Grad student lauded for malaria mosquito research

Medicine@Yale, 2010 - July Aug


Allison Carey, M.D., Ph.D., who just completed her doctoral studies in Yale’s Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, is a winner of the 2010 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award. The award, sponsored by the Basic Sciences Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle, Wash., recognizes outstanding achievement by graduate students in the biological sciences.

Carey is one of 13 graduate students in North America to receive the award this year. The awardees participated in a scientific symposium on May 7 at the FHCRC.

Carey, who received her M.D. in 2009 and her Ph.D. at Commencement this past June, has focused her research at Yale on odorant receptors in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae, the primary carrier of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Carey will soon begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France.

In the February 3 issue of Nature, Carey and colleagues, including her advisor John R. Carlson, Ph.D., the Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, identified A. gambiae odorant receptors that are precisely tuned and highly sensitive to components of human body odors, which may help them to locate and infect the hundreds of millions of people afflicted with malaria each year. In this research, which formed the basis of her Ph.D. thesis, Carey recorded over 27,000 responses to 110 different odors from a variety of A. gambiae receptors expressed in the antennae of mutant fruit flies. This work “was of epic proportion,” Carlson says. “It required an enormous amount of effort, a high level of skill, and a great deal of creativity. Allison was also a wonderful colleague.”

A major goal of the Carlson lab is to apply knowledge of the molecular basis ofA. gambiae olfaction to reduce the mosquitoes’ attraction to human odors or to lure them into traps, strategies that may slow the transmission of malaria.

The Weintraub Award, established in 2000, honors the late Harold M. Weintraub, Ph.D., a founding member of the FHCRC’s Basic Sciences Division and a leading researcher in developmental biology. Carey is one of two students in Carlson’s lab to win the award recently: Elissa Hallem, Ph.D., was an awardee in 2005.