Tetrad Program Alumnus Wins Weintraub Award

Trevor Sorrells

Trevor Sorrells, a recent graduate of UCSF's Tetrad Program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has been granted a prestigious Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Twelve graduate students from institutes throughout the United States were chosen to receive the award this year; winners were selected on the basis of the quality, originality and significance of their work.

The twelve Weintraub Award recipients, all advanced doctoral students or recent graduates in the biological sciences, will present their research at a scientific symposium on May 6 at the Hutchinson Center in Seattle. The awardees will also receive an honorarium and certificate.

Asked to describe his dissertation research, Sorrells said, "It is a mystery how the many different life forms evolved from a common ancestor. One key to answering this question is the observation that different species turn their genes on and off at different times during development and in different environments. Using the model organism yeast, I studied how genes are turned on and off in networks and how they evolve over time. It turns out that multifunctional gene networks evolve through only a few evolutionary pathways, constrained by their function and by the limits of molecular biology."

Sandy Johnson, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology, was Sorrells' advisor at UCSF. Johnson also mentored two previous Weintraub awardees, Christopher Baker, who graduated from UCSF in 2013, and Matt Miller, who graduated in 2003.

Sorrells recently joined Leslie Vosshall's lab at Rockefeller University, where he will be studying the genetic and neural basis of motivated behavior in the mosquito.

The Weintraub award and related symposium honor the late Harold M. Weintraub, PhD, a founding member of the Basic Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center, who in 1995 died of brain cancer at age 49. Weintraub was an international leader in the field of molecular biology and was regarded as an unpretentious leader and exemplary mentor.

“By nurturing colleagues, students and postdocs – and helping all of us become better scientists – Hal was instrumental in establishing the collegial atmosphere at the Hutch. We believe having a symposium recognizing the achievements of young scientists is a great way to honor Hal and the recipients of this award,” said Dr. Mark Groudine, the deputy director of the Hutchinson Center.

Previous winners of the Weintraub Award include several UCSF alumni. Drs. Scott Coyle and Silvia Rouskin, also graduates of the Tetrad Program, both received the award in 2015.