Nuwani Weerasinghe wins the first annual Maximilian Eivaskhani In Memoriam Graduate Scholarship

The Centre de recherche en biologie structurale is proud to announce that the first annual Maximilian Eivaskhani In Memoriam Graduate Scholarship has been awarded to Nuwani Weerasinghe, PhD candidate in the McGill Department of Chemistry, for the 2021-2022 academic year.

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Nuwani studies a class of peptides called RiPPs, or ribosomally synthesized and post translationally modified peptides. As the name implies, these peptides are made by the ribosome, before being chemically modified by one or more modifying enzymes into their active forms. Mature RiPPs can be very diverse and potent, possessing antimicrobial, antiviral, and other activities. RiPPs are promising molecules for bioengineering into novel drugs. During the Scholarship period, Nuwani will study the biosynthesis of a peptide of the lanthipeptide class of RiPPs, that is widely used as a food preservative because of its antimicrobial properties. She will use protein biochemistry and a suite of sophisticated mass spectrometry techniques to understand how the set of modifying enzymes work together to produce the mature, potent lanthipeptide.  

 

In addition to the excellence of this research, it is also fitting that the study of RiPPs is the subject of research for the inaugural Maximilian Eivaskhani In Memoriam Graduate Scholar, because these RiPPs and the nonribosomal peptides Max studied in his own research have many conceptually similarities.  

 

Nuwani will hold the Scholarship and perform her research in the lab of Dr. Christopher Thibodeaux (https://www.thibodeauxlab.com/?page_id=29), having joined McGill after a Bachelor of Science from the University of Colombo and a Masters of Science from the University of Utah, with high academic and research achievement.  

About the Maximilian Eivaskhani In Memoriam Graduate Scholarship:

Maximilian Eivaskhani was brilliant doctoral student in the Centre de recherche en biologie structurale and Department of Biochemistry. After a tragic bicycle accident, he passed away on June 24, 2020, one day before his 29th birthday.  

 

Maximilian, or Max to his friends in Montreal, was from Germany and enrolled in the Biochemistry Department at McGill as a PhD student in 2017. At McGill, he won a prestigious fellowship to support his studies of biosynthetic enzymes, and he made exceptional breakthroughs in his main project, as well as publishing a co-first author article in Science. He was a rising star in the McGill scientific community. Max was also a talented athlete, an exceptional friend and colleague, being energetic and outgoing as well as sensitive and empathetic.  

 

The Maximilian Eivaskhani In Memoriam Graduate Scholarship has been established in memory of this outstanding scientist and young man. It is bestowed annually upon the highest ranked applicant in the Centre de recherche en biologie structurale scholarship competition as a way help honour the legacy of our beloved student, friend, and scientist.  For more information, or to donate to the Maximilian Eivaskhani In Memoriam Fund, which supports the Scholarship, please visit https://www.mcgill.ca/seedsofchange/project/maximilian-eivaskhani-memoriam-fund

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