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katherine morelli wins the third annual Maximilian Eivaskhani In Memoriam Graduate Scholarship

The Centre de recherche en biologie structurale is proud to announce that the third annual Maximilian Eivaskhani In Memoriam Graduate Scholarship has been awarded to Katherine Morelli, PhD candidate in the McGill Department of Biology, for the 2023-2024 academic year.


Katherine uses biophysics- the intersection between biology and physics- to understand how cells use filaments called microtubules to carry out steps in cell division. Cell division is essential for developing embryos, producing the cells that sustain healthy tissues and organs, and repairing damage to these systems. Critically, both daughter cells must receive the correct number of chromosomes. For this to happen microtubules of the mitotic spindle attach to each pair of chromosomes, and the spindle is positioned prior to division by a separate, specialized set of microtubules. Microtubules intrinsically grow and shrink, an ability which cells coordinate and harness to generate force. How this works remains mysterious. Katherine studies this basic process by investigating the budding yeast +TIP body, a nanoscale assembly of proteins which positions the spindle. The +TIP body is similar to conserved structures found in mammalian cells and is predicted to control microtubules through biophysical properties that emerge from its behavior as a liquid-like droplet. During the scholarship period, Katherine will characterize biophysical properties of the +TIP body that coordinate the growth and shrinkage of an array of microtubules to allow them to work together, and measure how these are influenced by cellular regulators. In budding yeast, defective microtubules and spindle positioning prevent proliferation, but in multicellular organisms like humans it can lead to a plethora of diseases including cancer. Understanding the basic mechanisms by which microtubules are controlled has wide potential applications in detecting and treating these diseases. 


Katherine will hold the Scholarship and perform her research in the lab of Dr. Jacalyn Vogel.

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 In Memoriam: Maximilian Keywan Eivaskhani (1991-2020) | Alumni & Friends - McGill University

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