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LSI scientist Yukiko Yamashita receives MacArthur Foundation award
Sept. 20, 2011--Life Sciences Institute stem cell biologist Yukiko Yamashita is one of three University of Michigan and 22 overall new MacArthur Fellows announced today by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Yamashita is an assistant professor at the U-M Life Sciences Institute and an assistant professor of cell and developmental biology at the Medical School. She will receive $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years from the MacArthur Foundation.
“It’s a huge honor, and I really couldn’t believe it when they called with the news. Seriously, I thought it was quite impossible,” said Yamashita, 39, who joined LSI in January 2007.
“I feel now that I’ve got some freedom to try some out-of-the-blue-type ideas that probably would not receive funding through conventional research grants,” she said.
Fellows are selected based on three criteria: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.
“Yukiko Yamashita continues the university’s national leadership in scientific research,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. “Her recognition by the MacArthur Foundation is powerful validation of the critical importance of exploring and understanding stem cells. It is a pleasure to congratulate her on receiving such a significant honor.”
Yamashita’s lab investigates how adult stem cells decide upon their fate to maintain tissue stability. The lab also studies how stem cells orient their division plane in the context of the signaling microenvironment to divide asymmetrically, how this process is monitored, and how it changes during aging.
“Yukiko is one of the most fabulous scientists I know,” said Alan Saltiel, director of the Life Sciences Institute. “Her lively enthusiasm and impatient curiosity about scientific matters is contagious, and it is terrific to have her on our faculty.
“This recognition is fitting, and I have no doubt that with this award she will continue to
explore and develop important new biological insights,” Saltiel said.
Yamashita received both her bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in biophysics from Kyoto University and completed postdoctoral training at Stanford University before joining LSI, a research enterprise which brings together scientists from different disciplines to work together on human health problems.
“Dr. Yamashita’s work is of fundamental importance as we seek to deepen our understanding of stem cell division,” said Provost Phil Hanlon. “Her scholarly work exemplifies the excellence of our faculty, and we are pleased and proud that she is being recognized by the MacArthur Foundation.”
Tiya Miles, Director of the department of Afroamerican & African Studies, and Melanie Sanford, Professor of Chemistry, are the other two U-M faculty members named MacArthur Foundation Fellows for 2011.