LSI Cubed funds new round of trainee-initiated, multi-lab research projects


Four teams of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute will soon launch their own cross-lab, interdisciplinary projects, with funding from the LSI Cubed program. 

The program, now in its second year, is based on the university’s successful MCubed program. But rather than funding multi-unit projects across the university, LSI Cubed funds trainee-initiated projects that span multiple labs and disciplines within the institute.

“This program offers an exceptional opportunity to engage students and postdocs in multidisciplinary research early in their scientific careers, positioning them to become the next generation of scientific leaders,” says LSI Director Roger Cone, Ph.D. “They also gain experience in planning a project, executing the research, running a scientific budget — all skills that will be invaluable as they go on to launch independent scientific careers.”

Like the projects themselves, LSI Cubed was conceived of and proposed by a group of LSI graduate students and postdocs as an opportunity to nurture a culture of collaboration and idea-sharing among trainees at the institute. Teams of trainees work together to prepare a full proposal, including the significance of the research, their approach and a budget of up to $10,000. A committee of senior LSI researchers reviews the proposals before recommending which projects should be funded.

The four projects selected for funding this year were recognized for their innovative approaches and valuable new knowledge that they would provide to their fields: 

  • Structural studies of autophagosome formation in yeast that will shed light on proteins integral to the core autophagy machinery. “Having structures of these proteins would significantly advance the field,” noted one reviewer. (Aileen Ariosa, Melody Sanders and Elizabeth Delorme-Axford; Klionsky and M. Ohi labs)
  • Functional imaging of the activity pattern of orexin neurons related to breathing, and examination of how it is affected by obesity. This work will improve understanding of not only how orexin neurons control breathing, but also how the neural dynamics of orexin neurons and breathing are affected in obesity. (Patrick Sweeney and Bing Wang; Cone and Li labs)
  • Investigation of the role of the FLAP–5-LO protein complex in forming a leukotriene that is essential for recruiting neutrophils to tissue damage. “Investigating enzymes underlying this important aspect of deadly inflammatory diseases should lead to more targets for treating these diseases, in addition to enhancing understanding of how leukotrienes are derived,” said one reviewer. (Song Chen and Clarissa Durie; Parent and M. Ohi labs)
  • Protein engineering for the biocatalytic synthesis of novel natural product derivatives to target a protein-protein interaction that facilitates rapid proliferation of cells in fast-growing tumors. This project builds on a previous LSI Cubed project to further develop a novel method that opens up previously "undruggable" targets. (Julie Garlick, Clint Regan and Vikram Shende; Mapp and Sherman labs)
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