Pomp and Circumstance

In 2018, two predoctoral researchers were awarded the degree of PhD by the Graduate School of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Wanqing Shao, PhD, and Cori Cahoon, PhD, were hooded and received their diplomas in a ceremony attended by their colleagues, mentors, friends, and family.

Shao’s thesis work in the Zeitlinger Lab focused on Pol II, which is a well-established regulator of the timing, rate, and possibly the magnitude of transcriptional responses. Transcription, which is the first step in gene expression, involves copying a gene’s DNA sequence to make an RNA molecule, and regulation of Pol II pausing allows fine-tuning of gene expression. Shao’s research examined the relationship between two of Pol II’s regulatory roles—transcription initiation and pausing—as well as the role of promoter sequences in Pol II pausing. Shao’s thesis study provides valuable insights into transcriptional response regulation and constructs a framework for analyzing the interplay between transcription initiation, Pol II pausing, and core promoter sequences in vivo.

Cahoon completed her thesis work in the lab of Investigator Scott Hawley, PhD. Her research focused on understanding the role of the synaptonemal complex in the segregation of chromosomes during gamete formation. Errors in meiotic chromosome segregation are the leading cause of miscarriages and birth defects in humans. Chromosome segregation errors can result in conditions such as trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome), and monosomy X (Turner syndrome).