University of Dundee

Wellcome Trust 4 million pound research boost for CLS

06 May 2010

Four scientists at the College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee have been awarded research fellowships from the Wellcome Trust totalling almost £4million.

Dr Mikael Bjorklund and Dr Eric Griffis both received Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowships worth £700,000 each. Dr Anton Gartner and Dr Jonathan Chubb were awarded Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowships worth £1.43million and £1.1million respectively.

The Fellowships provide funding for salaries, equipment, and consumables over five years. In addition to paying the salaries of the scientists, a further four postdoctoral members of staff, two technicians and one graduate research assistant will be recruited to the College of Life Sciences.

Professor Mike Ferguson, Dean of Research at the College of Life Sciences, said the Fellowships reflected the very high quality of research being carried out at Dundee.

'These are extremely competitive fellowships from The Wellcome Trust and the awards speak volumes about the excellence of the four individuals and the importance of their research,' he said.

'It also reflects the care with which we recruit to the College of Life Sciences, where we appoint the very best to maintain our high standard.'

Dr Bjorklund’s funding will enable him to explore the regulation of cell size in multicellular organisms. Cell size control has a major impact on human health as cell growth has been shown to work abnormally in diseases such as cancers and diabetes.

Dr Griffis’ fellowship will enable him to move to Dundee from the University of California, San Francisco to continue his studies on the regulation of the localisation and dynamics of non-muscle myosin II during cell division and cell migration.

Dr Chubb will spend the next five years examining the control of noise in gene expression while Dr Gartner will research DNA damage and repair - fundamental processes in biology with implications for understanding both health and disease.

Dr Mikael Björklund is originally from Finland and completed his PhD at the University of Helsinki. His post-doctoral work concentrated on cell cycle and cell size control as well as human kinome analysis.

These works were published in the journals Nature and Cell, respectively. He says that, as a consequence, it was a natural choice to come to the College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, where the cell growth controlling pathways, and especially the protein kinases in these, have been so extensively studied.

Dr Eric Griffis grew up near Atlanta, Georgia, USA and studied at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and Emory University in Atlanta before moving to the University of California, San Francisco in 2004.

His graduate research focused on the dynamics of the nuclear pore complex (NPC) and how it may be regulated by events within the nucleus. He first made an informal visit to Dundee in 2006 and chose to move there in May 2009 despite counter-offers from other universities in the UK and US.

'I felt that Dundee offered the best combination of colleagues, facilities, and infrastructure,' he said, adding that he and his wife are very much looking forward to moving to Dundee this summer and starting their new lives in Scotland.

Dr Anton Gartner came to Dundee in 2004 having received his PhD at the University of Vienna and carried out postdoctoral work at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York, before working as a group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich from April 2000 to July 2004

He said, 'I was attracted by the very strong research base that exists in the UK in general as well as by the very interactive scientific environment, provided by the Dundee’s College of Life Sciences and the Wellcome Trust Centre of Gene Expression and Regulation. Also we felt that we would feel comfortable in Dundee, not only for it s science but also for being a nice place to live.'

Dr Jonathan Chubb originally comes from Yorkshire, and was educated at Cambridge before doing his PhD studies at University College London. He then undertook postdoctoral work at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, and the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh before joining the team at Dundee in 2005.

His lab takes a unique approach to understanding gene regulation and uses a microscope to directly watch transcription in living cells.