Isabella Muratore of the Traniello and Mullen Labs is the recipient of this year’s Brenton R. Lutz Award. Isabella’s research focuses on the fungus-growing ant Atta cephalotes, which exhibits an extraordinary worker polymorphism of body size-related task specialists, or subcastes. Social role variation that underpins the agricultural habits of this species correlates with brain size and structure. To understand the relationship between brain differentiation and worker specialization, Isabella has identified genes differentially expressed among brains from A. cephalotes subcastes. She has also quantified task performance, correlating it with brain size and allometric variation among functionally specialized brain regions. Focusing on genes that she found were differentially expressed among A. cephalotes subcaste brains, she will look for signatures of positive selection and copy number variation and will compare them to orthologous sequences and regulatory regions of less socially complex relative species.
This award provides support for PhD candidates conducting research in neurobiology or neuroscience and have made significant contributions to their field. Brenton R. Lutz was the first person to receive an MD/PhD at Boston University, receiving his Ph. in 1916. He later became a Professor and Chairman of BU’s Department of Biology. Dr. Lutz also gave the first University Lecture at BU on December 11, 1950 “The Living Blood Vessels.”