Jillian Ness, an MCBB PhD student in the Wunderlich Lab, and Kathryn Atherton, a PhD candidate in the Bioinformatics program and a BU URBAN program trainee working in the Bhatnagar Lab, received the 2024 Marion R. Kramer Scholarship.

In Jillian’s research, she and her team studied how enhancers work in development, focusing on redundant enhancers, or “shadow enhancers,” linked to developmental genes. These enhancers are remarkably abundant in animals and can compensate under conditions of stress to drive normal development.

She is exploring how these enhancers function, as well as how they are created and maintained in animal genomes. Her work involves creating simplified enhancer models in Drosophila and analyzing how they work. In parallel, she performs evolutionary studies on shadow enhancer sequences to understand genomic events from which the sequences originate. Ultimately, she aims to understand enhancer sequences to improve predictions of perturbations that lead to developmental disease in embryos.

Kathryn’s research focuses on how urbanization impacts tree health via the microbes that live on tree leaves and roots and in soil. She aims to understand how these microbes interact with each other and trees by predicting their genetic functions and building networks of their interactions. This summer, she is working with Speak for the Trees Boston to identify places where their tree planting and giveaway initiatives on private land can intersect with the City of Boston’s aims to expand Boston’s tree canopy.

Congratulations Jillian and Kathryn!