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UW Professor Jay Gatlin Named a Pew Scholar

June 24, 2014
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Jay Gatlin, an assistant professor in UW’s Department of Molecular Biology, has been named a Pew Scholar. The four-year research grant award -- given for science relevant to the advancement of human health -- is worth $240,000.

Jay Gatlin has been named a 2014 Pew Scholar, marking the first time a University of Wyoming faculty member has received this prestigious award.

Gatlin, an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Biology, is among 22 newly selected Pew Scholars nationally. The grant award for each is $240,000, or $60,000 per year for a four-year period.

The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health. Launched in 1985, the program makes grants to selected academic institutions to support the independent research of outstanding individuals who are in their first few years of their appointment at the assistant professor level.

“Pew has supported scientific innovation through its scholars program for 29 years. Time and again, this investment has fueled groundbreaking discoveries that hold the promise of better health for millions of people,” says Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of Pew. “We welcome the newest class of scholars to a community that continues to yield extraordinary findings in the field of bioscience.”

Gatlin says the funding will be used to conduct further research on mitotic spindle assembly. Last November, Gatlin and John Oakey, a UW assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, published a paper in Science, recognized as one of the world’s top scientific journals.

The research focused specifically on how the mitotic spindle scales with changes in cell size. Mitotic spindles are protein-based machines assembled in cells to accurately segregate their chromosomes during division. If the process of building a spindle goes awry, it can result in daughter cells with an incorrect number of chromosomes (called aneuploidy), a condition that has been linked to birth defects and cancer.

“Our research showed that, as the size of the cell in which a spindle is gets smaller, so does the spindle, suggesting that some building block required to make a spindle becomes limiting. If you don’t have enough of what that building block might be, you can’t build a spindle of the correct size,” Gatlin says. “Now, we’re trying to identify the limiting component or components.”

“We found some biomolecule or protein to regulate spindle size. If you don’t have enough (of these proteins), you can’t grow the spindle size,” he adds. “Now, we’re trying to figure out what that component might be. We’re conducting biochemical experiments to identify that limiting component.”

The Pew funding will cover salaries for a post-doctoral fellow or several graduate students, as well as the chemicals and supplies for the research, Gatlin says.

“You are only eligible for a Pew within your first three years of being an assistant professor,” Gatlin says. “I just got in under the deadline.”

The Pew Scholar award is the latest for Gatlin, who recently received the Early Career Achievement Award from the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) at UW.

Gatlin received his doctorate in cell and molecular biology from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2005 and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill until 2010.

He joined UW in 2010. In 2012, he received two National Institutes of Health grants totaling more than $1.6 million and, in 2013, he was awarded a Whitman Research Fellowship. The award paid for Gatlin and doctoral student James Hazel to conduct summer research at the Whitman Center at the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole, Mass.

Gatlin received his Pew Scholar award notice in March, but the National Advisory Committee of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences did not officially name the winners until today. Gatlin expects to receive the grant funds sometime in August.

For the scholars’ full abstracts and more information about the program, visit


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