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Cell Researcher Receives Fellowship to Encourage Young Scientists

A Dartmouth cell biologist in the growing area of cilia and flagella movement has received a three-year fellowship aimed at encouraging young scientists to enter the field of cell biology.

Elizabeth F. Smith
Elizabeth F. Smith

Elizabeth F. Smith, associate professor of biological sciences, has been named a K.R. Porter Fellow of the Porter Endowment for Cell Biology. The award will support Smith’s talks to groups of young scientists and sponsorship of young researchers  to attend professional conferences.

Named for Keith Roberts Porter (1912–1997), a Canadian-born researcher considered by many to have established the field of cell biology, the eight-year-old fellowship program is intended for researchers near the middle of their careers who show “unusual potential for an outstanding career in cell biology.”

Smith studies the biochemical signals involved in the development and motility, or movement, of flagella and cilia. Flagella are the tails that move the sperm of a range of organisms, while cilia are the hair-like structures that extend from cells in organisms and bodily organs.

“I am honored to receive this award, even more so when I see the list of past recipients,” Smith says. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to serve as a Porter fellow.”

Smith “has a vibrant, innovative, and productive research program and is a great teacher and mentor to Dartmouth students, from first-year undergraduates to graduate students,” says C. Robertson McClung, professor of biological sciences and associate dean of the faculty for the sciences. “It is wonderful and fitting to see her recognized with this honor.”

Smith’s research focuses on Chlamydomonas, a single-cell green alga that swims with two flagella. Discoveries about flagella also apply to cilia because the two are so similar in structure—no matter what animal’s sperm or cilia-bearing cells are being examined. Flagella and cilia development and function have long been linked to hydrocephaly, infertility, and respiratory distress. Scientific interest in flagella and cilia has grown in response to findings in the past decade linking cilia development to such disorders as retinal degeneration and polycystic kidney disease.

Smith came to Dartmouth in 1998 after obtaining a doctorate degree in cell and developmental biology from Emory University and postdoctoral fellowships in the Department of Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Minnesota.

By REBECCA BAILEY

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Last Updated: 12/17/08