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Experts advancing research on crustaceans, coronaviruses and drug design receive KU achievement awards

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas researchers increasing understanding of crustaceans, coronaviruses and drug design have received this year’s Steven F. Warren Research Achievement Award and the KU Research Staff & Postdoctoral Achievement Awards.

The annual awards recognize outstanding unclassified academic staff, unclassified professional staff and postdoctoral fellows whose research has significantly influenced their fields and expanded intellectual or societal insights. This year’s recipients:

  • Jinan Wang, associate researcher, molecular biosciences, Center for Computational Biology, KU Research Staff Achievement Award
  • Yousef Alhammad, postdoctoral researcher, molecular biosciences, KU Research Postdoctoral Achievement Award
  • D. Christopher Rogers, associate research professor, Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research, Steven F. Warren Research Achievement Award

The three will be recognized at a ceremony this spring along with recipients of other major KU research awards.

The Office of Research established the Steven F. Warren Research Achievement Award in 2006 to honor unclassified academic staff researchers. Winners receive $10,000 in research funds. The KU Research Staff & Postdoctoral Achievement Awards were established in 2018, with honorees receiving $5,000 for approved research or professional development activities.

More about this year’s winners:

Jinan Wang, associate researcher, University of KansasJinan Wang is an associate researcher at the Center for Computational Biology in the lab of Yinglong Miao, assistant professor of molecular biosciences. Wang’s research focuses on developing computational methods for modeling protein-peptide and protein-protein interactions. The binding of peptides and proteins to their target receptors plays a critical role in cellular function and is the target for drug therapies. Wang has developed simulation algorithms to improve modeling of these binding processes.

His contributions are helping researchers understand biological processes and facilitating drug design.

Wang earned a doctorate in drug design from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Sichuan University in China.

Yousef Alhammad, postdoctoral researcher, University of KansasYousef Alhammad is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Anthony Fehr, assistant professor of molecular biosciences. The lab studies the coronavirus protein called the macrodomain and its role in causing disease. The macrodomain is a new and unique target for drug therapies. The lab’s research has shown that without the macrodomain, coronaviruses replicate poorly and don’t cause disease in animal models. Alhammad leads the lab’s efforts in identifying an inhibitor for this enzyme, as none currently exist.  

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alhammad helped characterize the activity of the SARS-CoV-2 macrodomain and compared it to other coronaviruses. This was the first description of the SARS-CoV-2 macrodomain that aided in better understanding of how the viral protein functions.

Alhammad has a doctorate in virology and a master’s in biomedical science from Monash University in Australia and a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia.  

D. Christopher Rogers, associate researcher, University of KansasD. Christopher Rogers is an associate research professor at the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research. He studies the evolution, biogeography, systematics, phylogeny, ecology, behavior and conservation of branchiopod crustaceans, such as fairy shrimp, tadpole shrimp and clam shrimp. He also researches the dispersal and population dynamic of mosquitoes and ticks. 

Rogers has completely self-funded his salary and research costs at the Bio Survey with external funding for the past 10 years. He has more than 200 publications, has described more than 60 new branchiopod taxa and serves as the state medical entomologist. 

He received a doctorate in crustacean evolution, systems and biogeography from the University of New England in Australia. 


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