IPiB Graduate’s Thesis Earns Science Communication Award

Photo of Keren Turton in the lab

Recent IPiB graduate Keren Turton has received a 2018 Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy (WISL) Award for Communicating Ph.D. Research to the Public for including a chapter in her thesis to describe her research to non-science audiences.

The chapter, called “How do cells of the immune system change shape and travel to sites where needed? Leveraging proteomics data to investigate eosinophil morphology” appeared in her thesis titled “Case studies of cryptic proteins contributing to shape change in eosinophils.”

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight disease. They are part of the first line of general defense against infections, before things like T cells and antibodies join the fray. Eosinophils are also involved in conditions like asthma when they react to allergens. For her Ph.D. research, Turton, from the lab of Professor Deane Mosher, studied three proteins involved in how eosinophils change their shape to release toxic granule proteins to fight off invaders. Little was known about these proteins and her investigation began to piece together their importance in this essential process. The Mosher Lab is also affiliated with the UW–Madison Department of Medicine and is able to study cells from the blood of human donors.

“I feel that it is in keeping with the Wisconsin Idea to make research findings intelligible and meaningful to anyone who might be interested,” Turton says. “It was educational to work with the WISL editors to write this chapter.”

In 2010, WISL Director Bassam Shakhashiri started a program to encourage Ph.D. students in the chemical sciences to include a thesis chapter geared at a general audience and pledged a cash award from the organization for each successfully completed chapter. The goal of the chapters is to explain the candidate’s scholarly research and its significance to a wider audience that includes family members, friends, civic groups, newspaper reporters, state legislators, and members of the U.S. Congress.

Numerous other students in IPiB or in faculty labs have received the award in the past. Thiago Santos of the Weibel Lab, Ananya Ray-Soni of the Landick Lab, and Emily Wilkerson of the Coon Lab received the award in 2017. Ambalika Sagarika Khadria from the Senes Lab received the award in 2015, as did Jason Russell of the Coon Lab in 2012.