Skip to main content
Awards & Honors

Rabitsch Award 2020 for Merve Deniz Abdusselamoglu

Merve Deniz Abdusselamoglu, alumna from Jürgen Knoblich’s lab at IMBA, is awarded the Kirsten Peter Rabitsch Award for the best PhD thesis at IMP and IMBA.

During her PhD research, Deniz studied neural stem cells (NSCs) in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. NSCs undergo highly dynamic and precise processes, to generate the billions of diverse neurons and their complex networks necessary to make behaviors such as talking, movement or experiencing sensations possible. She found a new regulator that defines the temporal identity of NSCs. This finding led her to uncover the underlying mechanism of the NSCs aging that regulates neuronal diversity. In addition, Deniz showed that rather than gaining repressive marks, stem cell identity genes are silenced via loss of activating histone marks. Finally, she also identified a set of new genes that are required for NSC subtype specification. With her thesis titled “Regulation of Neural Stem Cell Lineages in Drosophila” Deniz was able to convince the jury this year.


I spent wonderful years at IMBA, where I was surrounded by great colleagues and a stimulating scientific environment that pushed me to excellence in my career. I believe our findings will help us to understand how these fundamental processes are achieved during brain development and how they can go wrong and cause disease

Merve Deniz Abdusselamoglu

Alumna of the VBC PhD Program, Knoblich Lab

Prior to her doctoral studies in Vienna, Deniz completed a BSc and MSc in Molecular Biology and Genetics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Only last month, she started a postdoc in the lab of Elaine Fuchs at The Rockefeller University in New York – with some delay due to the Covid-19 imposed travel restrictions.

Deniz’s PhD supervisor Jürgen Knoblich was enthusiastic when he learned about the award: “I cannot say how happy I am for Deniz, who has been a truly amazing student when she was in my laboratory – a role model showing how persistence in rough times can pay off. She highly deserves the award recognizing her outstanding talent.”

About the Rabitsch Award

The Rabitsch award was initiated in 2006 after the tragic death of Kirsten Peter Rabitsch, who had just completed his PhD in Kim Nasmyth’s lab at the IMP and intended to start a postdoctoral degree in Jürgen Knoblich’s lab at IMBA. The prize is awarded for the most outstanding discovery of a PhD student at either the IMP or IMBA and thereby honours brilliant young scientist, like Kirsten was himself. The award, which is worth 2,000 Euros, is jointly sponsored by the IMP and Kirsten’s family, who take an active interest in the awardees and their research. The award is a continuing tribute to Kirsten’s outstanding personality and talent and an inspiration for aspiring young scientist at our institutes.

XS SM MD LG XL XXL