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Awards & Honors

VBC PhD Awards 2018

On November 9th, during the closing ceremony of the Vienna BioCenter (VBC) PhD Symposium, the students who completed their thesis work in the past academic year were celebrated. Two prizes, the VBC PhD Award and the Mattias Lauwers Award, honor especially outstanding achievements of the students.

One of these sought after awards was presented to IMBA alumna Jasmin Taubenschmid for her thesis on the deadly toxin ricin.

About Jasmin's Thesis

Ricin is one of the deadliest toxins. Even tiny doses can kill within 36-72 hours. Jasmin Taubenschmid – while in search of an exciting PhD project – came across some ricin seeds, that a colleague had brought back from Greece. Instantly she was intrigued by the biological mechanisms underlying the mighty bioweapon and started to explore them rigorously in her VBC PhD project in the Penninger Lab. There are currently no antidotes for ricin exposure – so various groups, from pharmaceutical companies to the military, are interested in identifying therapies to treat or prevent ricin toxicity.

Thanks to a novel method called SugarQB (developed by her colleague Johannes Stadlmann) that allows global insights into protein glycosylation and glycan modifications in biological systems, Jasmin could have a detailed look on the glycoproteomes of ricin-resistant cells: She found that alterations of the glycoproteomes in the mutant cells might play a key role in ricin resistance. In her thesis she pinpointed six genes that orchestrate ricin toxicity by fucosylation and that might be key for new therapeutic targets for drug discovery. Findings from her PhD project were published in the Journals Cell research, and in Nature.

In my daily research work, I personally find these surprising twists in basic research, where research on a plant toxin suddenly can lead to new findings in disease mechanisms, particularly exciting. Our answers always produce unexpected, novel questions and ideas in the direction of which we can steer future research projects.

Jasmin Taubenschmid

VBC PhD student

The awardees were selected by a jury of VBC group leaders and each winner was awarded a cash prize. This year’s awardees:

  • Laura Gallego Valle (MFPL)
  • Annika Nichols (IMP)
  • Jasmin Taubenschmid (IMBA)

Moreover, the Mattias Lauwers Award was presented to Sarah Herberg of the Pauli lab at the IMP. This distinction is awarded to the PhD student, who delivered the best talk at a Monday Seminar. The award is named after the late Mattias Lauwers, a talented young PhD Student in the group of David Keays.

Congratulations to everyone!

About the VBC PhD Award
Each academic year the Vienna Biocenter (VBC) PhD Awards are given to postgraduate students in acknowledgement of their outstanding PhD theses. The award was inspired by Renée Schroeder from the Max F. Perutz Laboratories and is supported by the research institutes involved in postgraduate education at the Vienna BioCenter – IMBA, IMP, GMI and MFPL.

About Jasmin Taubenschmid
Jasmin Taubenschmid was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and grew up in Stratzing, in the picturesque Wachau in Lower Austria. During high school she once attended a forensic workshop that sparked her interest in molecular biology. Jasmin successfully defended her PhD thesis "Decoding Glycans in Ricin Toxicity"in June 2018.