Ethan Lowder, a December 2021 graduate who majored in the biochemistry track of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been awarded the 2022 Ralph S. Quatrano Prize.
Established through a generous donation by Katherine Day Reinleitner, the Quatrano Prize is awarded to the thesis showing greatest evidence of creativity in design, research methodology or broader scientific implications. The award is given in honor of Ralph Quatrano, the Spencer T. Olin Professor Emeritus and former chair of biology.
Ethan was nominated by his major advisor and Bio 500 independent research mentor Robert Kranz, Professor of Biology.
In his nomination letter, Kranz said “I have known Ethan for four years at Washington University. He is one of the most talented and accomplished undergrads I have had in 34 years. He has worked in my lab since 2018 and continues to perform research at the highest level possible. I consider him at the level of a postdoctoral scientist. Even the covid-19 shutdown did not slow his research, class work, and productivity—he pivoted from wet-lab protein purification during his first year to computational protein structure. I believe Ethan’s thesis studies are exceptional and fit exactly what the Quatrano prize represents.”
Ethan’s contributions to the Kranz Lab’s research were essential to the acceptance of a recent publication in Nature Chemical Biology, in which the structure of a bifunctional membrane protein, called CcsBA, that transports heme and attaches it to cytochromes, was described for the first time. As a co-first author on the paper, Ethan spent years fitting the CcsBA structure into various Cryo-EM densities using protein computational programs. The structures generated will have a large impact on the fields of heme transport and bioenergetics. Biochemistry of purified CcsBA from the Kranz team led to a collaboration with Professor James Fitzpatrick and Michael Rau at Washington University’s Cryo-EM facilities, who constructed Cryo-EM density maps of purified CcsBA molecules. A combination of genetic and functional analyses from the Kranz team substantiated Ethan’s structural insights on mechanisms of heme transport and cytochrome assembly.
Ethan says, “I am phenomenally excited to win this award. My classes, and everyone in the department who mentored me, have laid an essential foundation that made my thesis work possible. I loved learning about biochemistry here at WashU, and always wanted to be at the cutting edge of research in the field. Pushed by this desire, I strive to both innovate and make impact in a field that I'm so passionate about. I want to thank Dr. Kranz and the entire Kranz lab as well. The lab culture and everyone in it has contributed to my development as a scientist, and I strongly value Dr. Kranz for mentoring me so well these past four years. I'm thankful to follow in the example of Dr. Quatrano and feel so honored to receive this award in his name as well as be inspired by his career throughout my future studies."
Ethan will receive the award during a biology awards ceremony in May.