Pan wins 2024 Spector Prize

Each year, the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis awards a prize to a graduating senior in memory of Marion Smith Spector, a 1938 graduate who studied zoology under the late Viktor Hamburger. The Spector Prize, first awarded in 1974, recognizes academic excellence and outstanding undergraduate achievement in research. Students are nominated by their research mentors for outstanding research that has made substantial contributions to a field.

This year’s winner, Shelei Shawn Pan, is a December graduate who majored in the Neuroscience track of the Biology Major, and minored in Spanish.  Her thesis research The dynamic roles of cerebrospinal fluid in brain development and pediatric central nervous system pathology was completed in the Strahle Lab.

In her nomination letter, Jennifer Strahle, Professor of Neurosurgery, Orthopedic Surgery and Pediatrics, wrote, “Shelei’s work clearly demonstrates extraordinary achievement. From a scientific standpoint, her work has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of cerebrospinal fluid flow. This would be a substantial achievement for a PhD student. For it to occur during her time as an undergraduate is nothing short of phenomenal. In the last year, her contributions have accelerated despite carrying a full academic course load. Her ability to do so bodes well for her future career as a physician-scientist. Her work on the novel identification of specific CSF circulation routes within the brain was published in Nature Communications with Shelei as the sole first author. I have not seen this level of commitment and unending intellectual curiosity from anyone with whom I have worked. Shelei’s work has resulted in significant advances in our understanding of CSF interaction with the central nervous system.”

Pan says “I am honored to join the rich legacy of undergraduates to receive the Spector Prize. Partaking in research over the past 4-5 years has presented innumerable opportunities for my personal and professional growth, above all the privilege of receiving unparalleled mentorship from faculty who I consider to be my greatest role models. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my PI, Dr. Jennifer Strahle, for her wholehearted dedication and enthusiasm towards facilitating my development as a scientist, and for providing an invaluable grounding influence in connecting the importance of bench work to the humans it may one day impact. I would also like to give special thanks to Dr. Erik Herzog and Dr. Joan Downey for their unwavering support and wisdom through the years. Winning the Spector Prize is a reflection of the amazing environment all of my mentors and the Biology Department at WashU have created to truly make a difference in my life.”

Honorable mentions for the Spector Prize include Erica Hurley for her work in Joseph Corbo’s lab, Braxton Sizemore for his work in Ashley Edes’ lab, Jessica Greven for her work in Thomas Brett’s lab, and Yuhua (Amelia) Li for her work in Albert (Gus) Davis’ lab. All Spector Prize winners will present their research in a special seminar, and will receive a prize and formal acknowledgement at a celebration of biology honors and research emphasis students in May.