Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT professor receives prestigious biology award

Colin Day

 A UT assistant professor received an award earlier this month from the Society for Developmental Biology, recognizing his outstanding research on cell polarity.

Daniel Dickinson, an assistant professor in molecular biosciences, said the Society is the premier scientific organization worldwide for scientists who study embryonic development. 

“The more senior members of the Society are the people who I’ve looked up to my whole career, people whose papers I’ve read, people who I’ve known of for a long time, and to get recognized by that group is pretty incredible,” Dickinson said. “It’s a little bit of a strange feeling to get noticed by people who you’ve always admired and looked up to.”

Dickinson received the Elizabeth D. Hay New Investigator Award. Society President Ken Cho said the Hay Award is unique because it recognizes researchers in the field who are in the early stages of their independent careers. 

“For this award, we’re looking for the young scientist who has the spirit of Betty Hay,” Cho said. “Our committee felt that (Dickinson) was fitting to her whole career.”

Hay, a cell and developmental biologist, researched limb regeneration and served as president of the Society in 1973.  

Cho said the Society’s board of directors selected the recipients after they were nominated for the 2024 awards. 

“Even just getting nominated felt like a huge compliment because somebody from my department had to think highly enough of me to take the time to actually put the packet together,” Dickinson said. “I didn’t really expect to win because it’s a low-probability thing and they only give one of these awards every year. I was pretty surprised but really happy when I got the phone call.”

Dickinson said his lab focuses on cell polarity, a phenomenon where two sides of a cell have different properties that determine how tissue is assembled and functions in the body. The Dickinson lab works to understand how cells can polarize in response to environmental signals.

Naomi Stolpner, an assistant professor of practice and research educator for the Freshman Research Initiative, said Dickinson helped sponsor a research stream in collaboration with his lab. The Glow Worms research stream develops and utilizes gene editing technology that Dickinson created. 

“It’s really encouraging and inspiring to be around creative people like Dan,” Stolpner said. “There are a lot of scientists who have a lot of crazy ideas and there are a lot of scientists who are really technically skilled. Dan is special because he has both of those qualities.”

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