Kelly Levano, who obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2003 from the College of Staten Island and her PhD in Biochemistry in August 2009 from the CUNY Graduate Center (home campus CSI), has recently received the Horst Schulz Prize in Biochemistry. Her winning paper was entitled “A Genetic Strategy Involving a Glycosyltransferase Promoter and a Lipid Translocating Enzyme to Eliminate Cancer Cells.” Levano received the award at a ceremony at the CUNY Graduate Center. In attendence were CSI Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. William Fritz; her mentor at CSI, Professor of Chemistry Dr. Probal Banerjee; and Levano’s mother, among others.
This is the second year in a row that the prize was won by a CSI student, as Leah Cohen received the award last year for her paper “Expression and Biophysical Analysis of Two Double-Transmembrane Domain-Containing Fragments From a Yeast G Protein-Coupled Receptor.”
Levano, who is currently working as a Postdoc at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Department of Developmental Molecular Biology under Dr. Paraic Kenny with a research specialization of breast cancer, said, “I was very honored to have received this award. I was especially moved during the award ceremony by [Executive Officer of the Biochemistry program at the CUNY Graduate Center] Dr. Edward J. Kennelly’s introductory speech where he read a few lines from my admission’s essay. He reminded me of my goals and expectations at the time I entered the Doctoral program and reinforced my goal to help in the fight against cancer.”
“The Horst Schulz award was started in 2008 honoring Prof. Emeritus Horst Schulz, who chaired the Biochemistry Doctoral program for a number of years,” Dr. Banerjee explained. “Every year, it honors a Biochemistry doctoral student whose research has been published in a peer-reviewed journal in the form of a first-author article. It is highly competitive, because a number doctoral students from various CUNY campuses compete for this honor. We are proud to acknowledge that Leah Cohen from Dr. Fred Naider’s lab received this award for 2008 and now Kelly received it for 2009, thus bringing special honor to CSI.”
As for Levano and her achievement, Banerjee added, “Kelly joined my research team as a shy undergraduate student who was sure about her talents but not really set in her goal in life. Her strong background in Biochemistry helped her grasp the research project fairly quickly, but then she had to work really hard to secure a berth in the CUNY Doctoral program in Biochemistry. Little did she or anyone else know that she would eventually mature into a talented doctoral student. Furthermore, it was difficult to predict that in the melee of so many highly talented students she will be chosen to receive this prestigious award…I feel extremely proud of her achievement and hope that she will accomplish much more during her future years as a cancer biologist.”
Regarding Levano’s honors and the fact that CSI students have won the award two years in a row, Dr. Fritz commented that “this is another indication that our students and academic programs are “World Class, right here.”
Looking back on her studies at CSI, Levano noted, “the College of Staten Island has been my home for ten years. It was here that I developed my love for research and where I acquired the tools to achieve my goals as a researcher.”