January Haile of Athens, Tenn., a Ph.D. student in biochemistry at Virginia Tech has been selected by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) to attend a meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany, in June.

Since 1951, Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physics, and physiology/medicine have met annually in Lindau to have open and informal discussions with students and young researchers. This year's event will focus on chemistry.

Haile received her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and biology from Emory & Henry College in 2004 and enrolled directly in a Ph.D. biochemistry program at Virginia Tech. However, it was not her first experience at the university. She was a research associate in Virginia Tech's biochemistry department during the summer of 2003. Haile was also a research associate in Vanderbilt University's Department of Cell and Developmental Biology during the summer of 2002.

As a graduate student in biochemistry Professor Peter Kennelly's laboratory, Haile’s research seeks a better understanding of how organisms integrate protein phosphorylation-dephosphorylation -- or the addition and removal of a phosphate group from a protein – to create information processing networks. Kennelly explains, "The successful dissection and modeling of protein phosphorylation-dephosphorylation networks as complete, integrated wholes will open a door to many new technologies. These include more efficient and versatile strategies for the genetic engineering of microorganisms, the fuller exploitation of microorganisms as environmental monitors, and the creation of man-made microprocessors based on organic technology." Understanding cellular communication also has the potential to benefit human health.

Haile said that attending the meeting of Nobel Laureates and students will enhance her graduate education experience and contribute to her development as an individual and educator. "The exchange of scientific ideas with persons from across disciplines and generations will provide an exciting environment in which to learn from a global and historical perspective," she said. "In science, as in many fields, it is vital to gain a better understanding of specific methods for research and experimental design. It is also necessary to be able to discuss such concepts with peers from various labs, schools, countries, and disciplines. The exchange of knowledge and ideas can provide new insights into a research problem. By attending the meeting of Nobel Laureates and students, I will have the opportunity to engage in such diverse conversations," Haile said.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Science Foundation, and ORAU are invited to bring groups of top young researchers to the 56th annual meeting to participate in discussions with the Nobel Laureates.Haile is among 60 U.S. Ph.D. students and 500 students from across the world who will participate.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech is the most comprehensive university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is among the top research universities in the nation. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to quality, innovation, and results through teaching, research, and outreach activities. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.

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