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Student Earns Statewide Biotechnology Research Award

Identifying a fruit fly gene that can be useful in diabetes and other biological studies earned Melissa Kaye Jones the 2012 Don Eden Graduate Student Research Award at the 24th annual California State University Biotechnology Symposium in Santa Clara, sponsored by the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology.

She received her B.S. degree in biology from CSULB and now is working on her M.S. in biology in the lab of Professor Lisa Klig, an expert in molecular genetics. Jones co-authored her presentation with Klig and Associate Professor Elizabeth Eldon.

Jones’ work focuses on an enzyme called myo-inositol oxygenase (MIOX) that helps break down a sugar, myo-inositol, which is important in many biological processes. “MIOX is implicated in diabetes, but the mechanisms are largely unknown,” she said. Scientists already found the MIOX gene in mice but not in fruit flies, until now.

Her research on a protein called CG6910 “establishes that CG6910 is the MIOX gene in fruit flies and so fruit flies can be used as a model to study the role of inositol catabolism in diabetes,” she said. Catabolism is the process of breaking down molecules that releases energy in organisms.

Eden Award recipients earn funds toward their education and for travel to present their research at a national or international scientific meeting. The award will aid Jones in her goal of eventually earning a Ph.D. and becoming a biomedical researcher.