Dr. Stearns will create a new educational program at Stanford University, the Pre-Grad Program, which will train a select group of undergraduates to be the next generation of leaders in biological research through close interaction with faculty members in course work, research, and advising. He hopes to identify about 20 students per year interested in attending graduate school and pursuing a career in science research. In addition, the program will involve five faculty members, a career counselor, and 20 graduate and postdoc research mentors.
The program will comprise five major components. First is early recruitment of science- and technology-oriented students, with a particular emphasis on minority students. Second is course work focused on understanding the primary literature. New courses will be designed to teach students the skills they need to be successful in research. The educational centerpiece of the program will be a junior-level course on the methods and logic of biological experimentation. The third component is a project lab course designed especially for students with an interest in pursuing research. Students in the program will take a two-quarter course, the first part a lecture/discussion of what they will be doing in the lab, and the second the lab itself. It is expected that the students will then choose a lab in which to do an honors thesis based on research in their junior and senior years. The fourth component is attendance at a national research meeting. The program will pay for students to attend a national meeting of their choice. Fifth is a career-oriented seminar course and career advising. Speakers will be invited from different sectors of the biomedical community, including academic, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, publishing, and government, to give talks to students and spend time discussing their careers.
Dr. Stearns's lab is at the forefront of research on the structure, function, and duplication of the centrosome. In research on cell cycle control of centrosome duplication, they identified Cdk2/cyclin E as the cell cycle kinase responsible for initiating centrosome duplication at G1/S and created an in vitro assay to demonstrate that centriole separation does not occur in the absence of Cdk2 activity. They also showed that components of the G1/S ubiquitin proteolysis machinery are essential to the duplication process. Most recently, Dr. Stearns's lab identified a regulatory mechanism that limits duplication to once per cell cycle in human cells, and they are now investigating how that regulation goes awry in cancer cells. In addition to the work on animal cells, they are undertaking a large-scale proteomics project in yeast to identify the substrates of the yeast ortholog of Cdk2 that are relevant to centrosome duplication.
In research on mechanisms of microtubule organization by the centrosome, Dr. Stearns and others have shown that a third member of the tubulin superfamily, γ-tubulin, is important for microtubule nucleation and that γ-tubulin is part of a large ring-shaped complex that includes five members of a novel protein family in addition to γ-tubulin. Dr. Stearns's lab is now determining the molecular interactions within this complex and between the complex and the microtubule to understand the mechanics of nucleation. They also recently identified two new members of the tubulin superfamily in humans, δ-tubulin and ε-tubulin, and have shown that ε-tubulin is required for centrosome duplication.
In research on tubulin biogenesis and microtubule dynamics, Dr. Stearns and others have found that one class of proteins, called tubulin cofactors, can act to sequester tubulin monomers, acting as a tubulin buffer. They are now determining the structural requirements for cofactor-tubulin binding and using microarrays of yeast genes to characterize the cellular response to altered levels of tubulin. The dynamic polymerization and depolymerization of microtubules is essential to their function, and Dr. Stearns's lab was the first to use green fluorescent protein'tubulin fusions to visualize microtubules in living cells and characterize the relationship between dynamics and spindle orientation.
Last updated October 2002