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Rockefeller postdoc Stephen Brohawn named Blavatnik Award regional finalist

Stephen Brohawn, a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University, has been named a Blavatnik Award regional finalist in chemistry by the New York Academy of Sciences. Brohawn is a member of Roderick MacKinnon’s Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology and Biophysics.

Steve BrohawnThe Blavatnick Awards were established in 2007 by the New York Academy of Sciences and the Blavatnik Charitable Foundation to identify highly innovative and promising young scientists and engineers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. This year, only postdoctoral researchers were considered. The nine regional finalists each will be awarded $10,000 and an award medal at the Academy’s annual gala in November. The winner in each of three categories — life sciences, chemistry and physical sciences/engineering — will be announced at that time and will receive an additional $20,000 in unrestricted funds.

Brohawn received his Ph.D. in biology in 2010 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was awarded a Koch Fellowship and a Vertex Scholarship. In MacKinnon’s laboratory, Brohawn studies how proteins called mechanosensitive ion channels sense mechanical forces. He focuses on one particular mechanosensitive ion channel in humans named TRAAK that is involved in pain sensation, showing that the force that opens TRAAK comes directly through the cellular membrane to the channel. He also has used X-ray crystallography to generate the first atomic level shapshots of human TRAAK, providing scientists with the first visualization of the physical structure of any animal mechanosensitive ion channel.

Past Blavatnik recipients from Rockefeller include Jonathan Fisher, a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Sensory Neuroscience in 2013, postdocs Andrey Feklistov and Nicholas Stavropoulos in 2012, Shai Shaham, head of the Laboratory of Developmental Genetics, and Sreekanth Chalasani, a postdoctoral associate in the Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior in 2009 and Leslie B. Vosshall, Robin Chemers Neustein Professor, head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, in 2007.

Past finalists from Rockefeller include postdoc Agnel Sfeir in 2010, postdocs Valerie Horsley, Andreas Keller and Matthew Evans in 2008, and Pels Family Professor Tarun Kapoor, head of the Selma and Lawrence Ruben Laboratory of Chemistry and Cell Biology, in 2007.