Newswise — BETHESDA, MD – The Genetics Society of America (GSA) and the Drosophila research community are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Awards. These awards support travel costs for undergraduates engaged in research to attend the Annual Drosophila Research Conference sponsored by GSA. The six winners will present their research at the 56th Annual Drosophila Research Conference, which will take place in Chicago, IL, March 4–8, 2015.

"We are excited to provide what will likely be the first opportunity for these talented students to participate in an international scientific research conference," said Helen Salz, PhD, Chair of the Finnerty Award review committee and a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. "The winners will be presenting their research to more than 1,500 scientists attending the largest assembly of fruit fly researchers in the world."

"It is inspiring to see the potential these students have already demonstrated for carrying out cutting-edge fundamental research," added Adam Fagen, PhD, Executive Director of GSA. "We look forward to their presentations at the conference and to their development as scientists in years to come."

The Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Award program was established in 2011 to honor the memory of its namesake, an exceptional geneticist known for her creativity in and commitment to the training of undergraduates. Finnerty was a long-time GSA member, a dedicated undergraduate educator at Emory University for 35 years, and an active member of the Drosophila research community and the genetics community at large. This is the fourth year the Victoria Finnerty awards have assisted undergraduates to attend the Annual Drosophila Research Conference, having already provided more than $20,000 to 27 undergraduates thus far.

Fifty-two undergraduate students applied for the 2015 awards, from which six winners were selected. The 2015 winners of the Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Awards are:

Jonathan Cohen, Swarthmore College, USA
Research focus: "I use Drosophila as a model organism for investigating the role of the intestinal microbiome in innate antiviral immunity."
Mentor: Sara Cherry, University of Pennsylvania

Alexander Kneubehl, Ohio Northern University, USA
Research focus: "My research focuses on investigating the role of the protein calcium/calmodulin-dependent serine kinase (CASK) in collective cell migration as modeled in Drosophila oogenesis. "
Mentor: Jamie Sanford

Kiu Ming April Kong, York University, Canada
Research focus: "My research uses a simple laboratory animal, the fruit fly, to examine how sugars, proteins, and fats in food influence the growth and spread of cancer cells."
Mentor: Kyle Belozerov

Meera Namireddy, Rice University, USA
Research focus: "We are interested in how low, moderate and high doses of bacteria affect innate-immunity and the mechanisms of bacterial clearance in Drosophila." Mentor: Kartik Venkatachalam, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Irina Pushel, Michigan State University, USA
Research focus: "I use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to understand how gene expression is controlled by retinoblastoma proteins, which have been shown to play a role in human cancers." Mentor: David Arnosti

Anna Zeidman, Brown University, USA
Research focus: "I study how proteins find and control genes on a specific chromosome." Mentor: Erica Larschan

The Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Award program is supported by the Drosophila Board and by charitable donations from members of the genetics community to GSA. For more information about the Victoria Finnerty Awards, please see

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About the Drosophila Research Conference

More than 1,500 researchers attend GSA's Annual Drosophila Research Conference to share the latest research using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and related insect species. Many of the findings from these model organisms have broad application for the study of human genetic traits and diseases. For more information about the conference, please see

About the Genetics Society of America (GSA)

Founded in 1931, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is the professional scientific society for genetics researchers and educators. The Society’s more than 5,000 members worldwide work to deepen our understanding of the living world by advancing the field of genetics, from the molecular to the population level. GSA promotes research and fosters communication through a number of GSA-sponsored conferences including regular meetings that focus on particular model organisms. GSA publishes two peer-reviewed, peer-edited scholarly journals: GENETICS, which has published high quality original research across the breadth of the field since 1916, and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, an open-access journal launched in 2011 to disseminate high quality foundational research in genetics and genomics. The Society also has a deep commitment to education and fostering the next generation of scholars in the field. For more information about GSA, please visit

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