Chun So receives Nikon Young Scientist Award

November 10, 2020

This year' s prize endowed with 1500 euros is awarded to Chun So of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry. With the Nikon Young Scientist Award, the German Society for Cell Biology (DGZ) annually honors outstanding young doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. The cell biologist receives the prize for his work on meiosis of the egg cell.

Before an egg cell can fuse with a sperm, it must reduce its chromosomes by half. This special cell division – meiosis – has been the focus of the awardee´s research for some time now: “In fact, this cell division, in contrast to the 'normal' cell division called mitosis, is still poorly understood. This makes the topic so appealing to me," says the young scientist, who conducts his research in Melina Schuh's Department of Meiosis at the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry.

Dr. Chun So conducts research on oocytes in the Deparment of Meiosis.

During his doctoral thesis, So studied a complex machinery known as the meiotic spindle apparatus, which drives halving of chromosomes in the egg cell. The cell biologist discovered a previously unknown mechanism in mice and other mammals in which 19 proteins constitute a liquid-like structure that infiltrates the spindle apparatus and forms protrusions at the spindle poles. This structure enriches a number of cytoskeletal regulatory factors, ensuring that the spindle builds up correctly and chromosomes are precisely segregated into two halves during meiosis. If mistakes occur during this process, the embryo resulting from the fertilized egg cell can die or develop abnormalities such as Down´s syndrome. 

The junior researcher wants to extend his research to the meiotic spindle apparatus in humans and is collaborating with several IVF clinics to do so. “In the future, I hope that my research can help women who are struggling with infertility,” So explains. In addition, he is now developing new model systems to study egg cell development at earlier stages. (is)

About the award winner

Chun So studied cell and molecular biology at the Chinese University in Hong Kong. During this time he received 15 awards and scholarships and completed his studies in 2016 with top grades. With a scholarship from the Croucher Foundation, he carried out his doctoral work in the Department of Meiosis headed by Melina Schuh at the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry and obtained his PhD from the University of Göttingen in 2019. Since then, he continues his research as a Max Planck Croucher postdoc fellow with Melina Schuh as well as with Ufuk Günesdogan at the University of Göttingen. In June 2020, the junior researcher also received the renowned Otto Hahn Award of the Max Planck Society.

About the Nikon Young Scientist Award

The DGZ has been awarding the prize annually since 2013 for outstanding scientific achievements to junior researchers. Junior researchers can apply for the award themselves or be nominated by a DGZ member. Awardees are selected by an independent jury of the DGZ.

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