Dietrich School Faculty Receive Kaufman Foundation Awards for New Initiatives

Andrea Berman, an associate professor in the Dietrich School's Department of Biological Sciences, and Michael Hatridge, associate professor in the school's Department of Physics and Astronomy, have received two-year, $300,000 Kaufman New Initiative Research Grants.

Berman, along with co-investigator Judith Yanowitz, received funding for the project, "Translation regulation of TMG-capped mRNAs – an evolutionary remnant of trans-splicing?" 

Cell types are defined by the genes they express. For example, muscle cells express genes important for generating energy for muscle contraction. At the molecular level, a cell uses genetic information to selectively make proteins that perform the essential characteristic processes of each cell. While the core machinery that synthesizes proteins is universal, the way cells control which proteins are made has evolved. The major signals that direct protein synthesis in simple organisms, like worms and disease-causing parasites, control a diminishing percentage of synthesis in complex animals.

In humans, this small percentage is responsible for protecting cells from molecular stress caused by pollutants, inflammation, and infection. Notably, some viruses hijack this mechanism to promote their conquest of the cell. We will identify the key molecules that worms and humans use to determine what proteins are made, and then dissect how they exert control at the molecular level. This will reveal novel information about the evolution of this mechanism over hundreds of millions of years, and also identify new treatment directions for parasitic infections and diseases afflicting humans, pets, and livestock essential to our economy.

Berman received her PhD at Yale University, performed her postdoctoral studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and joined the Department of Biological Sciences in 2012.

Hatridge, in collaboration with PI Professor Alex Jones from Pitt's Swanson's School of Engineering, received funding for the project, "Quantum Qubit and Architecture CO-Design for High fidelity Quantum Computing." The project is about spanning the divide between physics-based quantum hardware research, and ECE-based research on computation.  Specific areas of interest include how to best map the limitations of physical control and qubit architectures to efficient implementation of quantum algorithms. 

The research group will explore a wide parameter space of potential controls and compilation tools for gates based on Hatridge's superconducting qubit platform and will work to co-design controls and hardware. 

Hatridge received his PhD from U.C. Berkeley. He was a postdoctoral associate at Yale University, working with Michel Devoret on topics including quantum measurement, parametric amplification, and bath engineering. His current work focuses on the use of parametric drives to generate quantum controls, including single- and multi-qubit gates and engineered baths, and quantum circuits, including quantum-limited parametric amplifiers and modular quantum computers. He is a recipient of the Michelson Postdoctoral Prize Lectureship, the NSF CAREER Award, the Sloan Research Fellowship, and the 2021 Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award.

Read the official Kaufman Foundation release.
Read the Pittwire story