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York biologist wins European accolade

Posted on 14 April 2015

A University of York scientist is the winner of the inaugural 2014 graduate student prize for a paper published in The Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

Dr Ellie Harrison

The prize will be presented to Dr Ellie Harrison, of the Department of Biology, by the Journal and the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) at the latter’s 2015 congress in Lausanne in August.

Dr Harrison, who is a post-doctoral researcher in the laboratory of Professor Mike Brockhurst at York, receives the award for her paper ‘Sex drives intracellular conflict in yeast’. The paper resulted from her PhD studies at Imperial College, London, with Austin Burt, Craig MacLean and Vasso Koufopanou.

The paper demonstrates, using experimental evolution in yeast, that sexual reproduction can drive the evolution of selfish genetic elements; parasitic elements within the cell that do not contribute to, and may even reduce, the fitness of the organism. Sex mixes together cells from different individuals giving these genetic parasites the opportunity to spread.  

Dr Harrison is currently working on the relationship between microbes and mobile genetic elements that inhabit them.

The award will be made annually and it will be named the Stearns Graduate Student Prize after Stephen Stearns, who helped to establish both the journal serving as its first Editor and the ESEB.

Dr Harrison said: “It’s fantastic to win an award, especially for this study which involved so much work for myself as well as Austin, Craig and Vasso.”

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