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John H. Weis Memorial Graduate Student Award

    John Weis was a remarkable colleague who was passionate about many things, including the education and training of PhD and MD students. In recognition of his dedication to teaching and mentoring, a Graduate Student Award is being established in his honor. The Award recipient will be announced at the annual University of Utah Biosciences Symposium, in recognition of John’s many contributions to teaching and leadership in the Molecular Biology Program and Medical School curriculum.

    The Award will be given on a competitive basis, with selection by a committee of faculty members in the Molecular Biology Program. This Award will recognize outstanding graduate achievement by a student who exemplifies John’s creative and original approach to science and life at the University of Utah. It will provide either stipend support for research by an outstanding PhD or MD student, or one or more travel awards to support student participation in a scientific meeting or course. The nature of the Award will depend upon on the amount of funds raised. Our goal is to establish a substantial permanent endowment, although the funds will be used for the same purpose if they are only sufficient for a limited term.

    Funds are being collected by the University’s Development Office. Contributions can be made using this link:  John H. Weis Memorial Graduate Student Award

    Thank you for honoring John’s memory and contributing to graduate education at the University of Utah.

    John H. Weis

    Recipients

    Year Awardee  
    2016 Sarah Bridge Sarah Bridge has completed her third year of medical school and has taken a leave of absence to conduct HIV/AIDS clinical research in Mbarara, Uganda as an International Clinical Research Fellow supported by the Doris Duke Foundation. She will use the Travel Award to attend a three-week immersion course on Social Medicine that will take place at Lacor Hospital in Gulu, Uganda.
    2016 Dollie LaJoie Dollie LaJoie is a graduate student in Katie Ullman’s lab in the Department of Oncological Sciences. Dollie studies the role of ESCRT proteins in reforming the nuclear envelope during cell division. She will use the Travel Award to attend the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting.
    2016 Gurkan Mollaoglu Gurkan Mollaoglu is a graduate student in Trudy Oliver’s lab in the Department of Oncological Sciences. Gurkan studies the role of Sox2 in the regulation of the tumor immune microenvironment in lung squamous cell carcinoma. He will use the Travel Award to attend an International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) meeting in New York.
    2016 Matt Szaniawski Matt Szaniawski is a graduate student in Vicente Planelles’ lab in the Department of Pathology. Matt studies the role of SAMHD1 in controlling HIV-1 infection in primary human macrophages. He will use the Travel Award to attend the HIV Persistence During Therapy Workshop.
    2017 Maria Disotaur Maria Disotuar is a graduate student in Danny Chou’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry. Maria has been developing new insulin analogues mirroring ultra-fast acting venom insulin produced by the fish-hunting cone snail, Conus geographus. She will use the Travel Award to attend the American Peptide Symposium.
    2017 Jingtao Guo Jingtao Guo is a graduate student in Brad Cairns’ lab in the Department of Oncological Sciences. Jingtao is studying self renewal, differentiation and pluripotency in human spermatogonial stem cells. He will use the Travel Award to attend the Annual Meeting of the Society for Study of Reproduction.
    2017 Jillian Jafek Jillian Jafek is a graduate student in Dean Tantin’s lab in the Department of Pathology. Jillian is studying the role of the Oct1 and OCA-B transcription factors in acute myeloid leukemia. She will use the Travel Award to attend the Conference on Molecular and Translational Advances in the Biology and Treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
    2018 TK Coody TK Coody is a graduate student in Adam Hughes’ lab in the Department of Biochemistry. TK has been performing a genetic analysis of lysosomal dysfunction and how nutrient mislocalization of nutrients can cause cellular toxicity. He will use the Travel Award to attend the Gordon Conference on Molecules, Pathways, and Physiology of Endosomes, Lysosomes and Lysosome-Related Organelles.
    2018 Erin Larragoite Erin Larragoite is a graduate student in Vicente Planelles’ lab in the Department of Pathology. Erin has been studying HIV latency, including identifying compounds that reduce deleterious cytokine induction upon latent HIV reactivation and developing a barcoded HIV library to further understand the establishment and maintenance of HIV latency. She will use the Travel Award to attend the Cold Springs Harbor Retroviruses Meeting.
    2018 Anne Martin Anne Martin is a graduate student in Megan Williams’ lab in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy. Anne has been studying the role of cell adhesion molecules in formation of mammalian synapses. She will use the Travel Award to attend the Cold Spring Harbor Meeting on Molecular Mechanisms of Neuronal Connectivity.
    2018 Deeptha Vasudevan Deeptha Vasudevan is a graduate student in Rich Dorsky’s lab in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy. Deeptha has been studying the role of local neurogenesis in functional recovery following spinal cord injury using a zebrafish model system. She will use the Travel Award to attend the Gordon Conference on Neural Development.
    2019 Christopher Creveling Christopher Creveling is a graduate student in Brittany Coats’ lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Christopher studies the mechanics of adhesion between the vitreous and retina of the human eye. He will use the Travel Award to attend the Summer Biomechanics, Bioengineering, and Biotransport Conference. 
    2019 Kaitlyn Ellis Kaitlyn Ellis is a graduate student in Sophie Caron’s lab in the Department of Biology. Kaitlyn studies the neuronal connectivity patterns that enable efficient learning, using Drosophila. She will use the Travel Award to attend the Ascona 2019 Meeting on Neuronal Circuits. 
    2019 Seyi Falekun Seyi Falekun is a graduate student in Paul Sigala’s lab in the Department of in the Department of Biochemistry. Seyi studies the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, and has discovered novel functions of the mitochondrial acyl carrier protein in coordinating iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis. He will use the Travel Award to attend the Woods Hole Molecular Parasitology Meeting. 
    2019 Jinze Li Jinze Li is a graduate student in Janis Weis’ lab in the Department of Pathology. Jinze has identified novel host factors that influence the severity of Lyme arthritis development. She will use the Travel Award to attend the American Association of Immunologists annual meeting. 
    2020 Michael Olsen Michael Olsen is a graduate student in Djordje Atanackovic’s lab in the Department of Pathology. Michael studies spontaneous anti-tumor immunity and the development of T cell-based immunotherapies for the treatment of hematologic malignancies. He will use the Travel Award to attend the American Association of Cancer Research meeting.
    2020 Stephanie Orozco Figueroa Stephanie Orozco Figueroa is a graduate student in Matthew Bettini’s lab in the Department of Pathology. Stephanie studies how T cells develop central tolerance and the development of autoreactive T cells. She will use the Travel Award to attend the ThymUS conference.
    2020 Yeyun Ouyang Yeyun Ouyang is a graduate student in Jared Rutter’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry. Yeyun studies mechanisms that regulate mitochondrial membrane potential, She will use the Travel Award to attend a conference on Mitochondrial Dysfunction: From Ultra-Rare Diseases to Aging.
    2020 John Sanchez John Sanchez is an MD/PhD student who has completed his graduate work in Bob Fujinami’s lab in the Department of Pathology. John studies viralencephalitis and central nervous system autoimmunity. He will use the Travel Award to attend the American Academy of Neurology Conference.
    2020 Trevor Tippetts Trevor Tippetts is a graduate student in Scott Summers’ lab in the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology. Trevor studies the role of ceramides in cardio-metabolic disease. He will use the Travel Award to attend the Cell Symposia on Metabolites in Signaling and Disease.

    John H. Weis, PhD

    John H. Weis

    John Weis was a Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Utah for 27 years, from 1988-2015, where he held the George S. Weber Presidential Endowed Chair in Immunology. John received his Ph.D. in 1980 from the University of Minnesota, working in the laboratory of Anthony J Faras, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in viral immunology with Lynn W. Enquist at Molecular Genetics Inc in Minnesota, and a postdoctoral fellowship in immunogenetics with Jon G. Seidman at Harvard Medical School. He was appointed as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School from 1985-1988, prior to joining the faculty at the University of Utah.

    John’s research focused on the fundamental regulation of immune responses, including mast cell development, complement receptor expression by distinct cell types, and transcriptional regulation of B and T lymphocyte maturation.  A major emphasis throughout his career was the characterization of transcription factors regulating the progression of B cell maturation, including the recently identified Zfp318.  He was also interested in identifying distinct factors that regulate T lymphocyte maturation, with his most recent work focusing on members of the Snail family of transcription factors.  His studies of complement receptors also included cell biology and signaling mechanisms in response to pathogens. John’s work on the interferon-inducible transmembrane proteins led to an understanding of their involvement in membrane trafficking. He also provided important expertise in immunology to the Lyme disease studies of his colleague and wife of 37 years, Janis Weis.

    John served as Associate Editor for the Journal of Immunology from 1987-1989, with continued frequent editorial service for that publication.  He also served regularly on NIH study sections, including full membership of Allergy and Immunology (1999-2003), Innate Immunity and Inflammation (2011-2013), and as an Ad Hoc member of numerous other study sections from 1989-2010.  
     
    In his addition to his research, John was dedicated to graduate education at Utah, serving as the Director of the campus-wide Molecular Biology Graduate Program and teaching Immunology to graduate students for many years.  He was known for the enthusiasm he brought to mentoring 20 Ph.D. students who received their training in his lab, along with numerous undergraduate, medical, and masters students, as well as postdoctoral fellows. His enthusiasm for Immunology was also shared with Medical Students, where he served as the Unit Director for the “Host and Defense” section in their curriculum as well as the primary lecturer in Immunology.  

    John’s impact was not limited to his academic and teaching activities at the University of Utah. He was also an enthusiastic advocate for outdoor experiences in Utah, and invested great energy on issues promoting access and safety in the state of Utah. This included serving as a Regional Advisory Council member for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, a founding member of the Utah Bicycle Coalition, and a member of the Fish Health Board of the State of Utah. He was an avid fly fisherman, committed to ensuring public access to fishing streams in Utah and to expanding opportunities for this sport. John authored numerous opinion pieces and letters in the Salt Lake Tribune that promoted environmental causes. He also served as a volunteer guide for people living with cancer by working with the organization Reel Recovery.

    John made a major contribution to bicycle safety in Utah after the death of a graduate student during the time he was serving as the Director of the Molecular Biology Program. He mobilized the community and lobbied on behalf of providing better safety to bicyclists who share the road with automobiles. His efforts included organizing the Josie Johnson Memorial Bike Ride and expending great efforts to encourage the Utah legislature to pass the 3-foot law, which supports the safe passage of bicycles by drivers (2005). The successful enactment of this law was a source of great pride to John and enhanced the safety and enjoyment of bicycling throughout the state.

    In recognition of his dedication to teaching and mentoring, a Graduate Student Award is being established in his honor at the University of Utah.