Bingfei Yu Wins 2017 Biology Founding Faculty Award

Award established in 2014 honors excellence in graduate research

October 13, 2017

By Mario C. Aguilera

Bingfei Yu (center) was honored with the 2017 Biology Founding Faculty Award for Graduate Excellence.

A. Angeles - ITS Media Services

Bingfei Yu, a graduate student in Professor Ananda Goldrath’s laboratory in the Division of Biological Sciences, has been awarded the 2017 Biology Founding Faculty Award for Graduate Excellence.

Ananda Goldrath and Bingfei Yu

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Founded in 2014, the $1,000 award is bestowed annually through an endowment from the Division of Biological Sciences’ founding faculty. Yu was recognized during an award ceremony Sept. 28, 2017 at UC San Diego’s Faculty Club.

The award committee recognized Yu for leading “Epigenetic landscapes reveal transcription factors that regulate CD8 + T cell differentiation,” a paper published in May 2017 in Nature Immunology. The study details a new way of investigating CD8 + T cells, which help the body fight against a range of infections. Yu developed a novel computational tool based on a Google webpage ranking algorithm. Much like targeted searches on the web, Yu explained that the algorithm allows users to “google” key transcription factors involved in T cell functions. Two novel transcription factors were revealed through the research.

Stu Brody, Bingfei Yu and Bill McGinnis

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“This study is particularly interesting because of the imaginative use of a genetic algorithm developed to find preferred patterns of regulation in mouse T cells in response to infection,” noted one of the award judges. Another award committee member praised the paper for opening up a new direction in the field.

“Bingfei Yu is a fearless and creative young scientist, willing to tackle epigenetics, immunology and bioinformatics in a unified project,” said Goldrath, chair of the Section of Molecular Biology and Yu’s advisor. “She has laid the groundwork for an approach to identifying key regulatory factors in cell-fate choices in many settings in the context of the immune response and beyond. I am very proud to see her work recognized by the Founding Faculty Award for Graduate Excellence.”

Yu joins previous winners of the award—Albert Lim (2016), Ben Rubin (2016) and Valentino Gantz (2015)—who are featured in a display in the Bonner Hall lobby. The award selection committee is made up of faculty, donors and representatives from each section in the Division of Biological Sciences: Cell and Developmental Biology; Ecology, Behavior and Evolution; Molecular Biology; and Neurobiology.