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Josh Borin and Hanqing Liu Selected for Founding Faculty Awards

January 12, 2022

By Mario Aguilera

Josh Borin

Josh Borin

Boosting our chances in the fight against antibiotic resistance and the development of a novel road map for brain cells were the topics of two graduate student-led research papers selected in the most recent Founding Faculty Award for Graduate Excellence, an honor bestowed by UC San Diego's Division of Biological Sciences.

A December 9 virtual 2021-2022 Founding Faculty Award event honored Josh Borin for "Coevolutionary Phage Training Leads to Greater Bacterial Suppression and Delays the Evolution of Phage Resistance," a paper published June 8, 2021, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ( PNAS) , and Hanqing Liu for "DNA Methylation Atlas of the Mouse Brain at Single-Cell Resolution," published October 6, 2021, in Nature. The event included welcoming remarks from Biological Sciences Dean Kit Pogliano and founding faculty retrospectives from Professors Nick Spitzer and Darwin Berg.

Established through an endowment started by some of the first and most influential members of the Division of Biological Sciences, the Founding Faculty Award has been given since 2015. A committee of emeritus faculty representatives from the division's four sections selects each year's Founding Faculty award winners.

Hanqing Liu

Hanqing Liu

Borin graduated with bachelor's degrees in biology and aquatic and fishery sciences from the University of Washington. He worked as a research assistant at Georgia Tech studying the evolution of multicellularity. After spending a year backpacking through South America, Alaska and the Yukon, Borin joined Associate Professor Justin Meyer's laboratory to study bacteria and phage evolution. The PNAS paper he led provided evidence that phages that undergo special evolutionary training increase their capacity to subdue bacteria and delay the onset of bacterial resistance, similar to the way a boxer trains ahead of a title bout. Borin, a fourth-year graduate student, has established a research collaboration with Associate Professor David Pride's Lab as part of the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics , the first dedicated phage therapy center in North America.

Liu earned a bachelor's degree in biotechnology from Zhejiang University in China. After spending a year as a master's student at the same university, Liu joined the Biological Sciences PhD program and Adjunct Professor Joseph Ecker's Lab at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies to study cellular diversity in the mouse brain by profiling their epigenomes at single-cell resolution. His co-first authored Nature paper describes an analysis of 103,982 mouse brain cells using single-cell DNA methylation sequencing. This approach allows the researchers to study the pattern of methyl chemical groups on each strand of DNA in brain cells. Liu, a fifth-year graduate student, and his colleagues identified 161 clusters of cell types, setting the stage for future drugs targeting each unique epigenomic signature.

Photos of Borin and Liu will be added to the Founding Faculty Award section of the lobby of UC San Diego's Bonner Hall.