Balint recieves the 2019 Hannah T. Croasdale Award

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Balint Kacsoh receives the 2019 Hannah T. Croasdale Award, presented by Dean F. Jon Kull (Photo: Lars Blackmore)

2019 Hannah T. Croasdale Award Recipient: Balint Kacsoh

Posted on June 10, 2019  by Amanda Skinner

The Hannah Croasdale Scholar Award is presented to the graduating Ph.D. recipient who best exemplifies the qualities of a scholar. These individuals possess personal qualities of intellectual curiosity, dedication, and commitment to the pursuit of new knowledge, and to teaching. The award honors Professor Hannah T. Croasdale, who performed research and taught biology for more than 40 years at Dartmouth. She was the first woman to achieve the level of full professor in the Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth. 

The Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies extends heartfelt congratulations to the 2019 recipient of the Croasdale Award, Balint Kacsoh.

Given the high standard of research across the Guarini School programs at Dartmouth, the selection process for the Croasdale Award is not an easy one. The high caliber of students is testament to the rigorous and renowned scholar-teacher model at Dartmouth, and the numerous letters of recommendation from advisors left us in no doubt that this School attracts scholars from among the brightest and best. 

However, we have only one Award; and this year’s recipient stood out for his contributions to his field of research and to the academy in his approach to mentoring.

Balint Kacsoh received his M.S. in Biology from Emory University and joined the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) Graduate Program in 2013 under Giovanni Bosco. During his career at Dartmouth, Balint has received numerous awards for his own academic output, and also for his contributions to the community as a mentor and teacher. 

Driving his scholarship is the timeless question of nature versus nurture. This has shaped his research into learning, memory, and social behavior in Drosophila melanogaster(the fruit fly) and resulted in publications as first author in a number of important journals in the field. Balint’s ground breaking research has demonstrated that fruit flies learn from their environment and, while those learned memories fade with time, they may be shared with other fruit flies who did not learn their lessons the hard way—suggesting there is some kind of fruit fly language spanning multiple species within the genus Drosophila

His mentor wrote of his output “He is a machine with a sophisticated brain that knows how to get things done! Voluminous writing is one of his strong points and getting Balint to slow down has been my greatest challenge in mentoring him.”

Balint’s work cascades from one discovery to another; his meticulous planning and color-coordinated charts and notes allow for synergistic connections to be made in his research. “As a consequence of Balint’s pioneering research, many spin-off projects have naturally evolved from his work,” writes his mentor.

Balint’s impressive attention to detail and meticulous planning have positioned him as a star mentor in the lab. He has frequently and graciously taken on the role of teacher for the new generation of students in the lab. His mentor notes how he has “patiently and consistently helped to train those who have come after him.” 

In addition to serving as lab mentor, he has served on the recruitment committee for the MCB graduate program, co-chaired the Dartmouth annual neuroscience day, and gone above and beyond in his role as teaching assistant in which he received exemplary performance evaluations from students and faculty.

Balint will start as a postdoctoral researcher in one of the leading laboratories in epigenetics at UPenn under Shelley Berger where he plans to work on understanding the social behaviors of leaf-cutter ants. “Hardly a field that will make him wealthy,” notes his mentor, but one that will be richer for his contributions, as are we.

It is with great pleasure that we present Balint Kacsoh with the 2019 Hannah T. Croasdale Award. Congratulations, Balint!

Original article link

Our CAFA paper is featured on the G3 homepage!

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Abstract

A major bottleneck to our understanding of the genetic and molecular foundation of life lies in the ability to assign function to a gene and, subsequently, a protein. Traditional molecular and genetic experiments can provide the most reliable forms of identification, but are generally low-throughput, making such discovery and assignment a daunting task. The bottleneck has led to an increasing role for computational approaches. The Critical Assessment of Functional Annotation (CAFA) effort seeks to measure the performance of computational methods. In CAFA3, we performed selected screens, including an effort focused on long-term memory. We used homology and previous CAFA predictions to identify 29 key Drosophila genes, which we tested via a long-term memory screen. We identify 11 novel genes that are involved in long-term memory formation and show a high level of connectivity with previously identified learning and memory genes. Our study provides first higher-order behavioral assay and organism screen used for CAFA assessments and revealed previously uncharacterized roles of multiple genes as possible regulators of neuronal plasticity at the boundary of information acquisition and memory formation.

paper link

Our lastest manuscript is live! "Neural circuitry of dialects through social learning in Drosophila." on bioRxiv

Paper available here

Abstract

Drosophila species communicate the presence of parasitoid wasps to naïve individuals. This observation suggests a rudimentary Drosophila social structure. Communication between closely related species is efficient, while more distantly related species exhibit a dampened, partial communication. Partial communication between some species is enhanced following a period of cohabitation, suggesting that species-specific variations in communication "dialects" can be learned through social interactions. However, it remains unclear as to how the behavioral acquisition and how learning dialects is facilitated by distinct brain regions. In this study, we have identified six regions of the Drosophila brain essential for dialect learning, including the odorant receptor Or69a. Furthermore, we pinpoint subgroups of neurons such as motion detecting neurons in the optic lobe, layer 5 of the fan-shaped body, and the D glomerulus in the antennal lobe, where activation of each are necessary for dialect learning. These results demonstrate that Drosophila can display complex social behaviors with inputs to multiple regions of the Drosophila brain and unique subsets of neurons that must integrate olfactory, visual and motion cues

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Our p̶r̶e̶p̶r̶i̶n̶t̶ paper is l̶i̶v̶e̶ published! "New Drosophila Long-Term Memory Genes Revealed by Assessing Computational Function Prediction Methods" out now at G3

Our p̶r̶e̶p̶r̶i̶n̶t̶ paper is l̶i̶v̶e̶ published! "New Drosophila Long-Term Memory Genes Revealed by Assessing Computational Function Prediction Methods" out now at G3. We utilized a bioinformatic gene prediction approach in order to elucidate novel Drosophila learning and memory genes.

http://www.g3journal.org/content/early/2018/11/21/g3.118.200867

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