14 Carnegie Science | Spring 2019 Heather Meyer, a postdoctoral fellow in David Ehrhardt’s Plant Biology lab since 2016, has been awarded Carnegie’s twelfth Postdoctoral Innovation and Excellence Award. These prizes are given to postdocs for their exceptionally creative approaches to science, strong mentoring, and contributing to the sense of campus community. The nominations are made by the departments and are chosen by the Office of the President. The recipients receive a cash prize and are celebrated at an event at their departments. Meyer initiated a pioneering scientific project to identify the molecular mechanisms that plants use to sense and respond to seasonal temperatures to regulate flowering time and reproduction. Timing of reproduction is critical for plant success and is particularly important with global temperature rise. This project is an interdepartmental collaboration between the Ehrhardt lab and Yixian Zheng’s lab at the Department of Embryology, initiated with a Carnegie Venture Grant. Meyer obtained preliminary data that allowed her to receive two competitive fellowships to continue this project, including the highly competitive Life Science Research Fellowship. She also was chosen to present her results to the Carnegie trustees at the May 2018 meeting. Meyer’s outstanding leadership and outreach includes cofounding a campus-wide interest group on the biology of intrinsically disordered proteins, which meets once a month and fosters cross-departmental and Carnegie- Stanford interactions. Meyer and others also took the program to the California Academy of Sciences for an outreach night where they taught the public about these proteins using hands-on activities with simple household ingredients. Meyer is also a leader in the Carnegie Institution Postdoc Association. She organizes community events and helps draft the letters sent to Carnegie’s leadership. Ehrhardt remarked, “Much to my delight, Heather has also taken a keen interest in student and postdoctoral training. She co-organized and acted as an instructor for the Carnegie Writing Workshop, along with Sue Rhee, Kathy Barton, and Kangmei Zhao. She was principal designer of the curriculum on how to write and submit scientific papers. These are essential skills for all scientists, yet we are seldom taught formally as part of our training.” Carnegie president Eric D. Isaacs said, “The institution was founded to support particularly creative and excellent researchers. We are delighted to recognize Heather Meyer for her outstanding interdepartmental work on the molecular mechanisms underlying plant growth and reproduction. Please join me in congratulating her.” Meyer received a B.A. in premedical sciences in 2011 from Sarah Lawrence College and a Ph.D. in genetics, genomics, and development in 2016 from Cornell University.  Some organs, such as the intestine and ovaries, undergo structural changes in response to dietary nutrients, which can have lasting impacts on metabolism and influence cancer susceptibility, according to Carnegie’s Rebecca Obniski, Matthew Sieber, and Allan Spradling. Their work, published by Developmental Cell, used fruit flies, which are currently the most sensitive experimental system for detecting diet-induced cellular changes that are likely to be similar in mammals. There are three major types of cells in fruit fly and mammalian intestines: stem cells, hormone-producing cells, and nutrient-handling cells. Stem cells are eventually programmed to become either hormone-producing or nutrient-handling cells. The authors discovered that this programming can be influenced by nutrients, and that young animals are particularly sensitive to these changes. Obniski, the lead author, and her colleagues found that changes in dietary cholesterol particularly alter the cellular programming driving the production of new specialized cells from stem cells. The effect of cholesterol is to promote the programming of more new, unassigned stem cells into hormone-producing cells rather than nutrient-handling cells. Conversely, decreasing dietary cholesterol results in more nutrient-absorbing cells and fewer hormone-producing cells. Moreover, the researchers identified the detailed molecular mechanism by Diet Triggers Changes in Intestinal Cell Structure Heather Meyer 14 H H H Heather Meyer Receives Twelfth Postdoctoral Innovation and Excellence Award