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Moriah Szpara awarded Priscilla Schaffer Memorial Award

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28 March 2017

nullMoriah Szpara, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State, has been awarded the Priscilla Schaffer Memorial Award by the 2017 International Herpesvirus Workshop selection committee. The award recognizes an early career scientist who is dedicated to both mentorship and the advancement of research on herpesviruses. Szpara will deliver the Priscilla Schaffer Memorial Lecture at the 2017 International Herpesvirus Workshop in Ghent, Belgium, in July.

“It is an honor to receive this award named for Dr. Schaffer, since she was both a superb scientist and a generous mentor of other scientists and trainees,” said Szpara. “These are values that I strive for in my research here at Penn State. Although she is no longer with us, Dr. Schaffer’s impact on the scientific community was great and continues to ripple outward through this award. My lab collaborates with several of her former trainees, and we still utilize several reagents generated by her research.”

Szpara’s research focuses on understanding the basis for the widely varying severity of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections, which can range from cold sores to rare but potentially fatal brain infections. She combines techniques from neurobiology, virology, bioinformatics, and comparative genomics to identify genes in various herpes strains that are associated with particular symptoms and their severity. Szpara is also interested in how the herpes virus affects neurons—cells where the virus can linger for a lifetime—and other nearby cells. Her research program is facilitated by the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD) and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Szpara was awarded a Career Transition Award from the National Institutes of Health in 2013, and her research has been published in journals including The Journal of Virology, PLoS Pathogens, and Virology. Szpara is a member of numerous professional societies, including the American Society for Virology, the American Society of Microbiology, and the Society for Neuroscience, and she has been invited to speak at universities across the country.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 2013, Szpara was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University from 2005 to 2012. She earned a doctoral degree in molecular and cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2005 with a five-year predoctoral fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Szpara earned a bachelor’s degree in biology as an Eberly College of Science Braddock Scholar and a Schreyer Honors College Scholar at Penn State in 1998.

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