Ethan Greenblatt, a senior postdoctoral associate in Allan Spradling’s lab at the Department of Embryology, has been awarded the eleventh Postdoctoral Innovation and Excellence Award. Greenblatt has made a major impact on biological science, particularly with his research identifying genetic factors underlying fragile X syndrome, the most common cause of autism.
Recipients of these postdoctoral awards are given a cash prize for their exceptionally creative approaches to science, strong mentoring, and contributing to the sense of campus community. A celebration is also held in their honor. These awards are made through nominations from the departments and are chosen by the Office of the President.
Greenblatt’s research revealed that defects in the cell’s ability to create unusually large proteins was at work in the disorder. He investigated the Fmr1 gene believed to be essential for controlling the last stages of the gene’s protein-making. Mutations of it create problems in the brain and reproductive system leading to fragile X syndrome and to premature ovarian failure. Greenblatt thought that analyzing protein production in mature fruit fly egg cells would provide relevant information, since they have similar regulatory machinery as synapses, but are 10 million times larger. This research required him to develop innovative methods, including adapting a protocol originally developed by former Embryology Staff Member Nick Ingolia.
In addition to his innovative research, Greenblatt regularly contributes to the sense of community at the department and to the greater Baltimore community. He helped organize the Carnegie Embryology 100 Year Anniversary Symposium and has stimulated interest in the Friday Happy Hours, so that researchers from different labs can mingle. His consistent commitment to this Carnegie trainee community has also resulted in his serving on their behalf in discussions with administrative staff on different issues.
Greenblatt has also volunteered as a teacher for BioEYES, a hands-on science program for Baltimore City students and teachers, headquartered at Carnegie. He has communicated his science with the public at “Nerd Night Baltimore,” and he has served as a "Big Brother" to a Baltimore City youth.
Department Director Yixian Zheng remarked, “Ethan exhibits all the qualities of a superior Carnegie scientist: remarkable innovation in tackling problems; natural leadership; cohesive teamwork; and a profound sense of the need to give back to both Carnegie and the greater community. We congratulate him on this selection.”
Greenblatt received his B.S. with high honors in chemistry, with a minor in mathematics from William and Mary and his Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University. He has been a postdoc at Carnegie since 2012.