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Enrico Barrozo, a fourth year UF Genetics Institute graduate student and PhD candidate, is the winner of the 2018 Kenneth & Laura Berns Excellence in Genetics Award. Barrozo received the award on Nov. 1 at the Florida Genetics Symposium 2018.

The award, established through the generosity of former UFGI Director Dr. Kenneth I. Berns and his wife Laura Berns, recognizes a Genetics & Genomics Program graduate student for a significant contribution to the scientific community, either a publication, or other scholarly product in the preceding year.

(Figure 1) Pictured is reactivation. The process of the virus going from making no infectious virions to making infectious virious. In this model reactivation happens exactly on day 5

Dr. David Bloom, Barrozo’s mentor, nominated Barrozo for the award for his 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) presentation and NIH F31 Predoctoral Fellowship grant. Barrozo’s 3MT presentation focused on the design and testing of ribozymes as gene therapy treatments for ocular herpes with the overall goal of preventing herpes reactivation.

In Dr. Bloom’s lab, Barrozo studies herpes simplex virus (HSV-1.)

“I’ve always been fascinated by viruses,” Barrozo said. “The Herpes virus, from a genetic standpoint, is able to maintain a lifelong infection while maintaining the ability to reactivate. It needs to have very complex, fine-tuned gene regulation to be able to do that.”

      Enrico Barrozo and Dr. Berns

Barrozo’s long-term research interests include gene therapy, noncoding-RNAs, and viruses that cause cancer. Barrozo stated that he feels honored to be the Bern’s Award winner and that he was not anticipating winning.

“I was really surprised that I won this year. Next year I thought I would have been a more competitive candidate with a publication out, but I decided to go ahead and apply this year,” Barrozo said. “I’m glad I applied because I desperately needed a new laptop, so it’s great!”

Berns Award winners receive $1,500 towarda new laptop, a cash award, and their name is engraved on the Berns Award plaque displayed in the UFGI main office. UFGI also provides up to $3,000 to defray the publication costs for any future peer reviewed paper(s) on which the Berns award recipient is first author.

 

 

Barrozo was not only the Berns award winner but won the Best Poster Award at the 2ndAnnual Diversity Graduate Research Symposium and received an honorable mention for his poster at the Florida Genetics Symposium.

Upon graduation, Barrozo plans to pursue a career in academia. The first step is to secure a post doc position, get publications, and eventually develop an independent research program. Barrozo stated that he is very grateful for the strong foundation that the UFGI graduate program has provided him with and that he looks forward to seeing what the future holds.