The research province of F. Nina Papavasiliou, born in Thessaloniki, Greece, is a process in the human body called somatic hypermutation, a positive form of mutagenesis.
Papavasiliou earned her undergraduate degree in biology from Oberlin (Ohio) College, with a minor in German literature. But her direction was clearly science, and in 1998 she went on to pursue graduate studies in molecular immunology at The Rockefeller University, in New York City. Subsequently, at Yale University, where she conducted her postdoctoral research, she gained expertise in biochemistry and identified the focus of her future work.
Her postdoctoral fellowship at an end, Papavasiliou returned to The Rockefeller University as assistant professor and head of the Laboratory of Lymphocyte Biology. There, she chose to investigate the processes in the body that have harnessed the power of mutation for beneficial purposes, rather than follow a more common line of study — mutations in the human genome that lead to inherited abnormalities as well as malignancies. Papavasiliou is also interested in the evolution of hypermutation, having discovered that several organisms use the process as a weapon against viruses. To that end, she and her staff have been researching how enzymes called cytidine deaminases mediate both somatic hypermutation and innate antiviral responses.
Awards and Accomplishments
- Sinsheimer Fund Scholar Award (2005)
- Scholar, Searle Foundation (2003)
- Fellow, Keck Foundation (2002)