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Inaugural dissertation prize in experimental engineering awarded to BME Ph.D. candidate Alison Tang

The Darrell Long and Elaine Long Prize in Experimental Engineering was established in early 2022 through a generous gift from Darrell Long, distinguished professor of engineering, and wife Elaine. Beginning with the 2021–22 academic year, the Long prize will be awarded on an annual basis to a Baskin Engineering Ph.D. candidate who produces the best Ph.D. dissertation in experimental engineering. 

Alison Tang

This year’s prize has been awarded to biomolecular engineering Ph.D. candidate Alison Tang. Tang is advised by Associate Professor Angela Brooks. She works in the Brooks Lab, where she studies splicing alterations, RNA modifications, and allele-specific expression of transcripts associated with human disease. Tang is interested in advancing the understanding of cancer and other genetic diseases through the development of computational methods.

Tang’s dissertation, “Alternative RNA processing in cancers,” uses nanopore sequencing technologies to discover variants in cancer. Through the computational method Tang helped develop, called Full-length Alternative Isoform Analysis of RNA (FLAIR), she was able to locate cancer-associated RNA variations in the chronic lymphocytic leukemia patient samples used for her research. As her dissertation experimental results show, her work “demonstrates the utility of nanopore sequencing for augmenting cancer and splicing research.”

Tang received her bachelor of arts degree in molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley. She’ll be graduating this month from the UC Santa Cruz Baskin School of Engineering with a Ph.D. in biomolecular engineering and bioinformatics. 

To qualify for the Long Prize, dissertations must include results that are amenable to experimental confirmation; the prize is not intended to recognize purely theoretical work. Each department is able to submit up to two nominations per year. This endowment, which will continue to grow and offer prizes moving forward, has an award amount of $1,684 this year.