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Lunt Receives Distinguished Young Investigator Award

Photo of multiple petri dishes.

Michigan State University’s Sophia Lunt, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) in the College of Natural Science, received the Metabolomics Association of North America (MANA) Young Investigator Award for 2020.

Headshot of Sophia Lunt, with a gray background. She is wearing a black blazer with a light blue button up.

MSU researcher Sophia Lunt is the 2020 recipient of the competitive Metabolomic Association of North America’s Young Investigator Award for her novel investigations into the role metabolism plays in cancer proliferation. Courtesy photo

The highly competitive award is given to the most accomplished MANA early career member who has worked to push the boundaries of metabolomics research resulting in sustained, substantial, and noteworthy contributions to the field.

“It is an honor to be recognized by one of the biggest professional societies in my field,” Lunt said. “I am encouraged to continue pushing the limits of what we can discover using metabolomics.”

MANA represents the North American professional networking arm of the rapidly emerging field of metabolomics, a discipline that uses sophisticated analytical technologies to analyze pool sizes and fluxes of metabolites and gain a large-scale understanding of the role small molecules play in the biology of an organism.

Lunt’s research aims to understand the role of small molecules and molecular pathways in supporting cancer proliferation, diversity, and metastasis. Using cutting-edge metabolomic tools such as mass spectrometry, genetic models of cancer, cell biology and fluorescent agents that can probe the disease, the Lunt Lab investigates ways to design more effective and targeted therapies for cancer.

“This award allowed me to present the Young Investigator Award Lecture during the 2020 Metabolomics Association of North America conference, giving me the platform to have my research spotlighted to the field,” Lunt said. “It was wonderful to get the recognition and exposure.”

“In the next few years, I hope to continue uncovering the mechanisms by which specific metabolic pathways support cancer and develop novel compounds for cancer imaging and therapy,” added Lunt.

Photo of the machine.

The Lunt Lab uses powerful tools, such as this mass spectrometer housed at MSU’s Mass Spectrometry and Metabolomics Core, to identify and quantify the role that small molecules play in cancer spread and metastasis. Credit: Waters Corporation and Sophia Lunt

Erich Grotewold, professor and BMB chair, congratulated Lunt on the outstanding accomplishment.

“I congratulate Sophia for being the recipient of this important award and for her noteworthy contributions to metabolomics applied to human health,” Grotewold said. “The award provides additional testimony of the leadership role that the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and MSU play in the analysis of small molecules by mass spectrometry.”

Lunt received her Ph.D. in chemistry and integrative genomics from Princeton University in 2010, and her research has been supported by several awards since completing her postdoctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was a Department of Defense Visionary Postdoctoral Fellow from 2010-2015.

In 2019, she received both a METAvivor Early Career Investigator Award as well as a prestigious NSF Early CAREER Award for her investigations into creating fluorescent probes that will enhance cell imaging and photodynamic therapy, a promising treatment that uses photosensitizing agents, along with light, to kill cancer cells. Lunt joined the faculty at MSU in 2015.

For more about MANA and the announcement of Lunt’s award, please visit: https://www.mana2020.org/mana-awards.

Story via College of Natural Science 

Banner image: The Lunt lab studies altered pathways in cancer using both cancer cell lines (pictured here) and mouse models of cancer. Credit: Sophia Lunt


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