July 13, 2022

Grad student Shelton selected as Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar

Catherine Shelton has been selected as the 2022 Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar.

Catherine Shelton, a graduate student in the Microbe-Host Interactions PhD program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been selected as the 2022 Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar.

Catherine Shelton was selected as the 2022 Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar.
Catherine Shelton was selected as the 2022 Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar. (photo by Donn Jones)

She will receive a $1,000 cash prize and will be mentored by the recipient of the 2022 Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science, Ruth Lehmann, PhD, a world renowned developmental geneticist who directs the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Shelton will be recognized during Lehmann’s Discovery Lecture on Sept. 1.

Established in 2006, the Vanderbilt Prize honors women scientists with “stellar records” of research accomplishments who have made significant contributions to mentoring other women in science. Recipients mentor female graduate students — Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholars — who are pursuing doctorates in the biomedical sciences.

Shelton is a doctoral candidate in the lab of Mariana Byndloss, DVM, PhD, assistant professor of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology.

Recently named a 2022 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, Byndloss investigates how inflammatory-driven changes in the metabolism and function of the gut lining (epithelium) can disrupt the balance of gut microbes (microbiota) and increase the risk of obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.

For her dissertation, Shelton is studying how antibiotics disrupt the microbiota, compounding the effect of a high-fat diet, and increasing the risk of childhood obesity.

“Catherine ranks in the top 1% of graduate students I have interacted with in my career,” Byndloss wrote in her letter nominating Shelton for Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar. “Catherine is curious, persistent and willing to dive into the literature to improve her understanding of her project and critically think about her experiments and data analysis.

“She truly is a rising star,” Byndloss continued, “and I have no doubt that she has a long and bright future in research.”

Shelton graduated magna cum laude from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, in 2016 with a BS in biochemistry. She was a research assistant in the Tuberculosis Discovery Program at the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle before coming to Vanderbilt in 2018.

Since 2020 Shelton has authored or co-authored several scientific publications, including first authorship of a peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Cell Reports. She also presented her work last year at the online World Microbe Forum.

Her research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and Vanderbilt’s Microbiome Venture Fund and Austin Scholar Endowment. Last year Shelton was one of two recipients of a Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotics Fellowship grant from Danone North America, the fresh dairy and plant-based products company.

Also last year, she received a Dean’s Award for Exceptional Achievement in Graduate Studies from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine for the “originality, significance and rigor” of her dissertation research.

To be eligible for the Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar award, candidates must be enrolled in the medical school’s PhD track (includes PhD and MD/PhD trainees), have completed the qualifying exam and have at least one year left to complete the PhD degree.

Nominations are accepted from department chairs or program directors in the biomedical sciences, directors of graduate studies and faculty mentors.

Competitive nominees demonstrate excellent leadership qualities through their research and service to the scientific community and characteristics that exhibit outstanding potential to impact medicine through research during their careers.

For more information about the Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar, visit https://www.vumc.org/oor/vanderbilt-prize-student-scholar.