Doctoral Candidate Pu Shi to Receive Phi Kappa Phi Award at Annual Academic Honors Convocation

Award winner Pu Shi with Executive Vice Dean Sarah Hamm-Alvarez.

Award winner Pu Shi with Executive Vice Dean Sarah Hamm-Alvarez.

Pu Shi, a PhD student in the lab of Andrew MacKay, is one of four USC students being honored with the Phi Kappa Phi Student Recognition Award. Shi will officially be recognized at the Annual Academic Honors Convocation.

Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Its chapters are on more than 300 campuses in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Graduate students must rank in the upper 10 percent of their class to qualify.

Shi’s award is in recognition of his recent progress and publication in Advanced Materials. His winning entry was entitled, “Triggered Sorting and Co-Assembly of Genetically Engineered Protein Microdomains in the Cytoplasm – A Milestone in Synthetic Organelle Development.”

Shi’s research involved developing a novel approach for sorting materials inside living cells using elastin-like polypepites (ELPs), which are genetically encoded protein polymers.

“This project is the first study exploring how ELPs can sort or assemble two distinct genetically engineered protein microdomains both outside and inside the cell,” explains Shi.

The development of synthetic organelles is one of the hottest biomedical research topics today.

“The finding in this research is very fundamental; however, we believe that by understanding how to manipulate the self-sorting processes of different protein microdomains inside cells, we could move ahead to eventually develop synthetic organelles that carry specific functional domains to compensate functionality losses in many patients and cure diseases,” says Shi.

The diseases this research could be applicable to include cancer, as well as different types of metabolic diseases.

Shi will be presented with his award at the 33rd Annual Academic Honors Convocation on April 8.