Croucher Fellow receives Otto Hahn Medal and Award

24 June 2020

Dr Chun So (Max Planck Croucher Postdoctoral Fellowship 2020 and Croucher Scholarship 2016) has been awarded the Otto Hahn Medal and Otto Hahn Award as one of the leading young researchers at the Max Planck Institute (MPI).

Each year the Max Planck Society (MPS) honours 30 best researchers with the Otto Hahn Medal for their outstanding achievements during their PhD research. Only three medalists also receive the Otto Hahn Award, which gives awardees the opportunity to gather valuable experience abroad. So, from the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry, Germany, is one of the three.

So’s work has focused on meiosis – a special cell division process in which a fertilisable egg cell has to halve its complete set of chromosomes. If mistakes are made in the process, the result will be eggs with surplus or missing chromosomes. If these eggs are fertilised, the resulting embryos may die or show abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome. During his dissertation, So studied some of the secrets surrounding meiosis.

The PhD student concentrated on a complex machinery, the meiotic spindle, which drives the halving of the chromosome set. He discovered a previously unknown mechanism in mice and other mammals in which 19 proteins at the two poles of the spindle apparatus form an unusual, liquid-like structure, which promotes the development of the spindle.

So now plans to investigate the mechanisms of meiotic spindle assembly in human egg cells. In addition, he wants to develop new model systems to investigate earlier stages of egg cell development.

With the Otto Hahn Award, So will be able to establish his own research group at a Max Planck Institute of his choice.

“The Otto Hahn Award is really unexpected,” he said. “I am really grateful for the recognition of our work on female meiosis.

“As a junior scientist wanting to stay in academia, I used to feel uncertain about when and where to start up my independent group.” With the award, he could now plan a long-term research career in Germany, he said.

Dr Chun So (Nick) graduated in 2016 from The Chinese University of Hong Kong with a BSc in Cell and Molecular Biology, first class honours, and received his Doctor rerum naturalium (Dr. rer. nat.) in Physics of Biological and Complex Systems (summa cum lauda) from the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen in 2019. He received a Max Planck Croucher Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2020 and Croucher Scholarship in 2016.

To view Dr So’s Croucher profile, please click here