Written by
Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications
Nov. 5, 2021

Princeton professors Coleen Murphy, Mohamed Abou Donia and Zemer Gitai are among 20 researchers nationwide to receive 2021 Transformative Research Awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These awards are part of the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, which supports investigators pursuing highly innovative, high-impact biomedical and behavioral research.

Murphy is also one of the 10 recipients of the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award — the only recipient of both the Pioneer Award and the Transformative Research Award this year.

In Murphy’s project, "Cracking the code of transgenerational inheritance of behavior," her team investigates how C. elegans can “read” the small RNAs that bacteria produce and use the information to avoid pathogens, and transmit this learned information both vertically (transgenerationally) and horizontally (to neighboring animals). These results have opened up new avenues of research into memory transfer, transgenerational inheritance and small-RNA-mediated trans-kingdom communication.