On June 29, 2022, Rebecca Halbach, theme Infectious Diseases and Global Health, dept. Medical Microbiology, defended her PhD thesis entitled ‘Beyond transposon control – piRNAs in gene regulation and embryonic development’. Based on the high quality of the thesis and outstanding defense, she was awarded the doctorate degree with the distinction cum laude.
In her thesis, Rebecca described a class of small regulatory RNAs, called piRNAs, in Aedes mosquitoes, the vector of pathogenic viruses such as dengue virus. She found that piRNAs are essential for clearance of maternal RNAs in early embryos. This finding was published in Nature (Stuttering DNA orchestrates - The start of the mosquito’s life - Radboudumc) and received the award for RIMLS Breakthrough paper of the year 2020. Rebecca was supervised by Pascal Miesen and Ronald van Rij.