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Dr. Kristian Baker BSc(Hons)'92, MSC'95 - Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement



The Crowning Achievement Award for Professional Achievement recognizes alumni who have achieved exceptional professional distinction and made innovative contributions to their field. Molecular Biologist, Dr. Kristian Baker has established herself as an exceptional scholar, educator, mentor, and leader, and is recognized as one of North America’s preeminent researchers in the area of RNA metabolism.

Baker earned her Bachelor of Science (Honours) in chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Regina in 1992 and followed up with a master’s degree in biochemistry in 1994. She went on to attend the University of British Columbia where, in 2002, she earned a doctoral degree in Genetics. During her doctoral studies she was awarded a Post-Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada and was a recipient of the prestigious Sir Izaak Walton Killam Doctoral Scholarship. Upon completion of her PhD, she trained at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.

Today, Baker is an associate professor at the Center for RNA Molecular Biology in the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio – one of the top universities for biomedical research in the country. Her research focuses on understanding how cells identify and rid themselves of faulty messenger RNA, a key intermediate in the gene expression pipeline that produces protein from information embedded within the genes found in DNA.

Baker has been described as an outstanding scholar who quickly established a productive research program in a highly-competitive field. Her research findings are published in top scientific journals and have broad impact in the areas of cell and molecular biology. Her research group uses innovative and cutting-edge experimental approaches to understand how the cell manages RNA and, as a result, her work has uncovered many new and previously unanticipated findings.

“Science is about pushing the boundaries of our understanding,” says Baker.

In her role as a teacher and mentor to junior researchers, Baker encourages asking questions and testing assumptions. In 2013, she was the recipient of the highly competitive and prestigious CAREER Award given by the National Science Foundation in recognition of outstanding research and a dedication to the education and training of young scientists. Baker’s CAREER award was the first given to a researcher in the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve and provides $1.3 million over five years to support her innovative approaches for integrating education into her research program.

While impressive, Baker says the real prize is the satisfaction she gets from sharing in the thrill of new discovery and experimental achievement.
“Nothing beats watching a student transition from a learner to a discoverer – and the added bonus for me is that I often learn something new too!” she says.

In addition to her contributions to RNA research, Baker is an active and influential leader in her scientific community. She is routinely asked to participate on grant evaluation panels, has organized scientific meetings, and is an Officer of the International RNA Society.

Baker takes advantage of her position and participation in these activities to champion a cause that she is passionate about – promoting the participation and retention of women and minorities in science.


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