Newswise — The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is awarding nearly $5 million in research fellowships to 46 predoctoral students from 24 countries. The awards will allow the students, who have demonstrated exceptional talent and innovation in research, to complete their graduate studies.
“I know that the best science requires a certain amount of risk-taking, and thanks to this award, I finally feel confident enough to push my research to the next level without the fear of failure,” said Nabiha Saklayen, the first student from Bangladesh to receive the award.
Saklayen, who is studying at Harvard University, will be developing a new cell transfection method that combines ultrafast lasers and nanostructured surfaces to create transient pores in cell membranes. “This award inspires me to reinforce my efforts to improve science education in Bangladesh in the long run, and especially enhance the role of women in science,” she said.
HHMI established the International Student Research Fellowships Program in 2011 to support international students during their third to fifth years of graduate school in the United States. Students receive $43,000 during each year of the fellowship.
This year’s awardees hail from 24 different countries, eight of which—Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kenya, Netherlands, Pakistan, and Vietnam—were not represented in previous years of the program.
“The best science often arises at intersections—between traditional disciplines, among cultures, and across national borders. As these students engage in leading edge science, they are also living the international collaboration of discovery,” said David J. Asai, Senior Director in Science Education at HHMI.
The Institute chose to fund the third to fifth years of graduate school because, by this time, most students have chosen a graduate advisor, identified a research project, and demonstrated their potential for success in the lab. International students in U.S. graduate schools often have difficulty getting funding to support their studies. They are not eligible for federal fellowships or training grant support, or other governmental opportunities that are generally reserved for U.S. citizens.
Jennifer Nwankwo, a fellow from Nigeria, was one of the 42 students who received the award in last year’s competition. She is studying sickle cell disease (SCD) at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University. “During my first year as an HHMI fellow, I grew considerably, both as a scientist, and as an individual. My fellowship has been a huge confidence booster,” she said.
“The achievement that I’m most proud of is developing a new knockout model of SCD. We’re in the process of characterizing phenotypic differences in these mice, with the goal of illuminating underlying mechanisms of SCD pathogenesis,” said Nwanko.
HHMI has invested $15.8 million in the program during the last four years, and is currently supporting a total of 186 students from 43 countries.
Fifty-six PhD-granting institutions were eligible to nominate graduate students for the fellowships this year. Three hundred twenty-two students submitted applications, which were reviewed by a panel of top scientists and graduate educators. Only institutions currently hosting at least one HHMI investigator or those that are recipients of a current HHMI graduate training grant could nominate candidates.
Liem Nguyen, a new fellow from Vietnam, is conducting cancer research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “I hope that this prestigious award will encourage future Vietnamese international students to pursue biological research. If this happens, we would hopefully have a group of talented young scientists to pioneer the biological sciences field in our home country,” said Nguyen.
The International Student Research Fellowships build on HHMI’s commitment to funding international scientists. In 2012, HHMI selected 28 International Early Career Scientists to help talented individuals who have trained in the U.S. establish independent research programs in 12 countries where funding for scientific support is scarce. In collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, HHMI has also established the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV, which is dedicated to using basic science to find better treatments and diagnostics for TB and HIV.
Meet the 2014 International Student Research Fellows:
Student Institution Advisor
Sarah Azoubel Lima University of California- Amy Pasquinelli
Brazil San Diego
Gregor Bieri Stanford University Aaron Gitler
Ambrose Carr Columbia University Dana Pe'er
Jaepyeong Cha Johns Hopkins University Jin Kang
Xiao Chen Brandeis University Michael Rosbash*
Smaranda Craciun Harvard University Emily Balskus
Blake Farrow California Institute James Heath
Canada of Technology
Yvonne Fonken University of California- Robert Knight
Feng Gao Cornell University Alon Keinan
Souparno Ghosh Massachusetts Institute Alan Jasanoff
India of Technology
Tianxia Guan Yale University Susan Kaech+
Christian Harman Yale University Richard Flavell*
Stella Hartono University of California- Frederic Chedin,
Indonesia Davis Ian Korf
Robert Heler Rockefeller University Luciano Marraffini
Aaron Hosios Massachusetts Institute Matthew Vander
Canada of Technology Heiden
Tsung-Han Hsieh University of Massachusetts Oliver Rando
Taiwan at Worcester
Saman Hussain Harvard University Ethan Garner
Naoko Ichiishi University of Michigan Melanie Sanford
Sirawaj Itthipuripat University of California- Gregory Light,
Thailand San Diego John Serences
Dong-Wook Kim California Institute David Anderson*
South Korea of Technology
George Korir Stanford University Manu Prakash
Kamena Kostova University of California- Jonathan Weissman*
Bulgaria San Francisco
Sofia Landi Rockefeller University Winrich Freiwald
Sungwon Lim Stanford University Jennifer Cochran
Di Liu University of Chicago Yossi Weizmann
Kieran Mace University of California- Hana El-Samad
South Africa San Francisco
Da Meng University of California- Nicholas Spitzer
China San Diego
Arda Mizrak University of California- David Morgan
Turkey San Francisco
Narendra Mukherjee Brandeis University Donald Katz
Liem Nguyen University of Texas Hao Zhu
Vietnam Southwestern Medical Center
Novalia Pishesha Massachusetts Institute Harvey Lodish,
Indonesia of Technology Hidde Ploegh
Krithika Rajagopalan Columbia University Jean Gautier
Rajeev Rikhye Massachusetts Institute Mriganka Sur
Singapore of Technology
Nae Gyune Rim Boston University Joyce Wong
Carlos Rodríguez Emory University Donna Maney
Nabiha Saklayen Harvard University Eric Mazur
Xiaolei Shi University of Texas Ralph Deberardinis
China Southwestern Medical Center
Monika Sholz University of Chicago David Biron,
Germany Aaron Dinner
Sukrit Silas Stanford University Andrew Fire
Angela Steinauer Yale University Alanna Schepartzº
Chensu Wang University of Texas Jinming Gao,
China Southwestern Medical Center Michael White
Kirsten Wiens New York University Joel Ernst
Dan Wu Johns Hopkins University Jiangyang Zhang
Deniz Yorukoglu Massachusetts Institute Bonnie Berger
Turkey of Technology
Boxuan Zhao University of Chicago Chuan He*
Jie Zhou Brandeis University Bing Xu
* HHMI Investigator
+ Early Career Scientist
º HHMI Professor
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays a powerful role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the country and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, visit www.hhmi.org