Newswise — Twelve emerging scientists will receive grants this year from the Promoting Research Opportunities for Latin American Biochemists program, or PROLAB, to advance their research by working directly with collaborators in laboratories in the United States, Canada and Spain. 

Since 2012, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Pan-American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the International Union for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology have given 71 young biochemists these travel awards.

This year’s PROLAB travel grants are going to Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Spain and Uruguay. All but one will work in the United States.

The 2019 recipients are:

Ferran Barrachina, a Ph.D. student at University of Barcelona in Spain, will go to the lab of Sylvie Breton, who is affiliated with the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Barrachina is studying the role of the extracellular vesicles in epididymal sperm maturation and function. “This great opportunity will allow me to expand my knowledge in reproductive biology, learn a sophisticated variety of techniques, such as high-resolution microscopy, and interact with outstanding researchers and physicians,” Barrachina said.

Laura Bonnet, a Ph.D. student at the National University of Córdoba in Spain, will spend time in the lab of Anna Kashina at the University of Pennsylvania. Bonnet, who studies the role of post-translational arginylation of proteins, said of her plans: “I hope this project sheds light on the neuronal role of Ate1 during the autophagic degradation process. The identification of Ate1 as a regulator of this process in the central nervous system will open new avenues of investigation into the arginylated proteins involved in neuronal proteostasis regulation.”

Alfredo Figueroa is a graduate student at the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education at Ensenada (CICESE) in Mexico. He will be spending time in the lab of Mary Munson at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to advance his studies of the C-terminus of the protein Sec10 in exocyst assembly in the bread mold Neurospora crassa. “This is a great chance to put my graduate research to the test and answer questions that can only be answered with advanced experimental equipment,” Figueroa said.

Ricardo Lima-Filho, a Ph.D. student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, will be hosted by the lab of Bruce McEwen at The Rockefeller University in New York. Filho studies the molecular mechanisms by which exercise regulates mood. “(R)esults from these experiments will extend the robustness and significance of our project and nourish an important collaboration to help unveil the effects of exercise-related molecules in the depressed brain,” Lima-Filho said.

Carolina Oliveira, a Ph.D. student at the University of the Republic in Uruguay, will go to the lab of Thomas Kislinger at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. Oliveira studies the role of the noncoding RNA nc886 in prostate cancer progression.  “I strongly believe that this is an excellent opportunity for me to learn about and (apply) advanced proteomic techniques to a very active field of noncoding RNA research,” Oliveira said. “Also, I will have the opportunity to share and discuss our results and perspectives with scientists of one of the top cancer research centers in the world.”

María José Pascual is a graduate student at the National University of General San Martín in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She will travel to the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo., to advance her studies of how dengue infection affects tRNA repertoire and mRNA stability of the host cell. Working in the lab of Ariel Bazzini “ will be a completely different experience compared to my present work in Argentina,” she said. “I will be learning lots of new techniques and (have access to) facilities that will expand my horizons.”

Margarita Jacaranda Rosendo Pineda, a Ph.D. student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, will work in the lab of Claudia Moreno at the University of Washington. In Mexico City, Pineda studies the modulation and localization of NMDA receptors during mitosis. Spending time at the Seattle campus “is a great opportunity for increasing my skills in electrophysiology and super-resolution techniques,” she said.

Felipe Campos Ribeiro, a Ph.D. student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will work in the lab of Ottavio Arancio, a cellular neurobiologist at Columbia University. Ribeiro said he plans “to test if enhancement of proteasome activity could hold therapeutic potential on Alzheimer's disease models” during his stint in New York.

Paula Belen Salazar is a Ph.D. student at the INSIBIO research institute in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina. (INSIBIO is short for Instituto Superior de Investigaciones Biológicas.) She will spent time at the lab of Guillermo Altenberg at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. Salazar studies inhibitors of the human enzyme acetylcholinesterase. “(Altenberg’s lab) has profound knowledge on membrane proteins,” Salazar said. “I’ll certainly learn state of the art biophysical techniques, which is quite exciting. Hopefully, the project will provide important insights into the mechanism of inhibition of acetylcholinesterase by polyphenols.”

Natalia Scilletta, a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Argentina, will work in the lab of Ali Khademhosseini at the University of California, Los Angeles. “I will study the biological processes that occur in eukaryotic cells while growing on the biomaterial coating I am developing,” she said of her plans in L.A. “In this way, this experience will allow me to learn new molecular biology techniques and to deeply understand the nanosystem I am studying. Moreover, working with prestigious scientists will undoubtedly enrich my career and knowledge on the subject.” 

Juliana Vago, a postdoctoral researcher at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, will travel to La Jolla, California, to work in the laboratory of Lindsey Miles at The Scripps Research Institute. Vago studies the plasminogen system and its role on the control of inflammatory/infectious diseases. “I believe this is a great opportunity to improve my professional and personal skills,” she said. “I hope that the interaction with prestigious scientists will enhance my network and allow me to further collaborate with them in the near future. Also, I hope to apply in my home institution what I will learn and improve the quality of my work.”

Maira Rivera Valdés, a postdoctoral researcher at The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, will spend time in the lab of Elizabeth Komives at the University of California, San Diego. Rivera studies KaiB, a cyanobacterial metamorphic protein. “Dr. Komives’ lab has vast experience in the study of protein biophysics using mass spectrometry. Using this technique to analyze the refolding of the circadian clock protein KaiB, I will obtain promising results and also enrich my knowledge about this technique to implement it in our own instrument in Chile,” Rivera said.


About the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 11,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The Society publishes three journals: the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Journal of Lipid Research, and Molecular and Cellular Proteomics. For more information about ASBMB, visit

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