Pew Awards Fellowships to Promising Latin American Scientists

PHILADELPHIA—The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today the 2018 class of Pew Latin American Fellows in the Biomedical Sciences.

The 10 awardees recently earned doctoral degrees from institutions in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. Each fellow will receive two years of funding to study with a principal investigator in the United States. After the fellowship, Pew provides additional funding to awardees who return to Latin America to launch their own labs. About 70 percent of past fellows have taken advantage of this incentive, and many now lead major academic and scientific research efforts in their home countries.

“We’re delighted to help these outstanding researchers secure training and mentorship in some of the world’s leading laboratories,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, Pew’s president and CEO. “They make up an exemplary group committed to building biomedical expertise in Latin America and advancing human health around the globe.”

The fellows will embark on research projects under the mentorship of prominent biomedical investigators, including alumni of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Research interests in the 2018 class range from understanding how neural circuits and brain connections develop to probing mechanisms of viral infection.

“These young Pew fellows hold great promise not only as innovative scientists, but also as the next generation of leaders at research institutions throughout Latin America,” said Eva Nogales, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and incoming chair of the program’s national advisory committee.

“The knowledge, experience, and professional networks these gifted scientists will gain through their fellowships will be invaluable as they contribute to the resurgent scientific communities in their home countries,” said Torsten N. Wiesel, M.D., the 1981 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine who served as national advisory committee chair from the program’s inception in 1990 until this year.

The 2018 Pew Latin American fellows and their U.S. mentors are:

Diego Alvarez, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Brenda Bloodgood, Ph.D., 2015 Pew biomedical scholar
University of California, San Diego
Dr. Alvarez will study the molecular and genetic mechanisms that guide the development of visual circuits after birth.

Francesca Burgos, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Carlos Bustamante, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Burgos will examine how linear RNA molecules fold into a specific three-dimensional shape as they are being made.

Victor Cornejo, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Rafael Yuste, M.D., Ph.D.
Columbia University
Dr. Cornejo will explore how the small spines that protrude from a neuron’s dendritic branches handle the transmission of electrical signals.

Grisel Cruz Becerra, Ph.D.
Laboratory of James Kadonaga, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
Dr. Cruz Becerra will explore the role that structures known as prenucleosomes play in regulating gene activity.

Daniela Di Bella, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Paola Arlotta, Ph.D.
Harvard University
Dr. Di Bella will look for molecular clues that indicate how neurons in the brain make connections with particular locations in the spinal cord.

M. Eugenia Dieterle, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Kartik Chandran, Ph.D.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dr. Dieterle will define the mechanisms by which a deadly form of hantavirus gains entry into cells in the lungs.

Maria Fernanda Forni, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Valerie Horsley, Ph.D., 2010 Pew biomedical scholar
Yale University
Dr. Forni will explore how cutting calories affects the structure of the skin and hair.

Dolores Irala, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Cagla Eroglu, Ph.D.
Duke University
Dr. Irala will examine how supporting cells in the brain known as astrocytes help regulate the formation of inhibitory connections between neurons.

Carolina G. Lucas, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Akiko Iwasaki, Ph.D.
Yale University
Dr. Lucas will explore the factors that influence the severity of infection with Chikungunya, a virus spread by mosquitoes.

Hugo Sepúlveda, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Anjana Rao, Ph.D.
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology
Dr. Sepúlveda will probe how regulatory proteins known as TETs influence the formation of specialized cell types.

Visit the program page to read the fellows’ full abstracts and learn more about the program.

The Latin American fellows program, launched in 1990, is part of Pew’s investment in young scientists who are exploring questions fundamental to advancing human health. New classes of the Pew-Stewart Scholars for Cancer Research and the Pew biomedical scholarswere also announced today.


The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at

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