Pew Funds 22 Researchers to Pursue Scientific Breakthroughs

PHILADELPHIA—The Pew Charitable Trusts today announced that 22 early-career researchers have been selected to join the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. These talented scientists will receive four years of funding to invest in foundational research to pursue scientific breakthroughs and advance human health.

“Pew is proud to support these promising researchers as they conduct world-class research to address biomedicine’s most complex questions,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, Pew’s president and CEO. “They join a group of distinguished scientists who have worked for decades to advance science and protect public health.”

The 2020 class of scholars—all of whom hold assistant professor positions—are new members of a vibrant community of more than 1,000 scientists who have received awards from Pew since 1985. Current scholars meet annually to share their research and exchange perspectives across diverse health disciplines.

“As all researchers know, science’s work is never truly done. By leveraging findings and investigating new ways to solve problems, this year’s class will continue the legacy of countless Pew scholars before them,” said Craig C. Mello, Ph.D., a 1995 Pew scholar, 2006 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine, and chair of the national advisory committee for the scholars program. “I’m confident that these scholars will help push scientific boundaries.”

The 2020 scholars were chosen from 191 applicants nominated by leading academic institutions and researchers across the United States. This year’s class includes scientists exploring why female mammals age differently than males, how environmental factors affect the trajectory of inflammatory disease, and the molecular mechanisms that allow the body to sense and regulate temperature.

Five members of the 2020 class, who were selected for their commitment to investigating health challenges relating to the brain as it ages, will receive awards with support from the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund.

The 2020 Pew scholars in the biomedical sciences are:

Michael Baym, Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School
Dr. Baym will study how bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics.

Bérénice Benayoun, Ph.D.
University of Southern California
Dr. Benayoun will explore why female mammals age differently than males.

Shelby Blythe, Ph.D.
Northwestern University
Dr. Blythe will identify the factors that initiate the wave of gene activation in the earliest moments of embryonic development.

Xiaolu (Lulu) Cambronne, Ph.D.
University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Cambronne will explore how cells compartmentalize metabolites that have distinct regulatory roles in different cellular locations.

Carlos Carmona-Fontaine, Ph.D.
New York University
Dr. Carmona-Fontaine will explore how cancer cells coordinate their metastatic spread.

Juan Du, Ph.D.
Van Andel Research Institute
Dr. Du will investigate the molecular mechanisms that allow the body to sense and regulate temperature.

Daria Esterhazy, Ph.D.
The University of Chicago
Dr. Esterhazy will explore how intestinal infections can trigger an immune reaction in the pancreas.

Gilad D. Evrony, M.D., Ph.D.
New York University Grossman School of Medicine
Dr. Evrony will develop single-cell technologies for constructing a “family tree” of human brain cells.

Sarah Keane, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
Dr. Keane will explore how the structural configurations of large RNA precursors control the production of smaller regulatory RNA molecules.

Meghan Koch, Ph.D.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Dr. Koch will explore how maternal antibodies promote early childhood growth and health.

Evan Macosko, M.D., Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital
Dr. Macosko will develop genomic technologies to discover pathological mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Sonya Neal, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
Dr. Neal will examine the quality control mechanism that allows cells to clear away potentially toxic misfolded proteins.

Lauren O'Connell, Ph.D.
Stanford University
Dr. O’Connell will identify the neural circuits that prompt infants to cry when hungry.

Lauren Orefice, Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital
Dr. Orefice will explore how changes in sensory input from the skin and gastrointestinal tract can influence brain development in people with autism spectrum disorders.

Eunyong Park, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Park will demonstrate the mechanism of biogenesis and quality control of mitochondria.

Benjamin Parker, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Dr. Parker wills use the pea aphid insect and its microbial partners as basic research organisms to study host-microbe symbiosis, or the biological interaction between host and microbe.

Seth Shipman, Ph.D.
Gladstone Institutes
Dr. Shipman will develop a novel method for introducing engineered DNA sequences into living cells.

Nicholas Steinmetz, Ph.D.
University of Washington
Dr. Steinmetz will explore how different brain regions cooperate to make decisions.

Samuel H. Sternberg, Ph.D.
Columbia University
Dr. Sternberg will explore the development of a CRISPR-Cas system with enhanced efficiency and safety.

Christoph Thaiss, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Thaiss will investigate how immune cells contribute to tissue maintenance, and how loss of this housekeeping function exacerbates disease.

Andrew Wang, M.D., Ph.D.
Yale University
Dr. Wang will explore how environmental factors affect the trajectory of inflammatory disease.

Jeffrey Woodruff, Ph.D.
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Dr. Woodruff will explore how mammalian egg cells maintain their quality even after decades spent awaiting fertilization.

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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