Pew Supports 22 Scientists Exploring Innovative Solutions to Biomedical Challenges

22 Scientists Exploring Solutions to Biomedical Challenges

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 scientists will receive funding over the next four years as they investigate timely questions surrounding human health and disease.

“Pew has a history of supporting talented researchers who are committed to understanding intricate scientific processes,” said Susan K. Urahn, Pew’s president and CEO. “Our newest cohort of scholars is joining a large community of accomplished scientists who are dedicated to uncovering new solutions to significant biomedical challenges.”

The 2021 class of scholars—all of whom are early-career junior faculty—join more than 1,000 other scientists who have received awards from Pew since 1985. Current scholars have opportunities to meet annually, share ongoing research, and exchange perspectives across the health sciences field.

“Biomedical research is one of the best pathways we have to understand and overcome the world’s greatest health hurdles,” 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 am confident that these researchers will uphold the Pew scholar legacy of advancing scientific discovery.”

The 2021 scholars were chosen from 198 applicants nominated by leading academic institutions and researchers across the United States. This year’s class includes scientists exploring the genetic evolution of cancer cells, how regulatory RNAs influence embryonic development, and how animals select specific types of foods for their nutritional needs.

Five members of the 2021 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 2021 Pew scholars in the biomedical sciences are:

Alaji Bah, Ph.D.
SUNY Upstate Medical University
Dr. Bah will study how proteins that lack a fixed structure form membraneless cellular subcompartments to support biological processes.

Alexandre Bisson, Ph.D.
Brandeis University
Dr. Bisson will probe the molecular mechanisms through which single-celled organisms can radically change their shape.

Edward Chouchani, Ph.D.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Harvard Medical School
Dr. Chouchani will study how the chemically reactive byproducts of metabolism regulate the activity of proteins involved in inflammation and obesity.

E. Josephine Clowney, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
Dr. Clowney will unravel how female and male brain development is programmed to allow sex-specific behaviors.

Colin Conine, Ph.D.
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Dr. Conine will investigate how regulatory RNAs carried by sperm influence embryonic development and offspring phenotype.

Sujit Datta, Ph.D.
Princeton University
Dr. Datta will explore how microbial communities organize and operate in complex three-dimensional habitats.  

Laura B. Duvall, Ph.D.
Columbia University
Dr. Duvall will characterize the neural and molecular pathways that regulate biting and mating in mosquitoes.

Stephen N. Floor, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Floor will develop tools to understand the rules of RNA regulation in cells that are healthy, under stress, or have mutations that cause human diseases.

Kellie Jurado, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Jurado will examine how cells in the placenta protect an embryo from being rejected by the maternal immune system.

Elizabeth Kellogg, Ph.D.
Cornell University
Dr. Kellogg will harness the power of transposases—enzymes that catalyze the movement of specific DNA elements—to engineer novel genome-editing tools.

Bluma Lesch, M.D., Ph.D.
Yale University
Dr. Lesch will explore how genetic changes in chromosome structure contribute to development and disease.

Laura Lewis, Ph.D.
Boston University
Dr. Lewis will explore the complex neural circuits that guide people through sleep.

Qili Liu, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Liu will investigate how animals select specific types of foods to satisfy their changing nutritional needs.

Cressida Madigan, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
Dr. Madigan will explore the molecular mechanisms by which infections damage the brain.

Aaron McKenna, Ph.D.
Dartmouth College
Dr. McKenna will map the genetic evolution of cancer cells as they proliferate and spread.

José Ordovas-Montañés, Ph.D. 
Boston Children’s Hospital; Harvard Medical School
Dr. Ordovas-Montañés will explore how different cells within a tissue contribute to the initiation and spread of an inflammatory immune response.

Bennett Penn, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California, Davis
Dr. Penn will study the molecular mechanisms that enable the bacterium that causes tuberculosis to develop tolerance to antibiotics.

Justin Perry, Ph.D.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Perry will unravel the link between cell death and inflammation.

Yasemin Sancak, Ph.D.
University of Washington School of Medicine
Dr. Sancak will probe how mitochondria, which provide the cell with energy, interact with other subcellular structures.  

Molly Schumer, Ph.D.
Stanford University
Dr. Schumer will explore how genomes respond to hybridization—the movement of genes between species.

Summer Thyme, Ph.D.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Dr. Thyme is developing new methods for dissecting the genetic underpinnings of neurodevelopmental disease.

Zhao Zhang, Ph.D.
Duke University
Dr. Zhang will investigate how the virus-like genetic elements hidden in the genome could help prime the immune system to battle future infections.