The Howard Hughes Medical Institute selects nine highly talented college students to receive the 2013 Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study.


  • Gilliam fellows receive $46,500 a year to help them pursue doctoral degrees in the life sciences, for up to four years.
  • Since establishing the Gilliam Fellowships in 2004 to expand diversity in education and science, HHMI has committed nearly $13.2 million to the program.
  • Of the 53 Gilliam Fellows preceding this year’s cohort, all had successfully enrolled in Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. Programs.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has selected nine highly talented college students to receive the 2013 Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study. The awards provide full support to outstanding students in their pursuit of doctoral degrees in the life sciences.

Gilliam fellows receive $46,500 a year to help them build on their already impressive scientific credentials, for up to four years. The program's goal is to improve the diversity of college and university faculty members by supporting students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. Students who are chosen as fellows plan to become professors or scientists, and will work with other disadvantaged groups to help support the growth of diverse academic environments.

"We have an exceptionally promising class of Gilliam Fellows this year. Eight of them are undergraduates who plan to pursue a Ph.D. program, while one is already doing a post-baccalaureate, and will be entering an M.D.-Ph.D. program. That speaks to the richness of the applicant pool among those who are still undergraduates," said HHMI's David Asai, director of the Gilliam fellows program.

The fellowships, established in 2004 and first awarded in 2005, are named for the late James H. Gilliam Jr., a charter Trustee of HHMI who spent his life fostering excellence and diversity in education and science. Since then, HHMI has committed nearly $13.2 million to the Gilliam program. In addition to financial support, fellows also attend meetings with HHMI scientists and receive professional development mentoring as they launch their academic careers.

All of the fellows have previously worked in the labs of HHMI scientists as part of the Institute's Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP), an initiative that provides undergraduate minority students with the opportunity to conduct research under the mentorship of some of the top scientists in the country. Undergraduates are nominated for the EXROP program by colleges and universities that receive HHMI education grants, HHMI professors, and HHMI Science Education Alliance (SEA) schools. This year, 35 students applied for the Gilliam Fellowships.

Since EXROP began in 2003, HHMI has supported 578 students from 122 colleges and universities in the labs of 187 HHMI scientists. Of the 370 EXROP alumni who have completed the baccalaureate degree, 98% are still involved in the sciences—teaching, working in a research lab, or pursuing advanced degrees.

Of the 53 Gilliam Fellows preceding this year's cohort, all had successfully enrolled in Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. programs. Eight of those fellows have now completed their Ph.Ds., and the rest are progressing towards their degrees.

The nine winners of the 2013 Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study, their undergraduate institutions and proposed area of research are:

  • Jawara Allen—Duke University
    (Immunology, Microbiology and Virology)
    Currently completing a post-baccalaureate at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    "As a student who grew up with access to very few African American professionals in the medical and research fields, I understand the importance of serving as a role model to individuals during the early years of their career development. Had it not been for the mentors who guided me toward my future, I would likely have pursued a career that was more familiar to me, as opposed to a career as a physician scientist."

  • Donald Bryant—Emory University
    (Cell and Developmental Biology)

    "The process behind scientific research excites me the most, and I decided to go into research because it provides the exciting ability to be at the forefront of discovering and rigorously proving how things work in nature."

  • Brian Castellano—San Jose State University
    (Structural Biology and Biochemistry)

    "The Gilliam will not only allow me to conduct research at one of the top universities in the country, but it also puts me in a position to mentor other students. The Gilliam gives my advice and guidance credibility, and hopefully this will aid the students in achieving their own goals and ambitions."

  • Kayla Lee—Hampton University
    (Genetics and Molecular Biology)

    "This award shows HHMI's commitment to help create the next generation of scientists and their faith in young people who have a true passion for science. My experiences have shown me that very few careers push the boundaries of critical thinking and analytical reasoning like research, and even fewer provide people with curiosity and motivation to find that answer."

  • Fabian Ortega—Yale University 

    (Biochemistry and Structural Biology)

    "It wasn't until the summer after my freshman year that science became my passion. Working under the mentorship of Professor David Schatz (currently an HHMI investigator) was a life-changing experience that taught me how challenging and rewarding scientific research can be. This experience encouraged me to continue my work on V(D)J recombination throughout the rest of my college career."

  • Sofia Quinodoz—Princeton University
    (Systems Biology and Bacterial Signaling)

    "As a Hispanic in the sciences, this award is very important to me. I am very passionate about science outreach and running my own lab as a professor. The HHMI Gilliam Fellowship will bring me closer to my goal of becoming a professor and principal investigator in the sciences. I plan to give back as a Gilliam Fellow and mentor high school students, undergraduates, and graduate students throughout my career."

  • Gabriel Rangel—Purdue University
    (Genetics and Molecular Biology)

    "At first I wanted to be a medical doctor in the clinic, but exposure to research opened my mind. I found that medical research can be incredibly fulfilling and exciting as one indirectly helps millions of people potentially impacted by the research. Since this realization, I have developed a strong passion for empowering developing regions by striving for health security via tropical disease research."

  • Brenda Marin-Rodriguez—University of California-Davis
    (Genetics and Molecular Biology)

    "I was always interested in understanding how and why things worked. Sometimes understanding a natural phenomenon is so important that I would gladly spend every waking hour of my life seeking an answer. Research gives me an opportunity to delve into investigating the unknown."

  • Juan Ruiz—University of Miami
    (Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine)

    "It is an award that not only reflects the great research I have been blessed to participate in, but is an award that recognizes the work of all of my mentors. Through the Gilliam, I will be better able to mentor minority students in the STEM fields, particularly those who come behind me in the EXROP and Gilliam programs."

For More Information

Jim Keeley 301.215.8858