Skip to main content
HHMI awards more than $1.8 million in fellowships to 42 international graduate students studying in the U.S.
HHMI awards more than $1.8 million in fellowships to 42 international graduate students studying in the U.S.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has selected 42 international predoctoral students to receive fellowships that will support them as they complete their graduate studies in U.S. universities.

The new awardees represent a broad distribution of countries, including seven that were not represented in the previous two years of the program—Argentina, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Iran, Norway, Saint Lucia, and South Africa. Students from China, India, and Colombia received the most awards, followed by Canada, Israel, Nigeria, Turkey, and the U.K. Each award is worth $43,000 a year.

“A graduate student’s worst nightmare is failing because you didn’t try. It’s okay to fail, but you don’t want to fail because the dearth of financial resources prevented you from testing your hypothesis to the fullest extent possible,” said Jennifer Nwankwo, a student from Nigeria who is studying pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University. “This award emboldens me to take more risks in the future. As a scientist, I don’t want to be afraid to push boundaries or to shift paradigms,” she said.

HHMI established the fellowships in 2011, and is now supporting 140 students from 35 countries during the most critical years of their PhD work.

The Institute created the program because it recognized a problem: international students in U.S. graduate schools often have difficulty getting funding to support their studies. For example, they are not eligible for federal fellowships or training grant support, or other governmental opportunities that are generally reserved for U.S. citizens. The Institute chose to fund the third to fifth years of graduate school, because by this time most students have chosen a graduate advisor, identified a research project, and demonstrated their potential for success in the lab.

“We hope that the HHMI award will encourage each student to build on their already considerable accomplishments, to apply creativity to current problems and to explore new ideas, to venture forward without fear, and to take risks as they work to solve difficult problems,” said David J. Asai, Senior Director in Science Education at HHMI.

Sixty-one PhD-granting institutions were eligible to nominate graduate students for the fellowships this year. Three hundred seventy-seven students applied, and were reviewed by a panel of top scientists and graduate educators. Only institutions currently hosting at least one HHMI investigator or those that are recipients of a current HHMI graduate training grant could nominate candidates and host fellows.

This year’s fellows are studying at 22 universities across the U.S., and represent 19 different countries. Meetu Seth, a student from India, will be studying genetics and molecular biology in the lab of HHMI Investigator Craig Mello at the University of Massachusetts at Worcester.

“I admire my mentor for his ability to think big in the area of evolutionary biology and to translate that vision into exciting research initiatives. Working with him I am learning to pay attention to details while keeping the big picture in mind,” said Seth.

Elena Kassianidou, a fellow from Cyprus, is doing her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. Her goal is to identify the parameters that contribute to stress fiber tension generation in human glioblastoma cells, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer. She said she hopes to contribute to the growing field of bioengineering in her country. “I am particularly interested in teaching, and I would like to use my teaching experiences from the U.S. to improve the level of higher education in Cyprus,” she said.

HHMI has invested nearly $10.8 million in the program over the last three years, including more than $1.8 million to support this year’s fellows. The International Student Research Fellowships build on HHMI’s commitment to funding international scientists. Last year, HHMI selected 28 International Early Career Scientists to help talented individuals who have trained in the U.S. establish independent research programs in 12 countries where funding for scientific support is scarce. In collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, HHMI has also established the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV, which is dedicated to using basic science to find better treatments and diagnostics for TB and HIV.

Meet the 2013 International Student Research Fellows:

Student Institution Adviser
Yusuff Abdu
New York University Jeremy Nance
Seblewongel Asrat
Tufts University Ralph Isberg*
Maier Avendano Amado
Harvard University Peng Yin
Huanyu Cheng
Northwestern University Yonggang Huang
Nam Woo Cho
University of Pennsylvania Roger Greenberg
Natali Di Russo
University of Florida Adrian Roitberg
Chunyu Duan
Princeton University Carlos Brody*
Vinay Eapen
Brandeis University James Haber
Leonor Garcia Bayona
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Michael Laub+
Garrett Goh
University of Michigan Charles Brooks
Aylin Goke
University of California-San Francisco Peter Walter*
Alon Greenbaum
University of California-Los Angeles Aydogan Ozcan
Chen Gu
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Peter Dedon
Whitney Henry
Saint Lucia
Harvard University Alex Toker
Sur Herrera-Paredes
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Jeff Danglº
Xiongyi Huang
Princeton University John Groves
Shrivats Iyer
Stanford University Scott Delp
Elena Kassianidou
University of California-Berkeley Sanjay Kumar
Leor Katz
University of Texas at Austin Alexander Huk
Francisca Leal
University of Florida Martin Cohn+
Chien-Der Lee
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Benjamin Tu
Pengpeng Li
Stanford University Kang Shen*
Wenzhong Liu
Northwestern University Hao Zhang
Yao Lu
Princeton University David Tank
Mark Mimee
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Timothy Lu
Haripriya Mukundarajan
Stanford University Manu Prakash
Jennifer Nwankwo
Tufts University Athar Chishti
Catherine Offord
United Kingdom
Princeton University Iain Couzin
Ayse Sena Ozseker
Baylor College of Medicine Meng Wang
Harleen Saini
University of Massachusetts at Worcester Melissa Moore*
Stephan Sanders
United Kingdom
Yale University Matthew State
Meetu Seth
University of Massachusetts at Worcester Craig Mello*
Sriram Srikant
Harvard University Andrew Murray,
Rachelle Gaudet
Kaloyan Tsanov
Harvard University George Daley*
Gannie Tzoneva
South Africa
Columbia University Adolfo Ferrando
Ji Wang
Columbia University Xiangdong Guo
Jiaxi Wu
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Zhijian Chen*
Bjorn-Erik Wulff
Stanford University Pehr Harbury
Maryam Yousefi
Iran (Islamic Republic Of)
University of Pennsylvania Christopher Lengner
Miao Yu
University of Chicago Chuan He*
Ziyang Zhang
Harvard University Andrew Myers
Xin Zhou
Stanford University Michael Lin


* HHMI Investigator

+ Early Career Scientist

º HHMI-GBMF Investigator




The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays a powerful role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the country and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, visit