Faculty Scholars Program
HHMI launched the Faculty Scholars grant program in 2016 to identify, nurture, and support top researchers during an early phase of their careers, when competition for grant support is particularly intense. The Simons Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have joined HHMI to support 84 Faculty Scholars from 43 institutions across the United States. These awardees were selected based on their vision and potential for unique contributions to science.
Together, our organizations will spend about $83 million over five years to support these scientists. The range of five-year grant award totals is $600,000-$1.8 million, including indirect costs. Faculty Scholars also receive mentoring and career development support from HHMI’s community of scientists.
In the United States, the career trajectory for early career scientists has become much less certain as competition for grant support has intensified. The health and vigor of our national research enterprise depend upon the U.S. maintaining a robust pipeline to scientific professions. HHMI seeks to purposefully contribute by giving our best researchers the resources and environment with which to pursue difficult and important basic science questions.
- PhD and/or MD (or the equivalent).
- Tenured or tenure-track position as assistant professor or higher academic rank at one of the eligible U.S. institutions, or, if at an eligible institution that has no tenure track, an appointment that reflects a significant institutional commitment. Federal government employees are not eligible.
- More than 4, but no more than 10, years of post-training, professional experience. To meet this requirement, the applicant’s post-training, professional experience must have begun no earlier than June 1, 2005, and no later than July 1, 2011. (See FAQ document for definitions)
- Principal investigator or Co-Principal investigator on at least one active, nationally competitive grant with an initial term of two or more years at some point from April 1, 2013 through July 1, 2015. Career development grants qualify. Multi-investigator grants may qualify.
- Awardees receive a five-year, non-renewable grant between $100k and $400k per year.
- Faculty Scholars are required to devote at least 50% of their total effort to the direct conduct of research.
Note: No additional competitions are currently scheduled.
Components of the Application
- A curriculum vitae, including a bibliography and a list of current research support.
- An overview of the applicant’s most significant research achievements (not more than 250 words).
- A summary of the applicant’s ongoing and planned research program (not more than 1,500 words; references and up to one page of figures are not counted toward the 1,500-word limit).
- A statement of the contribution that the applicant is uniquely poised to make to his/her research field, and, where appropriate, potential to result in new approaches to human health problems that disproportionately affect individuals living in low resource settings (not more than 250 words).
- Statements distinguishing the applicant’s current work from her/his mentors and another summarizing the applicant’s current collaborative efforts (each not to exceed 100 words).
- PDF files of three selected publications that report the applicant’s most important scientific contributions with a focus on the most recent five years, as well as a paragraph describing the significance of each publication.
- Two reference letters will be required for each applicant.
Note: No additional competitions are currently scheduled.
Award Amount and Benefits
Awards are for five-years and will provide from $100,000 to $400,000 per year of the grant term for direct costs.
Award amounts will be determined by HHMI, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Simons Foundation based on several factors including award recipients’ level of external funding at the time of the award. Each award recipient’s institution will be given an additional 20% of the yearly grant for indirect (or administrative) costs.
Faculty Scholars also receive mentoring and career development support from HHMI’s community of scientists.
Note: No additional competitions are currently scheduled.
Elizabeth Haswell, PhDHHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Washington University
Elizabeth Haswell is studying how plants use mechanosensitive ion channels to sense and respond to mechanical forces such as tension, touch, or vibration. She is also developing research tools that will enable her to measure membrane tension in live cells and to explore electrical signaling during trap closure in a carnivorous aquatic plant.
Neal Alto, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Infectious bacteria use toxins called effector proteins to invade host cells. Neal Alto studies how these proteins operate, with an eye toward uncovering new therapies to combat diseases caused by Escherichia coli, Shigella, Salmonella, and other microorganisms. He's also looking to harness effector proteins to explore the causes of auto-inflammatory diseases and cancer.
Alexei Aravin, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present California Institute of Technology
Alexei Aravin's previous research led to the discovery of a group of small, non-coding RNAs called piRNAs. Now, he is studying the molecular mechanisms behind the piRNA pathway and investigating how these RNAs protect germ cells against mutations caused by transposons – segments of genetic material that undergo relocation within the genome.
Michel Bagnat, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Duke University
Michel Bagnat investigates how fluid secretion and hydrostatic pressure can shape the form and function of organs. Focusing his work on the spine and the intestine, he has found that faulty fluid regulation during early development can lead to conditions such as scoliosis and secretory diarrhea.
Emily Balskus, PhD HHMI-Gates Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Harvard University
Combining chemistry and microbiology, Emily Balskus studies how the microorganisms of the gut interact with each other and their human hosts. She is using this knowledge to design approaches for chemically manipulating the growth and composition of microbial communities.
Diana Bautista, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of California, Berkeley
Chronic itch is a debilitating condition with few treatment options. Through her research on the molecular mechanisms that drive pain and itchiness, Diana Bautista is examining the ways that skin cells, immune cells, and sensory neurons interact to trigger eczema and other inflammatory diseases.
Edward Boyden, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Edward Boyden is developing a strategy called expansion microscopy to capture images of complicated biological systems such as brain circuits and tumors. Tissue samples expand when combined with a polymer that swells on contact with water, allowing him to physically magnify their structures. In the future, this method could be applied at even smaller scales to view proteins, DNA, and RNA.
Siobhan Brady, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of California, Davis
Siobhan Brady maps the gene networks that regulate the development of plant roots. Comparing these networks in different cell types across different species, including important crops such as tomato and sorghum, reveals how some plants adapt to frequent droughts and other harsh environmental conditions.
Ken Cadwell, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present New York University School of Medicine
Ken Cadwell studies how humans have adapted to the infectious agents that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract, looking for potential triggers of inflammatory bowel disease. His research has also revealed that, in the right contexts, normally harmful viruses and parasitic worms can provide some surprising benefits to their hosts.
Fernando Camargo, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Boston Children’s Hospital
Fernando Camargo's work with adult stem cells has helped describe the Hippo pathway, a stem cell regulatory system that controls the growth of organs and tumors. He also developed a new strategy that uses transposons to track stem cell lineages in situ, allowing him to investigate how blood cells are produced in bone marrow.
Flaminia Catteruccia, PhD HHMI-Gates Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Harvard University
Malaria-carrying mosquitoes are rapidly developing resistance to insecticides. To find new ways to control the spread of malaria, Flaminia Catteruccia investigates the molecular and genetic mechanisms behind mosquito reproduction and malaria transmission. She has found that disrupting key physiological processes in the mated blood-fed mosquito can both sterilize females and prevent development of malaria parasites.
Edward Chang, MD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of California, San Francisco
By figuring out how the human auditory cortex responds to spoken sounds, Edward Chang is studying how the brain interprets verbal communication. His research reveals a major role for the brain’s superior temporal gyrus region in speech perception, and may shed light on the neural circuitry involved in language learning.
Elizabeth Chen, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Elizabeth Chen investigates what happens along the membranes of undifferentiated muscle cells, or myoblasts, during cell fusion, a crucial step in skeletal muscle development and repair. Her work has shown that mechanical tension drives the fusion process as one cell invades another one using finger-like protrusions of the cell membrane.
Xin Chen, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present The Johns Hopkins University
Xin Chen studies the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that allow cells to acquire distinct morphologies and functions during development. Using the Drosophila male germline as a model, she has shown that the asymmetric distribution of histones during cell division helps to establish distinct fates for daughter cells.
Daniel Colón-Ramos, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Yale University
A fundamental problem in neuroscience involves understanding how synapses are assembled in living animals to produce behaviors and store memories. Daniel Colón-Ramos uses the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to explore this question, examining the biological mechanisms cells use to create synapses during development, maintain them during growth, and modify them during learning.
Victoria D'Souza, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Harvard University
Victoria D'Souza is using nuclear magnetic resonance to understand how retroviruses employ various RNA structures to aid in the transcription and translation of their genomes. By mapping the three-dimensional topology of viral nucleic acids, she hopes to learn more about how these molecules interact with host molecular components and how new therapeutics could potentially interfere with these interactions.
José Dinneny, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Stanford University
José Dinneny looks at the mechanisms plants use to sense water availability and adapt to drought conditions. He takes a holistic approach in his research, emphasizing the importance of developmental pathways and molecular genetic mechanisms in guiding acclimation and homeostatic processes.
Maitreya Dunham, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of Washington
Maitreya Dunham uses comparative genomics and experimental evolution techniques to investigate how yeast genomes evolve over time periods ranging from a few weeks to millions of years. Her research may lead to therapies that counter the evolution of drug resistance in fungal and bacterial pathogens, viruses, and cancer.
Alex Dunn, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Stanford University
Alex Dunn's laboratory uses sophisticated biophysical measurements to better understand how cells work together to build complex, multicellular tissues. His team seeks to learn how to guide cellular assembly in the context of tissue engineering, and to understand what goes wrong in diseases such as cancer, in which cells fail to work together to achieve their proper physiological function.
Ila Fiete, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ila Fiete builds theoretical models and numerical simulations while working closely with experimentalists to design experiments and analyze neural data, with the goal of understanding how the brain solves hard problems such as spatial navigation using components that are forgetful and noisy. Her focus is on circuits that underlie short-term memory, integration, and inference in the brain.
Michael Fischbach, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Stanford University
The bacteria that reside in and on the human body produce a wealth of small molecules, many of which play crucial roles in human physiology and disease. Michael Fischbach is examining the functions of these molecules, some of which may eventually be used to treat immune, metabolic, and neurological disorders.
Robert Froemke, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present New York University School of Medicine
One of the central challenges in neuroscience is distinguishing how modification of synapses and neural circuits can change behavior. Robert Froemke is investigating this question by studying the circuits and molecular cues used by rodents when they give birth to and care for their offspring.
Adam Frost, MD, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of California, San Francisco
Adam Frost studies the molecular machines that are too fragile to purify, too large or flexible to crystallize, or are dependent on lipids that cannot be replaced by detergent micelles. To do this, he integrates cryo-EM with genetics, biochemistry, and diverse imaging techniques.
Antonio Giraldez, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Yale University
Antonio Giraldez is interested in how fertilized eggs develop into complex multicellular embryos. Using zebrafish as a model system, he is looking at the mechanisms that activate the genome after fertilization and how this universal transition drives post-transcriptional regulation of the maternal instructions.
Amy Gladfelter, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Amy Gladfelter is looking at how the physical properties of molecules lead to cell organization and function. Her research focuses on two areas: how multinucleate cells are organized in time and space, and how cells perceive their shape and use geometry to inform signaling and decision making.
Andrew Goodman, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Yale University
Andrew Goodman's research is focused on dissecting the mechanisms that human commensal microbes use to cooperate, compete, and antagonize each other in the gut. His team works to understand how the communities that develop from these interactions influence our responses to pathogens and medical drugs.
Valentina Greco, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Yale University
Valentina Greco is investigating how stem cells initiate and coordinate tissue regeneration, both to maintain healthy tissues and to restore damaged tissue after injury. She is also investigating how regenerating tissues respond to the presence of cells with cancer-promoting mutations, seeking a better understanding of the earliest events in tumor development.
Chenghua Gu, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Harvard University
Chenghua Gu is studying how the blood/brain barrier forms and functions. Better understanding of this nearly impermeable barrier could make it easier to deliver drugs to the brain. She is also exploring how neural activity influences the development and function of the blood vessels that supply the brain.
Elissa Hallem, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of California, Los Angeles
Elissa Hallem is investigating how parasitic worms use sensory cues such as heat and odors to find their hosts. Her studies of neural circuits in skin-penetrating roundworms, as well as in the free-living roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, focus on how the worms detect sensory cues and how the brain responds differently to those cues under different circumstances.
Cole Haynes, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of Massachusetts Medical School
Mitochondria, cells' tiny power plants, are essential for many cellular activities, and their dysfunction is associated with aging, metabolic disorders, Parkinson's disease, bacterial infections, and cancer. Cole Haynes is investigating the mechanisms cells use to monitor their mitochondria and, when faulty, the strategies employed to ensure cell survival and mitochondrial recovery.
Lin He, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of California, Berkeley
Lin He is identifying functionally important, non-protein coding elements of the mammalian genome and then characterizing what they do, how they work, and how they are regulated. Her studies focus on a class of gene-regulating non-coding RNAs called microRNAs and a class of mobile elements called retrotransposons, both of which have wide-ranging impacts on development and disease.
Ekaterina Heldwein, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Tufts University
Ekaterina Heldwein is using structural biology to learn how herpes viruses get in and out of host cells. Her lab is working to develop a comprehensive, atomic-level map of the ways herpes viruses manipulate their hosts, with the ultimate goal of devising antiviral drugs that interfere with those interactions.
André Hoelz, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present California Institute of Technology
To enable detailed studies of how molecules enter and exit cell nuclei – and how disruption of that process contributes to disease – André Hoelz is focusing on the nucleus's only gateway: the nuclear pore complex. He is developing an atomic-level model of the mega assembly, which is made up of about a thousand proteins, and working toward reconstituting it in the test tube.
Martin Jonikas, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016 –Present Princeton University
Martin Jonikas is advancing biologists' ability to engineer photosynthetic organisms to address our civilization's challenges in agriculture, health, and energy. To enable engineering, he is developing the green alga Chlamydomonas into a platform for high-throughput genetics research. His laboratory also studies the algal carbon concentrating mechanism, which could someday be transferred to crops to make more food with fewer resources.
Katrin Karbstein, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Scripps Research Institute
Katrin Karbstein studies how ribosomes – large cellular complexes that manufacture proteins – assemble and how cells ensure that new ribosomes are fully functional. She is also investigating what happens when ribosome quality control mechanisms are bypassed and how faulty ribosomes compromise human health.
Daniel Kronauer, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present The Rockefeller University
Daniel Kronauer is studying the origins of complex social behaviors in ants. The genetic resources and behavioral tracking system that he is developing for the clonal raider ant Cerapachys biroi will allow him to investigate how divisions of labor arise and how an ant colony’s composition affects its social dynamics.
Ming Li, DPhil HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Ming Li is unraveling the signaling pathways that regulate immune system homeostasis, tolerance, and immunity. He is particularly interested in understanding how immune responses to tumors are distinct from those to healthy or infected tissue. Ultimately, he wants to use this knowledge to develop new cancer therapies.
Stavros Lomvardas, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Columbia University
In mammals, odor-detecting neurons each produce a single type of olfactory receptor, which is chosen from a pool of thousands. Stavros Lomvardas is studying the mechanisms that determine which olfactory receptor gene is switched on in an individual cell, with the larger goal of understanding how cells orchestrate random choices that generate diversity.
David Masopust, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of Minnesota
David Masopust is investigating how immune cells find and respond to infection in the mucosal membranes that line the respiratory, intestinal, and reproductive tracts. Better understanding of these processes could change the way researchers think about vaccine design and cancer immunotherapies.
Frederick "Erick" Matsen, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Frederick "Erick" Matsen is developing computational algorithms to analyze large sets of genetic data from an evolutionary perspective. This includes a special focus on methods that will reveal new insights about pathogens and their hosts' immune systems. He is also working more generally to improve the accuracy of phylogenetic analyses, which biologists use to infer evolutionary relationships between species or individual organisms.
Coleen Murphy, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Princeton University
Coleen Murphy studies the molecular processes that regulate longevity, reproductive aging, and cognitive decline using the model system Caenorhabditis elegans. By identifying the active genes in each of the worms' tissues, she aims to enable new understanding of how biological processes change with age and how they can be manipulated to slow the declines that impact quality of life in humans.
Mala Murthy, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Princeton University
Mala Murthy is studying how the brain modulates behavior in response to dynamic sensory cues, using the acoustic communication system of fruit flies as a model. Flies use acoustic signals during courtship, and she is characterizing the neural activity underlying both the patterning of courtship song structure in males and the processing of song in females.
Markus Müschen, MD, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Yale University
Markus Müschen explores oncogenic signaling in B cell-derived leukemia and lymphomas. Unlike other types of cancer, B cell tumors are subject to an autoimmunity checkpoint. As with normal B cells, B cell tumor cells are weeded out if they are self-reactive. Müschen uses pharmacological agents to engage autoimmunity checkpoints in B cell tumors, with the ultimate goal of overcoming resistance to conventional drug-treatment.
Celeste Nelson, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Princeton University
Celeste Nelson investigates the physical factors that govern embryonic tissue development and cancer using mouse and human lung and mammary gland as model systems. A clear understanding of the biochemical and physical cues directing embryogenesis may help identify the origin of certain congenital conditions and clarify how development can go awry.
Jennifer Nemhauser, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of Washington
Jennifer Nemhauser studies plant signaling pathways to learn how multicellular organisms develop and respond to their environment. She gleans information about molecular networks in natural systems and then synthetically programs these core functions into yeast cells to measure the effect of evolved and engineered changes. Her ultimate aim is to develop technologies that support small-hold farmers and foster global health.
Jacquin Niles, MD, PhD HHMI-Gates Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Malaria continues to impact global human health, and Jacquin Niles wants to change that. Niles studies functional genetics in the malarial pathogen Plasmodium falciparum, as well as pathogen-host interactions. He's working toward a clearer understanding of the parasite and disease to provide the scientific foundation for new malarial diagnostics, treatments, and prevention/elimination strategies.
Clodagh O'Shea, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Clodagh O'Shea wants to understand the mechanisms of cancer growth, and she has turned to a common respiratory pathogen, adenovirus, for help. O'Shea discovered that adenovirus genetics and replication machinery hint at how cancer proliferates. Using the virus as a model, she hopes to decipher the principles that govern cancer growth and apply that knowledge to create more effective treatments.
Benjamin Ohlstein, MD, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
For the intestine to carry out digestive functions and act as a chemical and bacterial barrier, its cells must be replenished at a high rate. This steady cellular turnover requires highly controlled mechanisms of regeneration. Benjamin Ohlstein investigates the regulatory pathways that control intestinal stem cell behaviors necessary to maintain balance in the tissue.
Julie Pfeiffer, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Julie Pfeiffer discovered that gut bacteria can inadvertently advance enteric viral infections by influencing viral replication and transmission. Now, using poliovirus and reovirus as models, Pfeiffer is exploring this connection further to better understand how viruses in general may depend on intestinal bacteria for their survival.
Kathrin Plath, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of California, Los Angeles
As immature cells grow and differentiate, gene-expression patterns shift accordingly to lock in a single cell fate. Kathrin Plath wants to determine how adult cells can be specifically and efficiently reprogrammed to return the cell to a pluripotent, undifferentiated state. More broadly, Plath is interested in the molecular mechanisms that control genome organization, chromatin, and gene expression.
Manu Prakash, PhD HHMI-Gates Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Stanford University
Manu Prakash is a biophysicist who studies simple animals to better understand how a small collection of cells gives rise to a multicellular organism. He develops new imaging tools and techniques based on soft matter physics that aid in his quest to understand the origins of complex behavior in simple animals. Along the way, he is also developing novel tools for "frugal science" applied to global health and democratizing access to scientific experience.
Shu-Bing Qian, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Cornell University
Shu-Bing Qian researches mRNA translation and the mechanisms that regulate the onset of protein synthesis under certain cellular conditions. A clearer conception of the factors that control the quality and quantity of protein production during events such as cell growth, differentiation, or stress response could help define new therapeutic strategies for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Jayaraj Rajagopal, M.D. HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Massachusetts General Hospital
Tissue regeneration requires significant coordination among numerous cell types. Understanding this finely choreographed process drives Jayaraj Rajagopal's research. Rajagopal employs an outside-the-body model of lung regeneration to analyze the principles that govern cellular ensembles in organs and human disease.
John Rinn, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of Colorado
John Rinn was one of the first to discover that the human genome hosts thousands of new long noncoding RNA genes. He has dedicated his research to understanding how these genes contribute to human health and disease. He further aims to dissect the molecular grammar guiding their functional roles in hopes of finding new avenues of therapeutic intervention.
Jody Rosenblatt, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of Utah
Extrusion, the process by which cells destined to die are squeezed from a tissue, is a necessary step in maintaining healthy organs. Jody Rosenblatt discovered extrusion and researches how the mechanisms that regulate this process become impaired to instead cause diseases, including asthma and metastatic cancers.
Carla Rothlin, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Yale University
Inflammation plays a critical role in the immune response. Left unchecked, however, it can cause chronic inflammation, trigger autoimmune disorders, or fuel cancer. Carla Rothlin studies the biochemical mechanisms that control immune response activation and intensity, with an eye toward inflammation. A better understanding of immune system regulation could lead to new treatments for inflammation-associated diseases.
Michael Rust, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of Chicago
Michael Rust combines mathematical modeling and wet lab experiments to investigate how the circadian clock, a molecular oscillator, controls daily fluctuations in metabolism and energy use in cyanobacteria. These daily rhythms are likely to provide growth and survival advantages to cells.
Frank Schroeder, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research
Frank Schroeder investigates how previously unidentified products of cell metabolism function as signals between individuals and within cells in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, an important model system for human disease. These small molecules exhibit fascinating chemical diversity and regulate lifespan, reproduction, behavior, and many other phenotypes, often via signaling pathways that are evolutionarily conserved throughout the animal kingdom.
Song-Hai Shi, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Song-Hai Shi uses imaging, mouse genetics, and electrophysiology to dissect the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control the formation and operation of neuronal circuits in the mammalian brain. These circuits account for critical brain functions such as sensory perception, movement, and reasoning.
Jan Skotheim, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Stanford University
Jan Skotheim studies how yeast and animal cells control their size by coordinating growth and division. As cells grow, some regulatory molecules inhibiting cell division are diluted, while other regulatory molecules activating cell division are not. This produces a size-dependent biochemical signal through which cell growth triggers division.
Agata Smogorzewska, MD, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present The Rockefeller University
Agata Smogorzewska studies how DNA is maintained during DNA replication. She is guided by human genetic diseases that are caused by mutations in DNA repair genes and strives to understand the mechanism by which lack of the proper DNA repair predisposes patients to cancers and bone marrow, kidney, and liver failure.
Daniel Stetson, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of Washington
Daniel Stetson studies how our cells detect infection with a virus. Sensors of foreign DNA and RNA are essential for activating immune responses to viruses, but they can also cause severe autoimmune disease if they are not properly regulated. Stetson's lab seeks to understand this dichotomy of protective immunity and autoimmunity activated by the same antiviral sensors.
Francesca Storici, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Georgia Institute of Technology
Francesca Storici is studying how cells use RNA as a template to repair DNA lesions in a process in which genetic information flows in reverse from RNA to DNA. Furthermore, during DNA metabolism, subunits of RNA can be incorporated into the genome, and Storici is investigating spectra, consequences, and whether these RNA intrusions are associated with cellular stress and/or cancer.
Gurol Suel, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of California, San Diego
Gurol Suel studies how bacteria coordinate their behavior to collectively organize into communities called biofilms, which have a higher resilience against antibiotics. His research suggests that, similar to neurons in the brain, bacteria use electrical cell-to-cell signaling mediated by ion channels to coordinate their action.
Sohail Tavazoie, MD, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present The Rockefeller University
Sohail Tavazoie investigates the roles of small noncoding RNAs and proteins that alter the biology of distant organs and facilitate their colonization by metastatic cancer cells. His work has led to the development of anti-metastatic small molecules that are advancing to clinical trials. These studies have also provided basic insights into mechanisms of gene regulation.
Benjamin Tu, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Benjamin Tu is characterizing the mechanism of action of two cell metabolites that are critical for coupling cell growth and homeostasis to nutrient availability: acetyl-CoA and S-adenosylmethionine. These metabolites play a critical role in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression, signal transduction, and metabolism.
Matthew Vander Heiden, MD, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Matthew Vander Heiden uses mouse models to understand how cancer cells alter their metabolism to meet the requirements of growth and proliferation. Identifying rate-limiting steps in critical metabolic pathways, such as the breakdown of glucose and the production of the basic subunits of DNA, may lead to new cancer therapies.
Jue Wang, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present University of Wisconsin
Jue Wang is studying the conflicts between the replication and transcription machineries in bacteria, which are exacerbated by stresses such as nutrient deprivation or exposure to antibiotics. She is characterizing how such conflicts have shaped the evolution of microbial genomes, and how conflicts are avoided by coordinating cellular metabolism in response to stress.
Sing Sing Way, MD, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Sing Sing Way studies how genetically foreign maternal and fetal tissues coexist during pregnancy and how babies respond to commensal and pathogenic microbes during the early newborn period. Understanding how the immune system works in each of these unique developmental contexts may lead to new therapeutic strategies for improving pregnancy outcomes and protecting newborn babies against infection.
Marius Wernig, MD, PhD HHMI Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Stanford University
Marius Wernig investigates the molecular mechanisms that determine cell lineage identity, focusing on reprogramming skin and stem cells into functional neurons. His work includes translational efforts to treat an incurable genetic skin disease and various diseases of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis.
Feng Zhang, PhD HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar / 2016–Present Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Feng Zhang is a bioengineer whose research focuses on developing technologies to study the role of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying brain function and diseases. He is advancing genome editing methods, including CRISPR, and applying them to investigate brain function and disease.