Awards & Recognitions: August 2020

Honors received by HMS faculty, staff and students

Jacob Lemieux, HMS research fellow in medicine at Mass General, was one of two researchers to receive a Bay Area Lyme Foundation 2020 Emerging Leader Award, which is designed to support promising scientists who represent the future of Lyme disease-research leadership.

Using next-generation and target capture sequencing, Lemieux will develop a sensitive, direct detection diagnostic for early Lyme disease. The goal of his research is to improve the care of patients with tick-borne disease by advancing our understanding of fundamental disease mechanisms and developing new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

Jamaji Nwanaji-Enwerem, a fourth-year Harvard MD/MPP candidate, received the 2020 PA/DGUV Award for Young Exposure Scientists from the International Society of Exposure Science. The award fosters research in exposure areas with linkages to biomonitoring for doctoral candidates or first-year postdoctoral scientists in exposure science. Nwanaji-Enwerem hopes to alleviate health-related disparities that affect the world’s most vulnerable populations. He has published recently about indoor air quality and policy, especially with regards to COVID-19, as well as police brutality.

Wade Harper, head of the Department of Cell Biology; Clotilde Lagier-Tourenne, HMS associate professor of neurology at Mass General; and Sichen Shao, assistant professor in cell biology at HMS are among the scientists on 30 teams to receive a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative 2020 Collaborative Pairs Pilot Project Award, which provides support to pairs of researchers to collaborate and apply novel approaches for gaining greater insight into neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Harper and Shao will investigate ribosome-associated protein quality control (RQC), which is a new mechanism for protein quality control that has not been well studied in the context of neurodegenerative disease. This team will apply cutting-edge molecular and biochemical methods to investigate how RQC contributes to protein homeostasis in neurodegeneration, exploring a potential new pathway for novel therapeutic targets. 

Lagier-Tourenne and Paul Blainey of the Broad are developing an innovative platform for the discovery of new therapeutic targets in neurodegenerative diseases by applying optical genetic screens in patient fibroblasts and human neurons. The team takes advantage of a new method developed by the Blainey lab for a microscopy-based screen in human iPSC cells that links specific cellular phenotypes with in situ sequencing. They will use this platform to identify new genes and pathways for ALS. Since this new technology has not been previously deployed in neurodegenerative diseases, this project could potentially be readily applied to other neurodegenerative diseases.

Benjamin Gyori, research associate in therapeutic science in the Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology at HMS, received a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Young Faculty Award for his research program "Collaborative scientific discovery with semantically linked machine-built models" - which aims to develop artificial intelligence technology, including text mining, knowledge assembly, human-machine dialogue, and mathematical modeling, to accelerate scientific discovery in biomedicine. 

The Young Faculty Award identifies early-career researchers and provides funding, mentoring and networking opportunities to develop their research ideas in the context of national security needs.

Bruce Bean, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Neurobiology, received the 2020 Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which honors faculty members who have shown dedication to superior mentorship and training in neuroscience research. The award supports researchers’ efforts in advancing the careers of students and postdoctoral fellows in their laboratories.

Bean was recognized by nominees for his tailored approach to mentoring and his personal investment in their career. Trainees commented on his kindness, generosity and enthusiasm, coupled with the most rigorous scientific training and accurate reporting of results, all geared toward the personal success of each individual trainee, regardless of their ultimate goals. Bean’s research focuses on understanding electrical signaling in the brain through the molecular mechanisms of ion channels.

R. Bruce Donoff, the Walter C. Guralnick Distinguished Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, was named to receive the American Dental Education Association’s 2020 Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes significant contributions to the association and its members through teaching, research and service.

Three HMS graduate students are among 45 doctoral students and their advisers selected for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s 2020 Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study, which seeks to increase the diversity of scientists at the college and university faculty level by supporting students who will become scientific leaders.

The HHMI Gilliam Fellows from HMS are:

Lillian Horin, graduate student in Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Thesis Adviser: Timothy Mitchison, the Hasib Sabbagh Professor of Systems Biology

Alana Van Dervort, graduate student in Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Thesis Adviser: Doug Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology

Nghia Nguyen, graduate student in Neuroscience
Thesis Adviser: Mark Andermann, HMS associate professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

For up to three years, each adviser-student pair will receive an annual funding. Advisers will participate in a year of mentor training, where they’ll learn about cultural identities and how to listen and engage across cultures. And fellows will be invited to attend the annual Gilliam meeting and scientific meetings at HHMI headquarters.

William Kaelin Jr., the Sidney Farber Professor of Medicine at HMS and Dana-Farber, was named to receive the Association of American Cancer Institutes’ Distinguished Scientist Award. Kaelin is being recognized for his long-term research on how cells sense and adapt to changing oxygen levels.

Two HMS research fellows are among fifteen postdoctoral scientists named 2020 Damon Runyon Fellows. The recipients of this four-year award are outstanding postdoctoral scientists conducting basic and translational cancer research in the laboratories of leading senior investigators.

The Spring 2020 Damon Runyon Fellows and sponsors from HMS are:

Pragya Goel, research fellow in neurobiology, with her sponsor Pascal Kaeser, associate professor of neurobiology, is investigating structural and functional aspects of dopamine transmission in the brain, a key neuromodulator for motor and cognitive processes. Dopamine receptors have also been implicated in a variety of cancers, and recent evidence suggests that brain cancer (glioma) cells can form synaptic connections with neurons that drive tumor progression. To better understand the molecular organization that supports dopamine signaling, Goel will use super-resolution microscopy, modern genetic approaches and functional measurements to assess how major dopamine receptors are organized in the brain and determine the interplay between dopamine release and reception. This research aims to better understand the basic mechanisms of dopamine signaling, which may ultimately enable the design of novel therapies.

Rachel Segal Greenberg, research fellow in cell biology, with her sponsor Stephen Liberles, professor in cell biology, is focusing on how sensory neurons that innervate internal organs develop and function under changing environmental conditions. Our ability to sense and respond to fluctuations in blood-oxygen levels or exposure to airway irritants is controlled by the sensory neurons that comprise the vagus nerve. These neurons detect changes in numerous organs including the heart and lungs and mediate responses. Understanding how vagal neurons respond to these microenvironments may provide new insights into how certain conditions contribute to tumor growth and identify targets for the development of cancer therapies.

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