Each fellow will receive up to $1.4 million over eight years to pursue research into some of the greatest challenges in the life sciences, from understanding the inner workings of the brain to the complexities of the immune system. Fellows also will have access to mentoring, peer support, and networking and professional development opportunities. Launched in 2016 and named for former HHMI board chair and University of Chicago president Hanna Holborn Gray, the program seeks to advance diversity in the field of biomedical research.
Hailing from eighteen different institutions, the 2020 fellows include Biafra Ahanonu (University of California, San Francisco), who is studying the neural and molecular basis of pain; Steve Bonilla (University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus), who will use cryogenic electron microscopy to visualize diverse, dynamic, functional RNA structures; Autumn Holmes (Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis), who will examine, using mice, how chikungunya virus, which causes debilitating, often chronic arthritis in humans, enters cells and begins the infection process; and Valeria M. Reyes Ruiz (Vanderbilt University Medical Center), who will seek new ways to stop deadly staphylococcus aureusbacterial infections by depriving bacteria of the key nutrients they need to survive and spread in the body.
Selection of the fellows, which is typically announced in the fall, was delayed until December due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of 2021, HHMI has committed more than $105 million to increasing academic faculty diversity through the program.
"These promising researchers are poised to do groundbreaking work and ready to inspire the next generation of scientists," said HHMI president Erin O'Shea. "HHMI is excited to welcome our new Hanna Gray Fellows into our community and to support them in their career journeys, as individuals and as a network of leaders changing the face of science."
(Photo credit: Howard Hughes Medical Institute)