Sara Ricardez Hernandez, an MU student pursuing a PhD in molecular pathogenesis and therapeutics, and Christian Lorson, professor and associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, have been awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Studies.
This is only the second time a student at Mizzou has been chosen by the HHMI as a Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Studies.
The award provides the pair with funding for a three-year long fellowship to pursue dissertation research. Specifically, Ricardez Hernandez and Lorson will be working on novel transgenic models of a pediatric neurodegenerative disease called spinal muscular atrophy with respiratory distress type 1 to better understand neuronal populations involved in disease development and provide new contexts for therapeutic development.
Ricardez Hernandez is originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, and moved to the United States during her senior year of high school nine years ago. She became a permanent resident while attending the University of Missouri-St. Louis, earning her bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and biochemistry. Knowing she wanted to pursue a PhD, she worked as a technician at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis for two years before leaving to pursue further research at Mizzou. She currently works as a fellow in the Lorson Lab, with Lorson serving as her advisor.
According to the HHMI website, Gilliam Fellowship award winners are chosen based on what HHMI values and considers essential components of the environment, particularly the institution and adviser’s commitment to creating a healthy academic ecosystem and the student’s potential for scientific leadership. The substantial funding provided by the HHMI for this project comes in the form of $50,000 per year, for up to three years. It also provides opportunities for both advisors and fellows to engage in meetings and workshops at the HHMI headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland, about how to increase diversity at their own campus and academia in general.
By Nick Childress