Eight Women Win Pew Scholarships in the Biomedical Sciences

The Pew Charitable Trusts has announced the 2012 class of Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences. Recipients of these prestigious awards receive $240,000 over four years to pursue their research without restriction.

Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts, stated, “This funding comes at points in the scholars’ professional lives when they often are the most innovative. While this program is a bold investment for us, it has paid incalculable dividends due to our scholars’ record of producing groundbreaking research.”

Launched in 1985, the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences identifies and invests in talented researchers in medicine or biomedical sciences. In that time, over 500 Pew Scholars have received more than $130 million in funding.

Of the 22 new Pew Scholars this year, eight are women. All eight women are assistant professors at U.S. universities.

(L to R) Xue Han, Saskia B. Neher, Sohini Ramachandran, Vanessa Ruta, Aimee Shen, Kathryn E. Wellen, Mee-Ngan F. Yap, and Wenjun Zhang

Xue Han is an assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at Boston University. Her research focuses on the neural circuit mechanisms of cognitive behaviors. A graduate of Beijing University in China, she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.

Saskia B. Neher is an assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She conducts research on the molecular mechanisms responsible for regulation of lipase activity. Dr. Neher is a native of Idaho and earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon. She holds a Ph.D. from MIT.

Sohini Ramachandran is an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University. She is investigating the relative roles of human demographic history and natural selection in the patterning of human genetic variation. She has been on the faculty at Brown since 2010. Dr. Ramachandran holds bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University.

Vanessa Ruta is an assistant professor of neurophysiology and behavior at Rockefeller University in New York City. Her research is attempting to define the functional architecture and computational algorithms of neural circuits that govern both innate and adaptive behaviors in the fruit fly. Dr. Ruta is a graduate of Hunter College in New York City and earned a Ph.D. at Rockefeller University.

Aimee Shen is an assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Vermont. She studies the molecular mechanisms that regulate bacterial spore germination, the transformation of hardy spores into vegetative cells. Dr. Shen joined the faculty at the College of Medicine of the University of Vermont in 2011. She holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of Alberta and a P.D. in microbiology from Harvard University.

Kathryn E. Wellen is an assistant professor of cancer biology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Wellen’s research focuses on the growth of cancer cells. She is a summa cum laude graduate of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She earned a Ph.D. from the Harvard University School of Public Health.

Mee-Ngan F. Yap is an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Saint Louis University in Missouri. Her research examines the selectivity and resistance properties of antibiotics. Dr. Yap holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Wenjun Zhang is an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. She has been on the Berkeley faculty since 2010. She seeks to harness the power of cellular enzymes towards the engineered biosynthesis of target molecules including pharmaceuticals and biofuels. Dr. Zhang holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Nanjing University in China. She earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles.

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