Eleven MBL Affiliates Receive HHMI Adviser-Student Gilliam Awards to Promote Diversity

Eleven MBL Affiliates Receive HHMI Adviser-Student Gilliam Awards to Promote Diversity

In an effort to foster mentors for graduate students from populations historically excluded or underrepresented in the life sciences, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has announced the 2021 class of Gilliam adviser-student pairs.

Of the 50 new Gilliam fellowship pairs, 10 include MBL faculty, alumni or Whitman Center scientists.

The students and their advisers will receive an annual award totaling $50,000 for up to three years in order to further their research goals, which range from studying how malaria parasite broods destroy red blood cells to identifying the source of pollution behind harmful algal blooms in a river used by the Seneca Nation.

In addition, Gilliam advisers participate in a year of mentor development activities that emphasize cultural awareness, including monthly online training and two in-person workshops at HHMI headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Together, the activities teach advisers how to listen and engage across cultures.

By training mentors and supporting the growing Gilliam community (351 fellows to date), the program aims to make the academic environment inclusive so that students see themselves in science. Eventually, it is hoped, this will increase the diversity of scientists at the faculty level.

“Diversity in science should be the norm,” said David Asai, HHMI’s senior director for science education. “We should expect to see talented students and scientists from underrepresented groups on college campuses and across all of science.”

The 2021 Gilliam Fellows who have MBL course and Whitman Center affiliations are:

  • Sue Biggins (alumna, MBL Optical Microscopy) advising Daniel Barrero at University of Washington, Seattle
  • Michael Laub (lecturer, Physical Biology of the Cell) advising Christopher Doering at MIT
  • Shigeki Watanabe (faculty, Neurobiology and Whitman Center scientist) & Seth Margolis advising Chelsy Eddings at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Cassandra Extavour (alumna, Embryology and former faculty, Physiology) advising Dwayne Evans at Harvard University
  • Steven Bensinger (alumnus, Fundamental Issues in Vision Research) advising Kelly Kennewick at University of California, Los Angeles
  • Daniel Grimes (alumnus, Zebrafish Development and Genetics) advising Gabriel Luna-Arvizu at University of Oregon
  • Jonathan Staley (alumnus, Experimental Botany) advising Matthew McDonough at University of Chicago
  • Charles Rice (alumnus, Physiology) advising Gabrielle Paniccia at The Rockefeller University
  • Joseph Sisneros (alumnus, Neural Systems and Behavior; former Grass Fellow and Whitman Center scientist) advising Loranzie Rogers (alumnus, NSF-REU Biological Discovery in Woods Hole program) at University of Washington, Seattle
  • Rachel Dutton (alumna and former faculty, Microbial Diversity; former Whitman Center scientist) advising Tara Spencer at University of California, San Diego

Photo: Among the 2021 Gilliam Fellow pairs are Loranzie Rogers (alumnus, NSF-REU Biological Discovery in Woods Hole program) and his adviser at University of Washington, Joseph Sisneros (alumnus, Neural Systems and Behavior; former Grass Fellow and Whitman Center scientist). Rogers earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at University of Minnesota-Duluth with Allen Mensinger, who brought Rogers to MBL for several summers following his NSF-REU fellowship in 2016. At University of Washington, Rogers is working on the behavioral and neural mechanisms involved in detecting, integrating and responding to auditory stimuli in the plainfin midshipman, Porichthys notatus.