Announcement

Credit: Jeff Fusco

PHILADELPHIA -- Chantell Evans, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has been selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as one of 15 early-career scientists in its first cohort of HHMI Hanna Gray Fellows

. This group of researchers will continue their postdoctoral training at their home institutions. Each fellow will receive up to $1.4 million in funding over eight years, with mentoring and active involvement within the HHMI community. In this two-phase program, fellows will be supported from early postdoctoral training through several years of a tenure-track faculty position. Evans work in the laboratory of Erika Holzbaur, PhD, the William Maul Measey Professor of Physiology.

Evans studies mitochondria in neurons. Mitochondria are organelles that are found in every cell and provide the energy needed for cells to function. However, when mitochondria age or become damaged, they can become harmful to the cell. Evans will explore the multiple ways neurons sequester and eliminate damaged mitochondria. This cleanup process, called mitophagy, can malfunction in people with ALS, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases. By studying healthy neurons, and cells from people with brain disorders, Evans plans to find out how these cells perform this important quality control, and how the process might be corrected when something goes wrong.

The research interests of the other fellows span a range of disciplines, including chemical biology, computational biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, structural biology, and systems biology.

The Hanna H. Gray Fellows Program seeks to encourage talented early-career scientists who have the potential to become leaders in academic research. In particular, this program aims to recruit and retain emerging scientists who are from gender, racial, ethnic, and other groups underrepresented in the life sciences, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This program will support these scientists at critical transitions in their academic careers. In keeping with HHMI’s long-standing approach to support “people, not projects,” fellows will have flexibility to change research focus and follow their curiosity during the duration of the award.

The program is named for Hanna Holborn Gray, former chair of the HHMI Trustees and former president of the University of Chicago. Under Gray’s leadership, HHMI developed initiatives that foster diversity in science education. 

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $6.7 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2016 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2016, Penn Medicine provided $393 million to benefit our community.