2014-15 Hugh Hampton Young Fellows named


July 29, 2014

Five new graduate students and one continuing recipient have been chosen to receive the prestigious Hugh Hampton Young Memorial Fund Fellowship in the 2014-15 academic year. This highly selective research fellowship at MIT is named for the pioneering medical researcher Hugh Hampton Young. Recipients are chosen for both academic achievement and exceptional strength of character, focusing heavily on the perceived potential of the candidate to positively impact humanity. Photo by Doris Ulmann.

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Alison Takemura is a Ph.D. candidate in Biology. She completed her B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Rice University. Her research focuses on developing a better mechanistic understanding of how closely related microorganisms differentially evolve and adapt in the wild. Takemura is experimentally determining what genes are adaptive to two ecological processes, habitat colonization and resource competition, and comparing these genes within and between cohabiting species through model systems of Vibrio crasostreae and Vibrio breoganii microbes.

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Christoph Engert is a Ph.D. candidate in the Computational & Systems Biology Doctoral Program. Engert is interested in the fundamental role of epigenetics in reproduction. He set out to work on Lysine Methyltransferases (KMTs), a widely conserved family of proteins that contribute to epigenetic control. His research focuses on KMTs in the model organism C. elegans. This enabled him to discover an epigenetic pathway in sperm production. He is working to determine how this novel pathway controls access to the genome, how stable this is and if it acts across generations.

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Daniel Day is a Ph.D. candidate in Health Sciences and Technology at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. His thesis work involves developing new computational analysis techniques to integrate different functional biological data sets and better understand how and what genes different mechanisms target, such as transcription regulation, especially in dynamic biological systems. In particular, Day focuses on angiogenesis, the process of developing new blood vessels, and using functional epigenetic data to detect enhancers, regions of the genome that regulate gene expression via transcription factor binding, to better understand the molecular basis of angiogenesis over a time series and identify regions of the human genome likely important in diseases involving dysfunctional angiogenesis.

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Mitali Thakor is a Ph.D. candidate in the MIT Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, & Society. She holds B.A. degrees in Feminist Studies and Anthropology from Stanford University. Prior to MIT, Mitali worked at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health piloting a mobile application for obtaining data on young adult sexual health in the Philippines. Currently, Thakor is using feminist anthropological methods for her dissertation on the politics of sex work, pornography, and anti-trafficking in the context of emerging technologies and issues of carceral control. She is currently conducting research in Bangkok, Thailand in affiliation with the UN Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons.

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Scott Nelson is a Ph.D. student in Economics. He received a BA in Economics and Mathematics at Yale and previously worked in research at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), where he was a member of the US Household Finance Initiative. His research asks how government policy can best address credit market failures, with a focus on products for low-income or credit-constrained consumers such as payday loans, pawn loans, and high-interest credit cards. Scott is active in the MIT Rowing Club and is a third generation at MIT, after his parents (Sloan class of 1980), who met in building E52, and his grandfather, who was a member of the MIT Radiation Lab developing airborne RADAR during WWII.

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David Hill, a continuing Young Fellow, is a Ph.D. student in Media Arts and Sciences at MIT after receiving a Masters degree in the same subject.  David majored in Physics as an undergraduate at Morehouse College.  He has made strong research contributions to the Biomechatronics group, helping to develop a mathematical model of human locomotion that predicts and simulates realistic gait kinematics, kinetics, and energetics. From a scientific perspective, it will lend insight into the behavior of the leg and its muscles during human gait. From an engineering perspective, the model will be used to help design robotic prostheses, orthotics, and exoskeletons that function more closely to biology.

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