Five new MIT international graduate students out of the ten nominated were selected to receive the Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Graduate Student Fellowship competition in 2014-2015. To date, this is the largest number of new recipients that we have had and brings our total number of current HHMI international fellows up to nine (also our largest total group). We also have four students continuing their support by this fellowship. Below are short biographies of these outstanding students.
Aaron Hosios (Biology, Advisor- Matthew Vander Heiden, Canada)
Aaron’s research focuses on how different nutrients contribute to biosynthesis in rapidly proliferating mammalian cells, such as cancer cells. He is working to understand the importance of different carbon sources, including sugars and amino acids, to the production of macromolecular components of these cells. Through this work, he hopes to gain insight into how metabolic alterations associated with proliferation meet the biosynthetic demands of these cells.
Deniz Yorukoglu (EECS, Advisor- Samuel Madden, Turkey)
Deniz’s research interest is finding algorithmic solutions to problems in biomedicine. He is particularly interested in tackling big data problems that arise with the emergence of personal genomics and high-throughput genome sequencing technologies.
Novalia Pishesha (Biological Engineering, Advisor- Harvey F. Lodish, Indonesia)
Novalia was born and raised in Malang, East Java, Indonesia. She started her academic odyssey in the United States at City College San Francisco. In her junior year, she transferred to University of California at Berkeley and graduated in 2011 with a B.S. in Bioengineering. She is currently a first year PhD student in the Biological Engineering program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and working in red blood cell lab under the tutelage of Prof. Harvey Lodish. Outside of the lab she enjoys traveling and learning new languages.
Souparno Ghosh (Biological Engineering, Advisor- Alan Jasanoff, India)
The most established functional MRI method allows brain activity mapping based on changes in blood flow and volume, but it contains only limited information about the underlying neuronal events. On the other end of the spectrum, high-resolution optical imaging allows us to make precise measurements of intracellular events, but its field of view is limited and unsuitable for imaging deep tissue or large brain areas. Souparno uses protein engineering techniques to develop MRI-detectable genetically encodable molecular sensors for neuronal activity, which will combine the molecular-level responsiveness of optical imaging probes with the noninvasiveness and whole brain coverage of MRI.
One of the ultimate aims of systems neuroscience is to understand how information from the natural environment is encoded in the brain. As a graduate student in the laboratory of Mriganka Sur at MIT, Rajeev uses a combination of in vivo two-photon calcium imaging and optogenetics to study how neurons in the primary visual cortex of awake, behaving mice work together to process natural images. Furthermore, using computational modelling, he aims to elucidate how sensory information is encoded and decoded distinct neural networks in the primary visual cortex. Ultimately, this research will allow us to understand how the visual system extracts salient features from the natural environment and uses them to guide behavior.
Diane Baer (Microbiology, Advisor- Michael Laub, Switzerland)
Diane is interested in understanding how cells process information and regulate their own behavior, a phenomenon critical to their survival and proliferation. Information processing and cellular-level regulation is rarely achieved by a single factor but instead require the coordinated action of multiple genes and proteins. Diane’s research focuses on these regulated changes in chromosome structure during a bacterial cell cycle.
Leonor Garcia Bayona (Microbiology, Advisor- Machael Laub, Columbia)
Leonor works with a freshwater bacterium called Caulobacter crescentus, which has the ability to thrive in very nutrient poor conditions. She’s characterizing a bacteriocin system: a group of genes that allow the cells to kill closely related bacteria, usually to outcompete them when resources are limited in the growth environment.
Mark Mimee (Microbiology, Advisor- Timothy Lu, Canada)
Antibiotic resistance and the concomitant dearth of novel antimicrobials is a major threat to public health. Alternative, targeted strategies must be developed to curtail both the evolution of resistance and the antibiotic-associated infections that are a by-product of broad-spectrum antibiotics. To achieve this, Mark has helped develope sequence-specific antimicrobials that can be programmed to eliminate target bacteria based on selected genetic signatures. By pairing the CRISPR-Cas system with high-efficiency DNA delivery vectors, including bacteriophage particles or conjugative plasmids, antibiotic-resistant pathogens can be surgically removed from complex microbial populations. Currently, Mark is investigating means to expand the utility of these sequence-specific antimicrobials as both therapeutic agents to target clinically relevant pathogens, as well as tools to enable functional studies and engineering of the microbiome.
Chen Gu (Biologically Engineering, Advisor- Peter Dedon, China)
Chen Gu’s research surrounds the use of biotechnology in the development of new catalysts for light-driven hydrolysis and invention of materials with new structures optimized for the electrodes of lithium ion batteries and solar panels. As well as investigating the tumor-suppressive mechanism of a putative methyltransferase hTRM9L, with an emphasis on understanding how this gene might alter the sensitivity of a cell to certain stresses.