Seattle, WA – December 14, 2023
Washington Research Foundation (WRF) has awarded 15 three-year WRF Postdoctoral Fellowships to begin in 2024. The new cohort of early career researchers—the program’s largest ever—will complete projects addressing areas of urgent public need in natural sciences and engineering at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (Fred Hutch), Seattle Children’s Research Institute (SCRI), the University of Washington (UW) and Washington State University (WSU). WRF has now awarded 78 fellowships since the program began in 2017.
WRF Postdoctoral Fellows receive three years of salary, benefits and support toward research expenses as they carry out projects of their own design that have the potential to make significant contributions to their scientific fields. The Fellows will participate in networking and professional development events hosted by WRF over the course of the fellowship, alongside an annual symposium to showcase their goals and progress. A longer-term hope is that the Fellows’ discoveries will help to provide public benefit through the creation of new products, services or practices.
Aimée Dudley, Ph.D., of the Pacific Northwest Research Institute and Daniel Slichter, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Standards and Technology co-chaired the national committee that selected the 2024 Fellows. This is the first cohort selected since the death of inaugural chair David Galas, Ph.D., earlier this year.
“David was passionate in his belief that if you provide smart, creative, collaborative young people the freedom and resources they need to follow their interests, they will make amazing discoveries,” Dudley said. “In choosing this latest cohort of fellows from an incredibly competitive pool of applicants, I believe that the selection committee has done just that.”
“By supporting this group of innovative, dynamic young scientists, WRF is investing in the future,” Slichter said. “The WRF Postdoctoral Fellowship program has become what it is largely because of David Galas, an accomplished leader, multidisciplinary scientist and longtime WRF board member. David recognized the outsize impact of supporting the brightest and most talented scientific minds early in their careers, enabling them to establish themselves as leaders in industry, academia and public service. We mourn David’s death, but the program he helped create continues to nurture young scientists and strengthen the scientific ecosystem of Washington and beyond.”
The following researchers will begin their WRF Postdoctoral Fellowships in 2024:
• Laurel Anderson completed her Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University and will carry out her fellowship in the UW Department of Physics. She will use new scanning probe techniques to study superconductivity and other electronic phases in moiré van der Waals materials, advancing knowledge of how these states can be harnessed in quantum applications.
• Rosevalentine Bosire completed a doctorate in biomedical sciences at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. She will carry out her research in the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutch characterizing the role of lncRNA in DNA repair with the aim of identifying novel anti-cancer drug targets.
• Riddhiman Garge completed his Ph.D. in biochemistry at The University of Texas at Austin. Over the course of his fellowship at the Department of Genome Sciences at UW, he will develop and apply omics-based approaches to map the dynamics of molecular systems during cellular differentiation and embryonic development.
• Camilo Gómez-Garzón completed a doctorate in cell and molecular biology at The University of Texas at Austin. As a fellow in the Human Biology Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, he will investigate the impact of intermicrobial interactions on stomach cancer development.
• Siobhan O’Brien completed her Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Toronto, Canada, and will employ computational and functional genomics tools to identify and assess novel drug targets in lung cancer in the Fred Hutch Human Biology Division.
• Marina Pavlou completed her doctorate in gene therapy at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, and will employ viral vectors in the UW Department of Biological Structure to deliver fate-changing cargo to the mammalian retina to regenerate neurons that were lost due to injury or disease.
• Robert Ragotte completed his Ph.D. in infection and immunology at the University of Oxford, England. His postdoctoral work at the UW’s Institute for Protein Design will focus on developing new therapeutics for C. difficile infection.
• Emmajay Sutherland completed a doctorate in biochemistry at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and will investigate the cell surface glycoproteome using a novel mass spectrometric platform to provide insights into disease mechanisms in the UW Department of Chemistry.
• Carlee Toddes completed her Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. In the UW Department of Biological Structure, her research will aim to identify the molecular, cellular and circuit-based mechanisms underlying pain modulation of volitional social behavior, and to reconceptualize therapeutic interventions through the exploitation of behaviorally activated endogenous neural ensembles.
• Hamadoun Touré completed his doctorate in microbiology at the University Paris-Saclay, France. In the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutch, he will decipher how the acquisition of maternal factors through breast milk contributes to shaping offspring disease immunity.
• Thamiya Vasanthakumar completed a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Toronto, Canada, and will use cryogenic electron microscopy to study how immune cells send and receive signals through the integrin protein receptor in the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutch.
• Andrew Wescott completed his M.D. and Ph.D. in physiology at the University of Maryland. He will investigate mechanisms to prevent arrhythmia associated with cardiac stem cell therapy at the UW Institute for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine.
• Alex Whitebirch completed a doctorate in neurobiology and behavior at Columbia University. In the UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, he will use fiber photometry and chemogenetic approaches to investigate the role of prefrontal cortex neurons in fentanyl addiction and relapse.
• Emma Wrenn completed her Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology at UW. She will carry out her fellowship in the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at SCRI studying new therapies targeting the Ewing sarcoma tumor microenvironment.
• Kyle Yoshida completed a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. During his fellowship he will be conducting research on human-robot interaction relating to in-home care, agricultural robots and haptics at WSU.
Emma Wrenn, Ph.D., will become the first WRF Postdoctoral Fellow at Seattle Children’s Research Institute when she begins her fellowship in the lab of Elizabeth Lawlor, MD, Ph.D., in January.
“The ultimate goal of our work is to find better, safer treatments for aggressive pediatric cancers like Ewing sarcoma,” said Wrenn. “Through the support of the WRF we are leveraging recent discoveries about how tumors grow and evade therapy to generate new therapeutics which bypass their defenses, and instead actually take advantage of those defenses to reach and destroy the most aggressive tumor cells.”
Clarisse Benson, manager of student and postdoctoral programs at WRF, said, “The range and quality of the proposals we received was outstanding. The committee did an exceptional job in selecting this new cohort of WRF postdocs, researchers who are likely to make major contributions to their fields over the coming years. We’re proud to support their work.”
The next application for WRF Postdoctoral Fellowships will open on May 1, 2024.