Imagine what an unrestricted gift of $100,000 per year for three years could mean for an early-career investigator. Four investigators from the Brigham are about to find out — they have been selected as the inaugural winners of the President’s Scholars Award (PSA). These philanthropically-funded awards will support the careers of assistant or associate professors at the hospital who have made outstanding contributions to their chosen field of research and who have exceptional potential.
Read on to find out more about each of this year’s winners.
Meet Ana Anderson: Empowering Immunity Against Cancer
Ana Anderson, PhD, is an associate scientist at the Brigham, an associate professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, an Institute Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and a core faculty member of the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases.
Here are five facts about Anderson:
- Anderson was born in Bogota, Colombia, and grew up in Miami, Fla. She came to Boston for graduate school and did her PhD training at the Brigham.
- Anderson’s lab focuses on understanding the pathways and mechanisms that regulate the anti-tumor immune response. Ultimately, she wants to empower the immune system to successfully fight cancer and build a legacy of solid science that provides a basis for therapeutic development. She also hopes to inspire more young girls to pursue science as a career.
- With the next three years of PSA funding, she plans to grow her research program by establishing new model systems and wants to pursue higher-risk research directions.
- Anderson has wanted to pursue science for as long as she can remember. What motivates her is a desire to improve human health.
- Anderson does her best thinking while she’s engaged in her favorite activity: running. She also enjoys finding a little quiet time at the yoga studio.
Meet Georg Gerber: Computational Power Meets the Microbiome
Georg Gerber, MD, PhD, is chief of the Division of Computational Pathology, a new research division within the Department of Pathology. The division is broadly focused on developing and applying advanced computational methods to further the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of human disease. Gerber is also the co-director of the Massachusetts Host-Microbiome Center, an assistant professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, and an associate pathologist at the Brigham and Women’s Center for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics.
Here are five facts about Gerber:
- Gerber is originally from California, where he lived until coming east to complete his MD/PhD in the Harvard-MIT HST program. He fulfilled his dream of completing his residency in Pathology at the Brigham and then becoming faculty here.
- Gerber used to make movies in Hollywood. While he was a graduate student at UC Berkeley, he founded a 3D graphics company that was eventually acquired by a film studio in Hollywood. He stayed on and worked on several movies including “Virtuosity” starring Denzel Washington.
- Gerber’s research focuses on the human microbiome — the vast collection of microbes living on and within us — and how these ecosystems in our bodies promote health and, when disrupted, can lead to or exacerbate diseases including infections, allergies, arthritis, neurological diseases and cancer.
- Gerber has an unusual background as a physician with a PhD in computer science. He believes that computational technologies are poised to make an impact on human health. His goal is for the new division to provide a fertile environment for research and training, extending the Brigham’s legacy of innovation.
- When he isn’t working to understand the human microbiome, you might find him in his backyard watching his tortoise eat the weeds. Or at his favorite restaurant, Buddha’s Delight, in Chinatown. Or playing his sitar.
Meet Tracy Young-Pearse: Understanding the Developing and Aging Brain
Tracy Young-Pearse, PhD, is an investigator in the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at the Brigham and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Neurology. She is also the co-leader of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s Nervous System Diseases Program.
Here are five facts about Young-Pearse:
- Young-Pearse is originally from Porter Corners, NY, a small country town near Saratoga Springs. Young-Pearse was thrilled to join the Brigham in 2004 as a postdoctoral fellow when Dennis Selkoe, MD, co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases and a world-renowned Alzheimer’s researcher, recruited her to the center.
- Her research now focuses on the cell and molecular pathways involved in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. She strives to understand changes in the brain that underlie mental illness, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- She derives satisfaction from solving complex puzzles — namely, the puzzle that is the genetics and biology of neurologic diseases. With the next three years of PSA funding, she hopes to further explore the complex genetics that underlie aging and cognition in Alzheimer’s disease.
- If Young-Pearse could have lunch with any historical figure, she would choose Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi.
- Outside of work, she is likely going on adventures with her daughter, Juliet.
Meet Jessica Lasky-Su: Studying the Small Molecules of Big Diseases
Jessica Lasky-Su, ScD, is an associate professor in the Channing Division of Network Medicine in the Department of Medicine where she has developed a metabolomics research program. Lasky-Su has worked at the Brigham since 2007.
Here are five facts about Lasky-Su:
- Her current research seeks to understand asthma and related diseases by analyzing metabolomic data: the study of small molecules in biosamples.
- She is passionate about creating encouraging work environments and seeks opportunities to mentor more junior investigators.
- Lasky-Su has moderate-severe asthma and so does one of her sons, so understanding more about asthma’s disease progression and what can be done to more effectively treat and prevent it has personal meaning.
- She gets excited thinking about developing a new cohort or generating new data that will allow researchers to gain novel insights into diseases. She hopes to use the next three years of funding to pursue innovative projects with high-impact scientific merit.
- When she’s not at work, she is likely outside running (70+ miles per week!).