Brigham researchers, especially junior faculty, are navigating career challenges in the wake of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time of uncertainty, an unrestricted gift of $100,000 per year for three years can provide much-needed stability and critical opportunities for an early-career investigator.
This year, three investigators have been selected for the 2021 President’s Scholar Award (PSA). These philanthropically-funded awards support the careers of assistant or associate professors at the Brigham who have made outstanding contributions to their chosen field of research and who have exceptional potential.
“I hope the President’s Scholars program can convey our collective pride in the talented investigators who have chosen BWH as their home,” said Paul Anderson, MD, PhD, senior vice president of research and education.
Read on to find out more about each of this year’s winners.
Nathalie Agar, PhD, is a neuroscientist in the Brigham’s Department of Neurosurgery and is an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School.
- Agar was born in Quebec, Canada, and joined the Brigham to do a postdoctoral research fellowship in Neurosurgery with Peter Black, MD, PhD, a leader in integrating imaging approaches to guide brain tumor surgery and treatment. Agar has been at the Brigham for the 15 years.
- Agar’s lab is focused on developing and implementing analytical approaches for surgical pathology, oncology and drug development. Her lab is currently developing strategies to provide molecular diagnostic information during surgery to support surgical decision-making and imaging of targeted therapies.
- With this award, Agar’s lab will focus on studying the role metabolism plays in how brain tumors interact with their microenvironment and how these interactions may affect immune and treatment responses.
- Agar’s goal is to improve the care of patients affected by brain tumors and cancer and train a new generation of scientists. Much of her inspiration to study the brain comes from her stepfather, who had bipolar disorder.
- Outside of work, Agar loves doing yoga. In her free time, you might find her walking by the ocean or at the Temazcal Tequila Cantina in the Seaport District.
Victor Navarro, MD, PhD, is an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology at the Brigham.
- Navarro is from Córdoba, a province in the region of Andalucía, Spain. After completing his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington, he joined the Division of Endocrinology at the Brigham where the scientific environment, with world leaders in his field, is ideally suited for his research interests.
- Navarro’s lab focuses on how the brain interacts with hormones and peripheral signals, including environmental cues, to regulate reproduction, energy balance and maintain homeostasis. His lab is vigorously exploring what brain mechanisms drive the onset of puberty.
- While Navarro has always been passionate about biology in general, he developed a special interest in neurobiology in graduate school. He soon realized that we only know a small fraction of the mechanisms that mediate brain function — increasing this knowledge may have important implications in understanding neurological processes in health and disease.
- Navarro aims to mentor scientists that will contribute to the next generation of neuroendocrinology and expand what’s possible in neuroendocrine research.
- If Navarro could have lunch with anyone alive today, it would be English broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough.
Sandro Santagata, MD, PhD, is an associate pathologist in neuropathology in the Department of Pathology at the Brigham and an associate professor in pathology at Harvard Medical School.
- Santagata grew up in Astoria, New York. After completing an MD/PhD program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, he decided that the best way to learn about human disease would be to study pathology at the Brigham.
- Santagata’s lab focuses on identifying vulnerabilities in brain tumors that improve patient outcomes and survival. The lab uses cutting-edge imaging methods to study cancer tissues and derive new approaches for treatment. Ultimately, he aims to develop more effective diagnostics and therapies for patients with cancer.
- Santagata is intrigued by the vast inner workings of human biology and is motivated to treat human disease. He was inspired to pursue research by his graduate school mentor, Eugenia Spanopoulou, PhD, who tragically died with her family in the crash of Swissair Flight 111. He strives to bring the passion she had for tackling challenging problems to his own research.
- Over the next few years, Santagata hopes to use exciting new computational methods to build a richer understanding of the biology of cancer cells in their natural setting. His lab is currently building tumor atlases (a “Google Maps” of cancer) to share this information with investigators worldwide.
- Before doing research, Santagata worked as a vendor for the New York Mets (“Soda here, get your ice-cold soda here!”) throughout high school.