Patrick Stoddard (l) and Mariela Petkova
Congratulations are in order for MCB graduate students Mariela Petkova from the Engert Lab and Patrick Stoddard from the Murray Lab. Each has been selected for prestigious HHMI and NIH fellowships, respectively.
Originally from Bulgaria, Petkova is one of 45 students to receive this year’s HHMI International Student Research Fellowship. International students in U.S. graduate schools often have difficulty securing funding to support their research, as they are ineligible for federal fellowships, training grant support, and other governmental opportunities reserved for students who are U.S. citizens. Established in 2011, the fellowship supports international life sciences graduate students between their third and fifth years of school in the U.S.
“I was delighted to hear the news because it meant that HHMI was excited about my research question,” she said. A biophysics PhD student in MCB, Petkova researchers how newborn zebrafish neurons integrate into neural networks without disrupting the network’s function. Her work may have implications for our understanding of neural plasticity, brain function, and disease. “This is an important vote of confidence that my work can contribute to moving science forward.”
Petkova also looks forward to professional networking and community building that the fellowship offers. “The community aspect of HHMI offers an opportunity to interact with bold thinkers who are concerned with the big scientific picture. I aspire to build a career in interdisciplinary research, and in my experience thus far have found that collaborative scientific work is essential for an interdisciplinary approach,” she said. “I am excited by the possibility of exchanging ideas and forging innovative intellectual collaborations with members of the HHMI community.”
Stoddard was selected as a recipient of the 2015 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Award (NRSA) Predoctoral Fellowship. Established in honor of the first female NIH director, the fellowship enables promising students to obtain individualized mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research in scientific health-related fields relevant to NIH missions.“I am honored to have been selected for this fellowship,” Stoddard said. “The money that I have received will allow me to travel to conferences more easily and to redouble my focus on my work.”
A PhD student in the Molecules, Cells, and Organisms (MCO) program, Stoddard investigates how metabolic networks regulate activity in response to rapid changes in environmental nutrient concentrations. Using budding yeast as a model organism, so far he has found that a glycolytic enzyme polymerizes into actin-like filaments upon reintroduction to a glucose rich environment, limiting its activity. He is currently working to understand the observed molecular phenotype’s physiological effects.