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Guo-Liang “Chewie” Chew (L) and Ghazal Ashrafi

Two MCB graduate students, Guo-Liang “Chewie” Chew (rising G3, Schier Lab) and Ghazal Ashrafi (rising G4, Schwarz Lab at Harvard Medical School) have received 2012 HHMI International Fellowships from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


“This is a wonderful achievement for both Chewie and Ghazal, and quite an honor for the department to have two MCO graduate students named as recipients in one year!” says Michael Lawrence, MCO graduate program coordinator. Among the 50 winners nationwide, Harvard had five, more than any other U.S. University. The winners were selected from several hundred finalists nominated from 63 Ph.D.-granting institutions.


“The HHMI International Fellowship recognizes Guo-Liang’s potential to make important contributions to biomedical research,” says Professor Alex Schier, who oversees Chew’s research on translational control during early development using zebrafish as a model organism. Specifically, Guo-Liang Chew investigates how translational control may mediate the interpretation of morphogen gradients during development.


Ghazal Ashrafi’s research focuses on the neuronal pathways that regulate removal of dysfunctional mitochondria, which cause cellular oxidative damage and are implicated in Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, from axons and dendrites. “This topic is of considerable interest to the field of neurodegeneration,” says Professor Schwarz. “Ghazal has answered a controversial question in the field by showing that Parkin [a Parkinson’s disease protein] locates to damaged mitochondria in the axons of neurons and not just in cell lines. I count myself as very lucky to have someone as bright, fun, and productive as Ghazal in our group and I’m very happy that HHMI has seen fit to support her.”


HHMI launched the International Student Research Fellowships Program last year to support international students during their “make or break” 3rd to 5th years of graduate school in the United States, when they typically find very little funding support for their studies. International students in U.S. graduate schools are not eligible for federal fellowships, training grant support, or other governmental opportunities that are generally reserved for U.S. citizens.  The Institute chose to fund the 3rd to 5th years of graduate school because, by this time, most students have chosen a graduate advisor, identified a research project, and demonstrated their potential for success in the lab.


You can read more about the Fellowship here.