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Two Yale PhD Students Awarded Prestigious HHMI Gilliam Fellowships

August 14, 2023

Two PhD students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have been selected as recipients of the esteemed Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowships. This distinction recognizes exceptional achievements in scientific research and acknowledges student potential as future leaders in their respective fields.

The Graduate School is proud to announce that Ngozi Akingbesote and April Pruitt have been awarded the highly competitive HHMI Gilliam Fellowships. These talented individuals have demonstrated unwavering dedication, ingenuity, and innovation in their respective areas of study, making substantial contributions to the scientific community.

The HHMI Gilliam Fellowship, designed to foster diversity and inclusivity in the sciences, provides vital financial support, mentorship, and professional development opportunities. By recognizing students from groups historically excluded from and underrepresented in science, this prestigious fellowship aims to empower individuals with the resources they need to excel in their academic pursuits and beyond. The student’s advisers also serve as Gilliam Advisers, participating in a year-long, culturally responsive mentorship development course. Additionally, advisers receive a modest award to address challenges to diversity and inclusion at the graduate level.

Akingbesote, pursuing a PhD in cellular and molecular physiology, has showcased exceptional promise through their research on exercise as an adjuvant, or immune response enhancement, to the immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab in the treatment of a subtype of breast cancer known as triple negative breast cancer. Akingbesote’s research will be advised by Rachel Perry, assistant professor in endocrinology and cellular and molecular physiology.

Pruitt, a PhD candidate in the interdepartmental neuroscience program, has exhibited remarkable progress in their research focused on early estrogen exposure in development as a factor in autism spectrum disorders’ prevalence among males. Pruitt’s research will be supported by Kristen Brennand, Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry, and Ellen Hoffman, associate professor in the Child Study Center.

The HHMI Gilliam Fellowships not only acknowledge the outstanding abilities of Pruitt and Akingbesote, but also underscore Yale’s commitment to nurturing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the scientific landscape. These fellowships exemplify the exceptional support and mentorship provided by Graduate School faculty, as well as the institution's dedication to fostering the next generation of scientific leaders.

Please join the Graduate School in congratulating Akingbesote and Pruitt on their well-deserved recognition. Their ongoing research and contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge promise to shape the future of their respective fields.

Read more about the current cohort of HHMI Gilliam Fellows here