L-R top row: Weizhe Hong, Dan Landau, and Darcie L Moore
L-R second row: Pontus Skoglund, Michael Yartsev, and Li Zhao
The 2020 Vallee Scholars:
In this unprecedented year, when the world needs exceptional scientific research, the Vallee Foundation is proud to award $1.8 million to six new Vallee Scholars. The Vallee Scholar program provides unrestricted funding for national and international junior faculty at a critical stage in their tenure-track careers. “The awards committee was extremely impressed by the breadth and vision of this year’s candidates and the selection was difficult,” said committee chair Wade Harper, Bert and Natalie Vallee Professor of Molecular Pathology, and Chairman of the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School. "Each of these brilliant young Vallee Scholars brings new and exciting technologies to problems ranging from neuroscience to cancer to the interactions of virus with humans including during previous pandemics, all areas with enormous implications for human health.”
Weizhe Hong, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Biological Chemistry and of Neurobiology at the University of California Los Angeles. The central goal of his laboratory is to study general principles of how social behavior is regulated in the brain. Hong studies how neural dynamics regulate social behavioral decisions within the brain as well as how emergent neural properties arise from social interactions between individuals.
Dan Landau, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, is a physician-scientist who integrates data science innovation with genomic technology development to unravel the basic principles of tumor cell diversity and evolution. His studies demonstrate the need to integrate genetic, epigenetic and transcriptional information in the study of somatic evolution, and the ability to leverage gained insights towards therapeutic optimization.
Darcie L. Moore, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on the regulation and movement of proteins during the earliest steps of Adult neurogenesis, when neural stem cells (NSCs) exit quiescence and begin to divide. By developing novel imaging methods to functionally define quiescent NSCs, she hopes to contribute to our fundamental understanding of stem cell biology, identifying novel targets for treating aging-related diseases.
Pontus Skoglund, PhD, is Group Leader of the Ancient Genomics Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute, London. The Skoglund lab uses genomics to study evolution at key periods in the human past. A main interest is to reconstruct the genomic co-evolution of human populations and pathogens, to understand how past epidemics and pandemics have driven immunity responses to infectious disease.
Michael Yartsev, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the University of California, Berkeley's Department of Bioengineering and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. By studying spatial navigation behavior in freely flying bats, his lab is trying to understand the neural mechanisms that support ethologically relevant forms of navigation and aims to show how mammalian neural circuits participate and contribute to complex spatial behaviors at both the individual and group level.
Li Zhao, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics at The Rockefeller University, where her lab is focused on understanding the origin of novel genes and the link between genetic innovation and functional innovation. One research focus in the lab uses de novo genes, which are genes that have originated from non-genic sequences of genomes, as a unique paradigm to understand the genetic basis of novel phenotypes and the diversity of life.
The Vallee Scholar Awards Program recognizes outstanding early career scientists at a critical juncture in their careers. Each Scholar receives $300,000 in discretionary funds to be spent over four years for basic biomedical research. Candidates are competitively selected based on the originality and innovation of their science, the quality of their proposal as evidenced by ideas and execution, and their record of accomplishment. Since 2013, 35 junior faculty have been appointed Vallee Scholars for an investment total of more than $9.5 million.
About the Vallee Foundation
The Vallee Foundation was established by Bert and Kuggie Vallee as their legacy to the advancement of medical science and medical education. The Foundation stimulates development of interdisciplinary sciences related to human health by promoting interaction between productive scientists worldwide.