Success Story

September 21, 2017

CBC Scholar Nicolás Peláez, PhD, selected as an HHMI Hanna Gray Fellow

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has just announced the selection of 15 exceptional early career scientists as the first group of HHMI Hanna Gray Fellows. Among the awardees is Nicolás Peláez, PhD, who received his PhD from NU where he was jointly advised by Richard Carthew, Department of Molecular Biosciences and Luis Amaral, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. While at NU, Nico received a CBC Scholars Award (2011-2012). Also in 2011, he received a distinguished HHMI International Student Research Fellowship. Currently, Nico is conducting research at the California Institute of Technology, mentored by Michael Elowitz, PhD. The CBC is proud to have supported Nico during the early phase of his scientific journey. Congratulations!

SEP 18 2017

HHMI Selects 15 Hanna Gray Fellows to Support Diversity in Science


HHMI announces the selection of 15 exceptional early career scientists as the first group of HHMI Hanna Gray Fellows. The 2018 Hanna Gray Fellows competition is now open, with applications due on January 10, 2018.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute today announced the selection of 15 exceptional early career scientists as the first group of HHMI Hanna Gray Fellows. These recent PhD recipients will continue their training as postdoctoral fellows at 11 institutions in the U.S. Their research interests span a range of disciplines, including chemical biology, computational biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, neuroscience, structural biology, and systems biology.

Each fellow will receive up to $1.4 million in funding over eight years, with mentoring and active involvement within the HHMI community. In this two-phase program, fellows will be supported from early postdoctoral training through several years of a tenure-track faculty position.

“Being a Hanna Gray Fellow is going to provide me support through what can be quite a hard transition. From postdoctoral researcher, which I am right now, towards starting my own lab and actually becoming a principal investigator,” said new fellow Yvette Fisher, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School.

HHMI’s Hanna H. Gray Fellows Program seeks to encourage talented early career scientists who have the potential to become leaders in academic research. In particular, this program aims to recruit and retain emerging scientists who are from gender, racial, ethnic, and other groups underrepresented in the life sciences, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“I’m excited about this program because I think it will have a positive impact on science,” said HHMI President Erin O’Shea. “We have so many challenges in keeping the best people from diverse groups in the professoriate. But I think this program can drive real change in academia and have a catalytic effect on the next generation of students.”

The Hanna H. Gray Fellows Program represents HHMI’s strong commitment to investing in early career scientists who are poised to make significant and important contributions to science in the years to come. This program will support these early career scientists at critical transitions in their academic careers. In keeping with HHMI’s long-standing approach to support “people, not projects,” fellows will have flexibility to change research focus and follow their curiosity during the duration of the award.

A competition for the next group of Hanna Gray Fellows opens immediately. With continued commitment to support and promote diversity in the life sciences, the Institute will again select up to 15 fellows investing a total of up to $25 million for their support over eight years. This grant competition is open to all eligible applicants, and no nomination is required. Grants in support of fellows will be awarded only to institutions within the U.S (including Puerto Rico).

The program is named for Hanna Holborn Gray, former chair of the HHMI Trustees and former president of the University of Chicago. Under Gray’s leadership, HHMI developed initiatives that foster diversity in science education. HHMI continues to carry forward this work on college and university campuses across the U.S. “Hanna Gray is a remarkable person – a Renaissance historian and one of the first female presidents of a major research university,” said O’Shea. “We thought it fitting to name this program after her because of her many years of service to HHMI and her prominence as a female leader in academia.”

Applicants may obtain more information and eligibility requirements at The deadline for applications is January 10, 2018, at 3:00 PM (Eastern Time). The selection of fellows will be made by the end of June 2018 and grants can start as early as September 18, 2018, but no later than January 15, 2019.


The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays an important role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the country and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. HHMI’s headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.


To meet all 2017 Hanna Gray Fellows, click here.

Nicolás Peláez, PhD

Nicolás Peláez, PhD

California Institute of Technology
Mentor: Michael Elowitz, PhD

Just a few kinds of signals control the fates of cells that either maintain their stem cell state, divide or differentiate in a developing organism. Nicolás Peláez is investigating whether the timing and dynamics of these signals encode critical information. He plans to figure out how and if the sequence of developmental signals directs embryonic stem cells to transform into more specialized cell types. His findings could help researchers devise ways to repair or replace damaged tissues by directing cells into specific differentiation paths.


Adapted (with modifications) from HHMI News, originally posted on September 18, 2017.

See more:

▸ Meet the CBC Scholar, Nicolás Peláez Restrepo