July 22, 2021
Sara Ricardez Hernandez and Christian Lorson have been awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Studies. This is only the second time a student at Mizzou has been chosen for this fellowship.
Ricardez Hernandez is a University of Missouri student pursuing a PhD in molecular pathogenesis and therapeutics, and Lorson is a professor and associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.
The award provides the pair with funding for a three-year fellowship to pursue dissertation research. Ricardez Hernandez and Lorson will focus on novel transgenic models of a pediatric neurodegenerative disease called spinal muscular atrophy with respiratory distress type 1 to better understand neuronal populations involved in disease development and provide new contexts for therapeutic development.
Ricardez Hernandez is originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, and moved to the U.S. during her senior year of high school. She became a permanent U.S. resident while attending the University of Missouri-St. Louis — earning her bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and biochemistry. Prior to working at Mizzou, Ricardez Hernandez worked as a technician at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She currently works as a fellow in the Lorson Lab, with Lorson serving as her advisor.
The Gilliam program aims to ensure that students from groups historically excluded from and underrepresented in science are prepared to assume leadership roles in science and science education, and to foster the development of a healthier, more inclusive academic scientific ecosystem. Fellows receive $50,000 per year, for up to three years and have exclusive opportunities engage with their peers, increase their scientific knowledge and gain important insight and advice from leading HHMI scientists.