The Early Investigators Awards Supported by Amgen and Pfizer, Inc. 2012 Recipients
*Click recipient name to view biography.
Kathleen Page, MD | Dr. Page obtained her MD from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in 2002. She completed residency training in Internal Medicine and fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Page is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. She is a clinical investigator with two major areas of research: (i) neuroendocrine regulation of appetite, feeding behavior and energy homeostasis, and (ii) fetal-maternal imprinting for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Kevin Pfleger, PhD | Associate Professor Dr. Pfleger is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Head of Molecular Endocrinology–GPCRs at the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research and Chief Scientific Officer of Dimerix Bioscience, a spin-out company from The University of Western Australia. A/Prof Pfleger was awarded his MA and PhD from Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities respectively. A former National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia Peter Doherty Research Fellow, A/Prof Pfleger was Western Australian Young Scientist of the Year 2009, his work featured as one of the NHMRC 10 of the Best Research Projects 2010 and he was awarded the 2011 Australian Museum 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science.
Yvonne M. Ulrich-Lai, PhD | Dr. Ulrich-Lai received her PhD from the University of Minnesota in 2002 under the mentorship in Dr. William C. Engeland, PhD. Her dissertation work investigated regulation of adrenocortical function by the peripheral nervous system. For her postdoctoral training, she studied brain regulation of HPA axis, autonomic and behavioral stress responses with Dr. James P. Herman, PhD at the University of Cincinnati. During this time, she developed an interest in obesity and diet, and their interactions with stress. In order to further explore these interactions, she obtained an NIH/NIDDK K01 mentored scientist award with Dr. Stephen C. Woods, PhD as mentor and Dr. Herman as co-mentor. This grant provided additional training in the fields of diet, obesity and diabetes, to support her development of a basic research program at the juncture of the fields of stress/HPA axis and obesity/metabolism. Moreover, data obtained during this award served as a foundation for her more recent R03 and R01 awards studying the mechanisms by which the rewarding properties of highly-palatable ‘comfort’ foods provide stress-relief. Dr. Ulrich-Lai has published more than 30 peer-reviewed manuscripts, including several reviews and book chapters. Throughout her career development, she has benefited from generous fellowship support, including a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship and an NIH/NIDDK Individual NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr. Ulrich-Lai has recently accepted a tenure-track Assistant Professor position at the University of Cincinnati where her research program focuses on how diet and body weight affect responses to acute and chronic stress.
Qianben Wang, PhD | Dr. Wang received his undergraduate Bachelor of Medicine degree in 1994 from the Capital University of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China, and his Ph.D. in 2002 from the University of Maryland under the supervision of Dr. Joseph Fondell. Dr. Wang conducted postdoctoral research with Dr. Myles Brown at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School from 2003 to 2008. During his graduate studies and postdoctoral research, he received comprehensive training, both theoretical and technical, in understanding androgen receptor (AR)-mediated genome-wide transcriptional regulation in prostate cancer. Dr. Wang has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry at The Ohio State University College of Medicine since August 2008. Since establishing his own laboratory, Dr. Wang has expanded his focus from transcriptional regulation by AR alone to wider transcriptional regulations in prostate cancer including the study of combinatorial transcriptional regulation by AR, its collaborating transcription factors, and its coactivators. Dr. Wang has published papers as the first or corresponding author in leading scientific journals such as Cell, Mol Cell, EMBO J and Cancer Res. He has also obtained grants as Principal Investigator (PI) or subcontract PI from NIH (R01, R00 and U54), Department of Defense (Idea Development Award-Established Investigator) and The V Foundation for Cancer Research (V Scholar Award). Dr. Wang has been invited to serve as a reviewer for 19 peer-reviewed scientific journals including Nat Genet, Genes Dev, J Clin Invest and Genome Res, and was recognized by the Society for Basic Urologic Research (SBUR) as one of two “2010 Young Investigator” recipients in the US.
Daniel Winer, MD, FRCPC | Dr. Winer received an Honor’s BSc in Immunology from the University of Toronto, followed by an MD from the University of Ottawa in 2002. He then completed residency training at the University of Toronto and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada in Anatomical Pathology in 2007. Subsequently, Dr. Winer spent three years studying immunology at Stanford University in the laboratory of Stanford Blood Center director, Dr. Edgar Engleman. During this time, Dr. Winer spearheaded a new initiative in understanding how the adaptive immune system influences obesity and associated insulin resistance. This work has led to two papers in Nature Medicine, which has challenged the conventional thinking in the field of obesity and diabetes research. Following this research, Dr. Winer completed a year of endocrine pathology subspecialty training at University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto under the tutelage of Dr. Sylvia Asa.
Rodrigo Fernandez-Valdivia, PhD | Dr. Fernández-Valdivia was born on Arequipa, Peru. He graduated from Universidad Nacional de San Agustín with a Bachelors degree in Biology, and he earned his Doctoral degree from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain. He was a fellow from the Inter-University Council of the Belgium’s Francophone Community and from the FISS program (Spain), and completed his postdoctoral fellowship in the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Texas-Houston. Dr. Fernández-Valdivia’s contributions to women’s health include the deciphering of the progesterone-regulated mammary gland transcriptome (awarded Endocrinology Student/Postdoc Award for an Outstanding Publication in 2008), the identification of ID4 and RANKL as direct progesterone receptor targets in the breast, the demonstration of the proliferative and carcinogenic properties of RANKL, and the generation of several genetically-engineered animal models to study breast development and tumorigenesis. More recently, he discovered Rumi, the sole enzyme capable of adding glucose molecules to proteins in mammals, and its regulatory role in Notch signaling pathway. Moreover he has developed the innovative “GAP-repair mutagenesis”, a new technology to perform clean mutagenesis on virtually any DNA molecule and that greatly accelerates genetic manipulation. His work has been widely recognized, and he has been selected recipient of merit Awards from several scientific societies, scientific journals, biotechnological companies, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), and the NIH. Dr. Fernández-Valdivia is currently an Instructor in the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Texas-Houston, where he is using his expertise in genetic engineering and mouse genetics to identify pharmacologically targetable pathways to treat breast cancer. His research program focuses on the role of O‑linked glucose on the regulation of Notch signaling in breast development and carcinogenesis, with particular emphasis in mammary gland stem cells.
Susan Krum, PhD | Dr. Krum is an assistant professor in the department of Orthopaedic Surgery. She obtained her B.S. degree from UC Berkeley with a major in Nutritional Sciences (with an emphasis in Physiology and Metabolism). She then obtained her PhD from UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute. Her thesis explored the tumor suppressor protein BRCA1. She then did a post-doctoral fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, in the labroatory of Dr. Myles Brown. She studied the tissue-specific actions of estrogen in both breast and bone cells. Dr. Krum returned to UCLA in 2008 and continues to study the role of estrogen using molecular and cellular techniques, including genome-wide expression and transcription factor binding (CHIP-sequencing)
Elizabeth Lawson, MD, MMSc | Dr. Lawson is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and staff neuroendocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Her research is focused on the investigation of neuroendocrine pathways associated with anorexia nervosa.
Dr. Lawson received her undergraduate degree from Duke University in 1994, an MD from HMS in 2002, and a Masters of Medical Science from HMS in 2008 as part of the Harvard/MIT Clinical Investigator Training Program. She completed her Internal Medicine residency and Endocrine fellowship at MGH. She has published in top journals and received numerous awards. Her research has been funded by HMS (Shore Scholar in Medicine), NIH Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (Harvard Scholar), Harvard Catalyst, Harvard Clinical Nutrition Research Center, Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center, and MGH Harris Center for Education and Advocacy in Eating Disorders. Her current work investigating appetite regulating hormones and neurocircuitry in anorexia nervosa is funded by an NIMH K23 grant and an MGH Claflin Distinguished Scholar award
Cecilia Proietti, PhD | Dr. Proietti is currently an assistant scientist at the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine (IBYME). She received her MSc from the Buenos Aires University School of Sciences in 2001 followed by her PhD from IBYME in 2006. She has remained at IBYME completing her post-doctoral fellowship and has been an assistant scientist since 2009. Under the mentorship of Patricia V. Elizalde, Dr. Proietti’s research focuses on breast cancer. Last year, Dr. Proietti was invited to give a lecture as a young investigator at the 56th Meeting of the Argentinean Society of Clinical Investigation in Buenos Aires. The title of her talk was, “Novel role of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 as a progesterone receptor coactivator in breast cancer.”
Varykina Thackray, PhD | Dr. Thackray obtained her PhD from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 2002. Her thesis work, in the laboratory of Dr. Steven Nordeen, focused on the regulation of gene expression by estrogen and progesterone receptors. She was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship on a NIH T32 training grant and a NIH NRSA Individual Post-doctoral Fellowship to study hormonal regulation of gonadotropin gene expression in the pituitary, under the mentorship of Dr. Pamela Mellon, at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Thackray’s research provided evidence that progesterone signaling via the progesterone receptor is involved in differential synthesis of LH and FSH and that progesterone is important for the generation of the secondary FSH surge crucial for folliculogenesis in rodents. Her studies also demonstrated that the progesterone signaling pathway engages in crosstalk with activin through interactions among progesterone receptor, SMAD and FOXL2 transcription factors. She was awarded a NIH K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award in 2008 and a Pilot and Feasibility grant from the UCSD/UCLA Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center to study whether FOXO transcription factors act as metabolic sensors in pituitary gonadotrope cells to regulate gonadotropin gene expression and fertility. Her studies showed that FOXO1 phosphorylation and cellular localization is regulated by insulin signaling in gonadotropes and that FOXO1 represses basal transcription and GnRH induction of the LH beta-subunit gene. Dr. Thackray was awarded a NIH R01 grant in 2011 to study how FOXO1 modulates gonadotropin production using in vitro biochemical assays, tissue culture cell model systems, and conditional knockout and transgenic mice. Currently, Dr. Thackray is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.