The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) selected two Baylor College of Medicine medical students to receive this year’s Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study.

The goal of the Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study program is to ensure diversity remains a top priority in the science fields. Baylor students awarded this fellowship are Asante Hatcher, a fourth-year neuroscience student, and Zachary Criss, who is entering his third year of graduate school in the Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine program.

“The Gilliam Fellowships provide a wonderful opportunity for diverse scientists to pursue training in cutting-edge research. To solve biological mysteries and challenging medical disorders, we do need a diverse pool of the next generation of scientists,” said Dr. Huda Zoghbi, professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor and HHMI investigator. “Moreover, supporting such bright and motivated scientists gives host labs a rich, diverse environment that is so critical for generation of new ideas and collaborations.”

Out of 142 applications, 34 students pursuing degrees in the life sciences were selected to participate in the program. The $46,000 fellowships support students annually for up to three years, starting in year three of a Ph.D. program. The funding includes a stipend, a training allowance and an institutional allowance.  

Hatcher and Criss, along with the other fellows, also will have the opportunity to attend meetings with HHMI scientists and receive mentoring by assigned advisers.  

Hatcher said he is excited to explore the opportunities this fellowship will give him.

“I really enjoy teaching neuroscience and talking about the brain. One of the many great things about the Gilliam Fellowship is that it supports and encourages the advancement of science at both the individual and community levels. This award will give me a platform by which I can continue to pursue my personal research goals while working to promote science education in the greater Houston area. Informing and educating the public about what we do as researchers and how it impacts everyday life is key for continued support of the sciences in our communities. As part of this outreach I also want to encourage a diverse group of future scientists through mentoring of underrepresented minorities.”

Criss said he is honored to be chosen for the fellowship and is eager to represent Baylor and meet new people while participating in the program.   

“I’m grateful for all of the individuals over the years that had faith in my potential and took time to support my development as a scientist. I am excited about the opportunity to be affiliated with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the chance to be one of the ambassadors of Baylor. In addition, I look forward to meeting the other fellows and establishing relationships with likeminded individuals who are interested in promoting a diverse scientific community through outreach and mentorship.”

The Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study launched in 2004 and honor the late James H. Gilliam Jr., an HHMI trustee who was dedicated to encouraging diversity in education and science.