A Boost for Research and Careers

Thanks to fellowships from the BrightFocus Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, postdoctoral scholars can contribute to research in Alzheimer’s disease and cholera at the School of Medicine.
Girl in lab coat sitting at a lab bench with lab instruments around

Selene Lomoio, Ph.D., received a fellowship from the BrightFocus Foundation to conduct Alzheimer’s disease research in the Department of Neuroscience.

Selene Lomoio has long been fascinated by neurons. “I remember my teacher talking about these cells that were different from others. They looked like stars,” says Lomoio, who grew up in Italy and earned her doctorate in cell biology at the University of Pavia.

Now, thanks to a $100,000 two-year fellowship from the BrightFocus Foundation, Lomoio will take her stargazing to new heights as a postdoctoral scholar at Tufts School of Medicine, where she’ll study an enzyme in the brain known as BACE1 that could be key in preventing or treating Alzheimer’s disease.

“I love working as a scientist, and this could have an impact in the future, especially as more and more people are affected by Alzheimer’s,” she says.

She’ll work in the lab of Giuseppina Tesco, an associate professor of neuroscience at Tufts School of Medicine. “One thing we share is that she is absolutely passionate about her job. It’s very rewarding to talk to her about science,” Lomoio says. “And she’s a woman who has her own lab, so for women, she’s a good example that you can do it—you have to work hard, but you can get there.”

With Tesco’s guidance, Lomoio is working on an article for a professional journal, an endeavor that will enable her to get feedback from the scientific community and figure out where she’s headed next. “After this, I will feel more confident, and hopefully my path will be clearer,” she says.

BrightFocus Foundation Vice President, Scientific Affairs Diane Bovenkamp, Ph.D., said the scientific review committee recommended funding Lomoio because her work promises to help understand, treat or cure Alzheimer’s and because her career shows promise.

“At BrightFocus, we really want to make sure that we fund the most innovative science so we can help move the field forward,” Bovenkamp says. “We’re so excited to support young investigators. We really do think they’re the future.”

Another postdoc receiving support to conduct research at Tufts is Cecilia Silva-Valenzuela, selected as one of 10 Latin American Fellows in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

A native of Chile, Silva-Valenzuela earned her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of Chile. She is working in the lab of Professor Andrew Camilli, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator who is a professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts School of Medicine. Camilli’s lab investigates the use of specialized viruses, known as bacteriophages, to kill the bacteria that cause cholera.

“If we can identify which bacteriophages are most adept at destroying the cholera bacteria in contaminated water, then we may be able to effectively prevent transmission to humans and avoid future cholera outbreaks,” Silva-Valenzuela says.

The idea behind fellowships like Silva-Valenzuela’s is to promote collaboration across national borders by helping outstanding scholars study in the United States at pivotal points in their careers, said Pew Biomedical Programs Project Director Kara Coleman.

“Postdoctoral training is a crucial time when scientists can explore new research questions and methods and determine where to focus their independent work in the future,” Coleman says.