Skip to main content

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute awarded Gilliam Fellowships to 50 graduate students in science – and their advisers – following the largest competition in the program’s history. John Patrick Flores and his adviser Douglas Phanstiel, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and physiology, were selected in the 19th year of the program.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute selected 50 graduate students in science and their advisers as part of the 2024 cohort of the Gilliam Fellows Program. These student-adviser pairs are recognized for their outstanding research as well as their commitments to advancing equity and inclusion in science.

This year’s Gilliam Fellows hail from 43 institutions in the United States, including ten schools celebrating their first-ever Gilliam Fellows award. Administered by HHMI’s Center for the Advancement of Science Leadership and Culture (CASLC), the Gilliam Fellows Program will provide each student-adviser pair with $53,000 in support each year for up to three years of the student’s dissertation research. This year’s cohort includes scientists working in a wide range of biomedical and life science areas including brain development and wiring, CRISPR-based epigenetic editors, and the molecular etiology of mood disorders.

Doug Phanstiel, PhD

UNC School of Medicine graduate student John Patrick Flores and his adviser Douglas Phanstiel, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and physiology, were selected as one of nine student-adviser pairs in the Southeast and one of two in North Carolina. The Phanstiel lab uses advanced genomic techniques, genome editing methods, and bioinformatic analyses to study how genes are regulated and the role of 3D chromatin architecture in cellular development and function. Chromatin is shorthand for the complex packaging of long DNA molecules and proteins (histones) into compact structures inside cell nuclei. 3D chromatin architecture has various important roles in human health and disease, including cancers.

Phanstiel is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center.

The Gilliam Fellows Program recognizes the importance of mentorship in developing tomorrow’s scientific leaders. Fellows join a vibrant community and are offered leadership training, professional development, and opportunities to engage with and learn from peers, program alumni, and HHMI scientists. Their advisers also join a cohort of peers, participate in HHMI’s intensive, one-year mentorship skills development course, and receive support to promote healthy and inclusive graduate training environments at their home institution.

“This year’s Gilliam Fellows and their advisers are not only working at the cutting edge of scientific discovery, but they’re also forging new pathways for others to do the same,” says Blanton Tolbert, vice president of CASLC. “Their dedication to creating environments in which researchers of all backgrounds can thrive will have an impact on science for generations to come.”

This marks the 19th year of the Gilliam Fellows Program competition and the first cohort to be named since the program transitioned from a nomination-based competition to a fully open competition. This transition helped increase the total number of program applications, leading to first-time Gilliam Fellows awards in Hawaii, Montana, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington, DC.  All told, the Gilliam Fellows Program received applications from a record-breaking 162 different institutions. With the addition of the 2024 cohort, the Gilliam community now totals 501 scientists, including those who have graduated from the program.

“We welcome and celebrate all of the newest members of the Gilliam community, especially those from institutions receiving their first-ever Gilliam Fellowship,” says Tolbert. “Together, these brilliant minds represent the future of science – a future in which individuals of diverse backgrounds and experiences come together to move science forward for the betterment of all.”

Each July, HHMI celebrates the announcement of the newest Gilliam Fellows on what has come to be known as “Gilliam Day.” The annual outpouring of support reflects how Gilliam Fellows – and the wider HHMI science community – come together to empower scientists of diverse backgrounds and experiences to achieve success.

“Gilliam is more than just a fellowship,” says Joshua Hall, senior program officer for the Gilliam Fellows Program. “All of our new fellows will join a community where they are truly celebrated and supported, not just for their scientific accomplishments, but also for the unique ways each and every one of them makes the science ecosystem a better place. Our current fellows consistently report that the community is the best part of being a Gilliam Fellow.”

HHMI created the Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study, now called the Gilliam Fellows Program, in 2004 in honor of the late James H. Gilliam, Jr. A charter Trustee of HHMI, Gilliam was a respected business and civic leader who spent his life nurturing excellence and diversity in science and education.

HHMI is the largest private biomedical research institution in the nation. Our scientists make discoveries that advance human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. We also invest in transforming science education into a creative, inclusive endeavor that reflects the excitement of research. HHMI’s headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC.

Media contact for HHMI is Alyssa Tomlinson

Media contact for the UNC School of Medicine is Mark Derewicz