Petri Dishes: From the Immediate Past-Director: May 2019 Issue

A Note From the Immediate Past-Director

The outstanding work of the Brigham research community is what drives us forward towards our goal of a healthier world through scientific discovery. Being a part of the Brigham Research Institute leadership has given me broader exposure to our passionate and talented research community; I have been both inspired by what I’ve seen and honored to continue to serve in this capacity.

This month, I am excited to announce the inaugural recipients of the President’s Scholar Awards. These new, prestigious awards recognize BWH research faculty with demonstrated successes and exceptional future potential. I invite you all to join me at the Research Appreciation Celebration in June during which Betsy Nabel, MD, Brigham Health President will honor the four scholars; register here for this event to celebrate all of our Brigham researchers and research staff.

This issues also highlights three noteworthy events that took place this month: the BRI Spring 2019 Shark Tank, the BRI Cardiovascular, Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders Research Center’s 8th Annual Obesity Research Incubator Symposium and the BWH Post-Doctoral Association’s Mentoring Circles Program celebration.

Lastly, I am pleased to be able to share the FY2018 Annual Research Report, which provides a summary of what was accomplished during the second year of my term as BRI Director.


Elizabeth Petri Henske, MD


Congratulations President’s Scholars

We are excited to announce the recipients of the inaugural President’s Scholar Awards. These annual awards are intended to support the careers of assistant or associate professors at the Brigham who have made noteworthy contributions to their chosen field of research and who have exceptional potential. Earlier this year, Brigham department chairs were invited to nominate up to three candidates for this new award. We selected the final awardees based on a holistic review of the candidate’s demonstrated scholarly and entrepreneurial accomplishments. Each will receive an award in the amount of $100,000 per year for three years. The four investigators receiving this year’s awards are truly exceptional:


Ana C. Anderson, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Neurology





Georg Gerber, MD, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology 




Jessica Lasky-Su, ScD
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine





Tracy Young-Pearse, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Neurology


The scholars will be honored and celebrated in person at the Research Appreciation Celebration event, which will be held on June 26 at 5 pm in the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine, First Floor Café Atrium.


Spring 2019 Shark Tank


The Shark Tank event is held twice each year in support of the BWH Health & Technology Innovation Fund which awards innovative and high-risk/high impact projects in the basic, clinical, digital and translational realms. Since 2012, more than $1 million has been distributed to BWH investigators through these awards.

During the event, six finalists have five minutes to present their projects and five minutes for a Q&A with the panel of Reviewers and Sharks in the room. Two of the finalists, pictured above, were each awarded $50,000. Congratulations!

Jon Einarsson, MD, MPH
Professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Biology
Making a disintegrator drug for aggressive cancers, a new way to cure


Vesela Kovacheva, MD, MPH
Instructor, Department of Anesthesiology
Harnessing the superpower of machine learning to improve patient care during Cesarean Section

8th Annual Obesity Research Incubator

On Friday May 10th, nearly 100 researchers and clinicians from over 20 institutions gathered at BWH to share ideas, promote cross-collaborative research efforts and identify new areas for further investigation to address the challenging public health crisis caused by obesity. This 8th annual symposium commenced with short talks by selected junior speakers, all of whom received an award of $500. They were followed by keynote speaker, Caroline Apovian, MD, who gave an outstanding overview of the key research discoveries that have made significant contributions to the way obesity is treated in the clinic. This was followed by an electronic poster session made up of 30 presentations that covered a broad range of research addressing many different aspects of obesity. Four posters stood out among the rest and were awarded prizes of $250.This event is a great opportunity for investigators meet colleagues, learn what they are working on and set the foundation for future collaborations. If you were not able to join us this time, we hope to see you next year.

Congratulations to the four poster winners:

Furkan Burak, MD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health
Bethany Cummings, DVM, PhD, Cornell University
Benjamin Kugler, MS, University of Massachusetts Boston
Dielle Lundberg, Boston University School of Public Health



Mentoring Circles Program Celebration

The Postdoctoral Association joined for the annual Mentoring Circles Program Celebration on May 16. The event recognized postdocs who have volunteered their time to mentor their peers to support postdoc professional and career development. The winners of the Postdoctoral Scholar Award for Excellence in Mentoring Travel Award were also announced, which highlights postdocs with outstanding mentorship. The recognition was followed by networking and refreshments in the Fish Rotunda.


FY2018 Annual Research Report

The Brigham Research Institute’s FY2018 Annual Research Report is now available!