Claremont, Calif. (August 22, 2017)—The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has selected Pitzer College alumnus Alfredo “Freddy” Valencia ’14 as one of its 39 new Gilliam fellows. HHMI awards Gilliam Fellowships to “exceptional doctoral students who have the potential to be leaders in their fields and the desire to advance diversity and inclusion in the sciences.” Valencia, who graduated from Pitzer with honors in biochemistry, is pursuing his PhD in chemical biology at Harvard University.
“The Gilliam fellows are outstanding students who have the potential to be real leaders in science,” said David Asai, senior director for science education at HHMI.
Gilliam fellows receive an annual award of $46,000, which includes a stipend, a training allowance and an institutional allowance, for up to three years. Their thesis advisers also participate in a year of mentoring development activities, including an in-person workshop at HHMI headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
At Harvard, Valencia’s research has focused on the biochemical and epigenetic underpinnings of highly aggressive cancers. He is a predoctoral fellow in the Kadoch Laboratory, which is dedicated to creating innovative ways to target human cancers and is run by Cigall Kadoch, a professor at both the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. As Valencia’s thesis adviser, Kadoch will also serve as Valencia’s Gilliam fellowship mentor.
Valencia said the mentors he’s encountered throughout his academic career have shaped his professional goals.
“I am aspiring to become an academic research professor in an effort to emulate my excellent mentors and to serve as a role model and agent of change for underrepresented students in science and higher education,” Valencia said.
During the 2016-17 academic year, Valencia also received a 2017 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship and a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award to support his graduate studies.
At Pitzer, Valencia was a McNair Scholar as well as a teacher’s assistant and a research assistant in the lab of Aaron Leconte, assistant professor of chemistry at the W.M. Keck Science Department of Pitzer, Scripps and Claremont McKenna colleges. He also volunteered with Tutors for a Cause and served as a mentor during the inaugural year of the Keck Department’s Summer Science Immersion Program.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a science philanthropy whose mission is to advance biomedical research and science education for the benefit of humanity. In fiscal year 2016, HHMI provided $663 million in U.S. biomedical research and $86 million in grants and other support for science education.