The Burroughs Wellcome Fund June 12 announced that Picower Institute postdoctoral fellow Rebecca Pinals is among nine winners of its prestigious 2023 Career Awards at the Scientific Interface.
The highly competitive awards recognize “exceptional researchers whose work exemplifies the collaborative spirit necessary for breakthrough discoveries,” for instance because they are working at the intersection of multiple disciplines, according to BWF’s announcement. Pinals and the other winners will each receive a five-year, $500,000 grant supporting their research.
In her work in the lab of Picower Professor and Picower Institute Director Li-Huei Tsai, Pinals is creating a nanosensor-integrated human “brain-on-a-chip” culture of multiple cell types to enable novel studies of neurodegeneration, with a specific focus on Alzheimer’s disease. Combining tiny sensors into more realistic brain-like tissue modeling Alzheimer’s could improve understanding of how the disease gains its terrible hold on the brain.
“I believe this research will be transformative in providing insight into the earliest stages of neurodegenerative disease dynamics, toward identifying key nodes in disease progression at which we can effectively intervene and, ultimately, prevent this devastating disease,” Pinals said. “More broadly, I aim to co-develop nano-tools that operate at high spatiotemporal resolution, together with tractable neuro-models that more accurately recapitulate features of the human brain, to open new avenues of research in neurobiology.”
Pinals, who in 2021 was honored as a Schmidt Science Fellow, said she is grateful for the support the award will provide, and the support she’s had along the way, as she looks to set up her own lab in the future.
“I am foremost grateful, and completely ecstatic to receive this recognition!,” Pinals said. “This funding will help me through a critical transition from my postdoctoral position into my independent career as faculty. I am incredibly grateful to all of my mentors, colleagues, friends, and family who helped me get to this point.”