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Professor of Immunology Cindy Leifer and doctoral candidate Karla García-Martínez

Doctoral candidate and advisor receive HHMI Gilliam Fellowships

Biomedical and biological sciences doctoral candidate Karla García-Martínez and Professor of Immunology Cindy Leifer were selected as recipients of the 2021 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Graduate Fellowships for Advanced Study.

HHMI Gilliam Fellowships are awarded to student-advisor pairs based on the institution and advisor’s commitment to a culture of inclusion in academia and the student’s potential for scientific leadership.

“This fellowship will support my research and academic success and will allow me to develop programming to foster a more diverse and inclusive scientific community here at Cornell,” said García-Martínez, who studies how the immune system detects and responds to infection. “To me, this means that the Gilliam team not only believed in my academic abilities, but also in my ability to create programs to empower and support students of diverse backgrounds.”

With the funding support, García-Martínez and Leifer will work to improve the mental health of graduate students whose communities were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through programs and events. They hope to partner with the biomedical and biological sciences diversity and inclusion council to provide students access to group counseling with licensed professionals and to offer programs for faculty on topics of diversity and inclusion.

In addition, Leifer will attend monthly mentoring meetings on topics such as culturally responsive mentorship and best practices for diversity and inclusion, while García-Martínez will gain professional development skills through HHMI leadership training. Both will join the network of Gilliam Fellows.

“I am thrilled to become part of the HHMI Gilliam Advisors. I hope to develop an amazing network of other mentors dedicated to promoting the success of historically excluded and underrepresented students,” said Leifer. She added, “More importantly, Karla will benefit enormously from the HHMI Gilliam community of fellows, who have already given her such a warm welcome.”

The Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study were created in 2004 in honor of the late James H. Gilliam, Jr., a charter Trustee of HHMI and chair of its Audit and Compensation Committee, to prepare students from groups historically excluded from and underrepresented in science to assume leadership roles and contribute to a more inclusive academic environment.

Katya Hrichak is a communications assistant in the Graduate School.

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