Funding the Future: Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards

In 1952, the American Diabetes Association funded two postdoctoral researchers, officially commencing the longest running diabetes-focused Research Program in the world. Since then, we have granted thousands of awards to scientists still in-training and early in their independent research careers.

The ADA Postdoctoral Fellowship award has helped to launch the careers of many prominent diabetes researchers, ensuring a pipeline remains for brilliant scientists to focus their efforts on diabetes. And in 2019 alone, we are supporting 166 junior diabetes researchers, each with their own unique projects to improve the lives of people with diabetes.

Meet our 2019 Postdoctoral Fellowship Awardees

“Every single medicine or treatment that finally reached clinics started as an experiment in the lab. We are starting such an experiment to look for new diabetes drug candidates. Our knowledge on diabetes and insulin is exploding, which makes us capable of developing innovative experiments searching for potential drugs to restore the function of insulin.”

Jiahui Tao, PhD

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Project: Discovery of Allosteric Inhibitor against PERK as A Therapeutic Strategy for Type 2 Diabetes

“It is not always easy to see the link between basic science and therapeutic intervention. However, the studies performed by many scientists all around the world are small pieces that contribute to establish our knowledge of a certain pathology. In this light my project will provide a contribution in understanding what happens in adipose cells when they are exposed to an excess of fat.”

Alessandra Ferrari, PhD

University of California, Los Angeles

Project: Novel transcriptional mechanisms regulating sex-specific obesity

“Right now, continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are not stable over weeks to months. CGMs have to be calibrated with blood and replaced fairly often. I am inventing ways of measuring glucose that will allow us to build better CGMs.”

Bing Wang, PhD

University of California, Santa Barbara

Project: Continuous, quantitative monitoring of glucose using conjugated polyelectrolyte based optical sensing

“Our project aims to understand the role of environmental chemicals on disease development. We are evaluating changes in the relationship between the host and the microbiome community in the gut, and whether this contributes to metabolic disease progression.”

Graciel Diamante, PhD

University of California, Los Angeles

Project: The role of gut microbiota in endocrine disruptor-induced metabolic dysregulation

“The typical U.S. diet has changed considerably in the last century, one of the biggest changes being the addition of large quantities of vegetable oils, most notably soybean oil. This has led to an exponential rise in our daily omega-6 fatty acid consumption, affecting human health in hitherto unknown ways. My project aims to shed new light onto how excess dietary omega-6 fatty acid intake contributes to the development of obesity.”

Marcus J. Tol, PhD

University of California, Los Angeles

Project: Molecular mechanisms linking membrane lipid composition to adipose thermogenesis and obesity

“Diabetes and obesity are major health threats to the aging population. Our laboratory has discovered a new pathway that may link obesity to type 2 diabetes, and a novel drug that seems to specifically target the pathway.”

Mohammad Abu Odeh, PhD

University of California, San Diego

Project: The IL-6/GLP-1 Axis in Energy Homeostasis

“This project examines the molecular mechanisms controlling T cell selection in the thymus and their contribution to type 1 diabetes. If we understood more about these signals pathways we may be able to identify new approaches to predicting or preventing type 1 diabetes.”

Yi Wang, PhD

University of California, San Francisco

Project: Integrins and TGFbeta as novel regulators of thymic central tolerance

“This research will provide mechanistic details on how modulation in brain lipids might affect physiological processes that might ultimately lead to diabetes and whether this can be used as a preventative strategy in the future.”

Binod R. Aryal, PhD

Yale University School of Medicine

Project: Defining the role of glial ANGPTL4 in lipid metabolism in the brain and obesity

“Despite the importance of exercise training for the prevention and control of type 2 diabetes, the molecular mechanisms underlying these benefits are not completely understood. My research project investigates the effects of exercise training on skeletal muscle metabolism of individuals with type 2 diabetes.”

Giovanna Distefano, PhD

Adventist Health System/Sunbelt, Inc. dba Florida Hospital

Project: Dynamic in vivo PET imaging and ex vivo human skeletal muscle to investigate the mechanistic basis for exercise effects on mitochondrial energetics and skeletal muscle insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes

“I believe that understanding the biology underlying insulin’s actions improves the treatment options available to patients. This award allows me to pursue this research during my post-doctoral career and to make discoveries that I could continue to explore for the rest of my research career.”

Annabel Y. Minard, PhD

University of Iowa

Project: Role of novel Rab10 interacting proteins in Glut4 translocation

“The bile acid receptor Farnesoid X receptor (FXR) plays a crucial beneficial role in glucose metabolism, as well as cholesterol homeostasis and has been recognized as an exciting drug target for many metabolic and liver diseases. My research focuses on identification, function determination and mechanism elucidation of the long non-coding RNAs induced by FXR activation.”

Jinjing Chen, PhD

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Project: Bile acid and glucose regulation by FXR-induced long non-coding RNA, FincoR

“Unlike insulin, which can cause hypoglycemia, the hormone leptin can be used to control blood glucose in a more secure way. However, the major obstacle for the leptin treatment resides in the leptin resistance, which reduces the sensitivity of leptin. My project can deepen our understanding of how leptin resistance happens and greatly advance the clinical use of leptin.”

Jie Xu, PhD

Tufts University School of Medicine

Project: Genetic dissection of the leptin-STAT3 Signaling in AgRP neurons

“With the recent advance of large datasets with both diet and genetic information in hundreds of thousands of individuals, we can start to use genetic tools to directly link which dietary habits cause diabetes. This information is vital in raising awareness about the foods we consume and how they may cause diabetes and will aid in developing better diet prevention and intervention plans for both individuals with diabetes and those at risk.”

Joanne B. Cole, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital

Project: Data-driven dietary habits: genetics, causality for diabetes and related traits, and transferability across studies

“This project focuses on understanding the basic biology of how beta cells fail, and the importance of mitochondria in mediating this phenomenon, in diabetes. As such, this research will guide future study into the potential benefits of targeting mitochondrial health to prevent beta cells failing and therefore uncovering new avenues for therapeutic intervention in patients with diabetes.”

Gemma L. Pearson, PhD

University of Michigan

Project: The role of mitochondrial quality control in the maintenance of beta-cell maturity

“While there is therapeutic potential of targeting ventromedial hypothalamus cells, currently there is not enough known about how these cells function. Our research will greatly further our understanding of these cells. With this information we posit we will be able to identify new gene targets and new drugs to treat diabetes.”

Paul Sabatini, PhD

University of Michigan

Project: The role of distinct ventromedial hypothalamic cell populations in glucose homeostasis

“I will use metabolomics data to build a model to predict T2D. This study will identify genetic variants and mechanisms for circulating plasma metabolites contributing to the development of T2D, help us identify individuals at high or low risk, and discover T2D biomarkers for early prevention and personalized interventions.”

Xianyong Yin, MD, PhD

University of Michigan

Project: Biological insights into type 2 diabetes from genetic investigation of plasma metabolites in the METSIM study

“As a scientist, I am passionate to determine the molecular mechanisms that cause these diseases and develop better treatments. This award will give me the resources and confidence to continue our research and help me to move forward to independent investigator.”

Zhangsen Zhou, PhD

University of Michigan

Project: Defining the role of ERAD in brown adipocytes

“My project aims to understand how certain genes that are influenced by the consumption of sugar contribute to the development of diabetes and related cardiovascular disease. A better understanding of these mechanisms may lead to novel strategies to diagnose and treat these diseases.”

Ashot Sargsyan, PhD

Duke University

Project: The role of HGFAC in lipid and glucose homeostasis

“Our understanding of diabetes and treatment guidelines have largely come from research in European ancestry individuals. This disparity must be addressed in diabetes research. I am working to include ancestrally diverse samples in genetic research to improve our understanding of type 2 diabetes in all populations.”

Heather M. Highland, PhD

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Project: Identification of pleiotropic loci affecting type 2 diabetes, adiposity, and renal disease

“My project is focused on identifying and investigating novel molecular factors enriched in visceral fat, the kind of fat that is associated with type 2 diabetes. As obesity is a major risk factor for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, the findings obtained from these studies will ultimately yield novel therapeutic targets for treating visceral obesity and its complications, such as type 2 diabetes.”

Aarthi Maganti Vijaykumar, PhD

The Rockefeller University

Project: Investigating the molecular basis for the visceral fat phenotype and its role in diabetes

“My project will help better understand why some patients with diabetes have growth and digestive issues. A better understanding of these issues will help us develop therapies to treat the issues with digestion.”

Mansa Krishnamurthy, MD

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Project: Using human induced pluripotent stem cell derived organoids to identify new pathologies in patients with PDX1 mutations

“Adults with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for fracture, but it is unknown how type 2 diabetes influences bone strength during the growing years. Thus, this work will provide the foundation for developing effective strategies geared toward optimizing bone health in youth with type 2 diabetes in order to prevent fracture later in life.”

Joseph Kindler, PhD

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Project: Bone strength in youth with type 2 diabetes

“One out of three adults in the U.S. is obese, but the relationship between diabetes and obesity is not direct or clear. This proposal will explore the underlying mechanisms of obesity and insulin resistance to create future therapies aimed at preventing or curing diabetes.”

Lia R. Edmunds, PhD

University of Pittsburgh

Project: Reduced Parkin-mediated mitophagy contributes to hepatic insulin resistance in diet-induced obese mice

“Prolonged light exposure and irregular eating can disrupt our built-in clock in the brain. Such temporal disruption or disalignment could contribute to diabetes. My research will look at how our intrinsic clock regulates blood glucose levels throughout the day.”

Wenjun Zhou, PhD

Baylor College of Medicine

Project: Regulation of hepatic insulin sensitivity by the hypothalamic circadian clock “Successful completion of this project will provide people with diabetes a safer treatment with reduced risk of hypoglycemia. Due to the glucose-responsive property, the risk of hypoglycemia caused by overdose injection may be eliminated.”

Nan Zheng, PhD

University of Utah

Project: Development of long-lasting glucose-responsive insulin derivatives

“Daily T1D self-management behaviors are the most consistent predictors of glycemic control and related complications, yet data indicate that a striking 83% of young adults with T1D have inadequate glycemic control. This project will help improve clinical care for patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) by providing important data on the effectiveness of a transition preparation for young adults with T1D.”

Laura J Caccavale, PhD

Virginia Commonwealth University

Project: Implementing a Transition Preparation Intervention for Young Adults with Type 1 Diabetes in an Integrated Healthcare Setting

“The goal of my work is to understand how the brain can influence glucose metabolism and how this may be dysfunctional in the setting of T2D. My research may uncover new ways to treat diabetes, and do not involve giving insulin or other drugs that reduce glucose levels.”

Jennifer D. Deem, PhD

University of Washington

Project: Investigation of neural pathways underlying central control of glucose homeostasis

Meet the Postdoctoral Minority Fellowship Awardees

“We are developing a new technology that may provide patients a non-invasive way to control their blood sugar, without pills or injections. We use energy to control blood sugar and we've shown that it works in animal models.”

Calvin Carter, PhD

University of Iowa

Project: Glycemic lowering mechanisms of low-frequency electromagnetic fields in mouse models of type 2 diabetes

“Years of research have revealed that adipose tissue is much more than an organ that just stores excess energy as fat. It is also considered a critically important endocrine organ. The goal of this project is to discover key mechanisms that allows adipose tissue to communicate with the rest of the body through the nervous system and contribute to maintaining a healthy energy balance.”

Felipe Henriques, PhD

University of Massachusetts Medical School

Project: Adipocyte signaling to local neurons in white adipose tissue

“This project has the potential to give us insights into the manner by which gene expression is regulated within groups of neurons that control food intake and body weight. The insights derived from this study could potentially give way to therapeutic treatments designed to help obese individuals lessen their food intake, lose weight, and ameliorate their diabetes.”

Frankie D Heyward, PhD

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Project: Cell type-specific epigenomic profiles as a tool to identify novel transcriptional pathways regulating food intake

“By identifying the basic molecular and biochemical defects responsible for the muscle insulin resistance, my project will provide novel insights into targeted drug development for anti-diabetic agents that can ameliorate the insulin resistance in individuals with type 2 diabetes.”

Ivan A. Valdez, PhD

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Project: Molecular Mechanisms of Glucotoxicity in Man

“Our understanding of the causes and possible treatments has been profoundly limited by a lack of human models that recapitulate human T1D development. The proposed platform provides a model of human T1D disease that can be used for screening for immunomodulatory genes, drug discovery, early onset diagnostics and, last but not least, functional evaluation for cell replacement therapy.”

Nayara de Carvalho Leite, PhD

President and Fellows of Harvard College

Project: Using induced pluripotent stem cells for type 1 diabetes in vitro modeling and immunoprotection of beta cells

“In this project, we expect to identify novel adipose tissue secreted factors involved in liver metabolism as biomarkers of metabolic disorders, which might be also considered as targets for development of new treatments.”

Maria Belen Picatoste Botija, PhD

Joan & Sanford I.Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Project: Adipose-specific rab10 knockout induces systemic insulin resistance: studies of white and brown adipose tissue

“If successful, this work will lead to novel treatment strategies that are anticipated to be more effective than current therapies in desensitizing T1D patients in their autoimmune responses. These approaches may benefit individuals with both recent onset T1D and high risk of disease by halting the autoimmune response and preventing further decline in beta-cell mass and function.”

Rebuma Firdessa Fite, PhD

Columbia University

Project: Re-establishing immune tolerance against multiple B cell antigens using novel epitope delivery approaches

“My project is framed into the diabetes technology field. Specifically, this project aims to create an automated insulin delivery system informed by a subject-specific characterization of his/her eating behavior.”

Jose F. Garcia-Tirado, PhD

The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

Project: Artificial pancreas with unannounced meals: a model-based control approach using eating pattern characterization