Shanice Webster, a postdoctoral researcher in the biology department, has been awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Hanna H. Gray Fellowship to study how interactions between plants, their beneficial microbiome, and their pathogens underlie plant diseases.
Webster is currently a researcher in the laboratory of Sheng-Yang He, Benjamin E. Powell Distinguished Professor of Biology. She is interested in understanding the mechanisms through which beneficial and harmful bacteria interact with one another in plants, and what happens to the plant microbiome when the plant becomes diseased.
Plant-microbe interactions are crucial for plant health, and therefore for crop success and food security, especially considering the accelerated environmental changes happening through climate change that currently threaten the future of agriculture. The Hanna H. Gray Fellowship will allow Webster to not only further her postdoctoral research, but also establish her own research laboratory studying the microbial underpinnings of plant health.
Hanna H. Gray Fellows receive up to $1.4 million in funding over eight years, with mentoring and active involvement within the HHMI community. In this two-phase program, fellows are supported from early postdoctoral training through several years of a tenure-track faculty position.
The Hanna H. Gray Fellowship Program seeks to increase diversity in biomedical science by recruiting and retaining individuals from groups currently underrepresented in the life sciences. Webster is one of 25 fellows selected in 2022, and Duke is one of the 17 institutions represented in this year’s cohort.
“The award came as a huge surprise,” Webster said. “It is an honor. This award will provide tremendous support to pursue the questions that I am excited about and build a research program to inspire everyone who is interested.”
“Shanice is one of these bright young scientists who are destined to make a significant impact in science and life,” He said. “I am very proud of her.”
Read the HHMI’s official announcement here.
For more information on the Hanna H. Gray Fellowship, please visit the program’s website.