Dr. Elizabeth B. Brown, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Biology at Texas A&M University, has been selected to receive a 2021 Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) K99 Fellowship in recognition of research promise along with compelling commitments and contributions toward diversity in the biomedical sciences.
The MOSAIC Program was established by the National Institutes of Health to support top postdoctoral researchers as they transition from their mentored research roles into independent, tenure-track or equivalent research-intensive faculty positions within the academic biomedical research workforce. The prestigious program features two components — individual postdoctoral transition awards (K99/R00) and institutionally-focused research education cooperative agreements (UE5) — and funds up to two years of mentored postdoctoral career development as well as up to three years of independent research in a faculty position.
Brown is among 32 MOSAIC Scholars selected in the program’s inaugural year and one of seven supported by the Association of American Medical Colleges, one of three sponsoring organizations along with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the American Society for Cell Biology. As MOSAIC Scholars, all honorees are part of organized scientific cohorts and invited to participate in mentoring, networking and professional development coordinated by the three organizations.
“The MOSAIC K99 fellowships are very prestigious because they fund a pathway to become an independent investigator,” said Dr. Alex C. Keene, professor and head of Texas A&M Biology. “This is an amazing opportunity for all the scholars that were selected, and I’m confident they will go on to be leaders in their field while creating a more diverse and inclusive community. I’m extremely proud of Liz, and it’s a privilege to be her mentor. She is creative, hard-working and a remarkably devoted and patient mentor. These are all attributes that will allow her to excel as an independent investigator.”
Brown earned her doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Cincinnati in 2017, where she studied the genetic basis of olfactory behavior. She began postdoctoral study at Florida Atlantic University under Keene’s mentorship, then relocated along with him to Texas A&M this past summer when he was appointed as head of Texas A&M Biology. As a member of the Keene Laboratory, Brown’s research interests broadly focus on understanding the genetic and neural circuits that regulate chemosensory functions.
Brown’s MOSAIC proposal, entitled “The Neural Basis for Aging-Dependent Decline in Taste Function,” is funded through the National Institute on Aging in support of her ongoing efforts to model Alzheimer’s disease in fruit flies. Specifically, she will be investigating how taste processing and taste memory are affected by both aging and Alzheimer’s disease with the goal of gaining additional insight into chemosensory processing, aging and neurodegenerative disease.
Brown, who grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, became interested in research as an undergraduate volunteer in a laboratory at Florida State University, where she received her bachelor of science in anthropology. As the first person in her family to graduate college, she is committed to advocating for and mentoring trainees from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds.
“I’m incredibly thankful to receive support from the NIH and the MOSAIC program for my future research,” Brown said. “These experiments will further our understanding of how aging impacts taste processing and memory. By testing how human genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease impact cellular function in fruit flies, we can discover the cellular changes that occur during neurodegeneration. This type of basic research can provide new avenues for treating Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.”
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