Former Penn State chemistry undergraduate student Alain Bonny has been named a 2022 Hanna H. Gray Fellow by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Hanna H. Gray Fellows Program was developed to support the early careers of life sciences and biomedical researchers who belong to underrepresented groups, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It not only provides support for postdoctoral training but also the transition into an independent academic career. Bonny was one of twenty-five early career scientists selected for the fellowship this year.
“I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to join this group of fellows,” Bonny said. “I'm even more grateful to my colleagues, mentors, and support network that have guided me to this point. As with any funding, it's a tremendous vote of confidence that an organization is willing to bet on your ideas and success. At times I've questioned whether academic science was somewhere I could succeed, and this is a sign that I can. Lastly, I'm excited to join the community of HHMI for all the support it offers scientifically, professionally, and personally."
Bonny was the first undergraduate researcher to join the Scott Showalter lab when Showalter came to Penn State in 2008 as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry. At that time, the lab group studied protein-protein interactions, with nuclear magnetic resonance and other techniques. According to Bonny, he “always held an interest in biology, but I really loved my chemistry courses in undergrad, so I leaned towards wanting to mechanistically understand biology through the lens of chemistry.” Bonny’s significant intellectual contributions to the undergraduate chemistry research program set the high expectations Showalter continues to hold for his undergraduate researchers to this day.
Showalter said Bonny's “Ph.D. work at the University of California San Francisco and his current efforts as a postdoctoral fellow have continued to display the same scientific excellence that he showed us as an undergraduate. Whenever our students are recognized for their achievements, it is a wonderful feeling, but I am especially happy for Alain’s selection as a Hanna H. Gray Fellow. This award rightly acknowledges his excellence as a scholar and his strength of character, which will both serve him well in his ongoing studies and independent career.”
Bonny is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Fuchs lab at The Rockefeller University, where he is studying how skin stem cells know the right time and place to repair a wound. The stem cells rely on other cell types and molecular signals within the local environment to give them proper cues for when it is appropriate to begin migrating and proliferating — and critically when to stop after the wound is repaired.
You can learn more about the Hanna H. Gray Fellows Program on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute website.