Whitehead Member Mary Gehring named a Pew Scholar

Mary Gehring, Whitehead Institute

Plant biologist and occupant of the rooftop greenhouse, Whitehead Member Mary Gehring studies reproduction and development in plants.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has named Whitehead Institute Member Mary Gehring a 2011 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences.

Gehring, who joined the Whitehead faculty in September 2010, is one of 22 promising young scientists selected for this year’s honor from a field of 136 nominees. The Pew scholarship will provide Gehring with $60,000 in research support annually over the next four years.

“It’s an honor to be among the few people chosen by Pew,” says Gehring, who is using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to study epigenetics, heritable changes in phenotype not caused by changes in the underlying DNA sequence. “It’s exciting that research in plants is recognized as having the potential to impact basic biological understanding in many fields.”

The Pew Scholars program has in its 26 years provided more than 500 young investigators with nearly $130 million in research funding for projects that, though seemingly risky, have the potential to benefit human health.

“Pew is pleased to provide this country’s most ambitious and dedicated scientists with timely funding that enables them to explore novel areas of investigation early in their careers, at what may be the most inventive and creative period in their research,” says Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

“The philosophy of the Pew Scholars program aligns perfectly with our own,” says Whitehead Institute Director David Page. “In recruiting her to Whitehead as one of our newest junior faculty members, we saw the same potential in Mary that the Pew Charitable Trusts has now recognized. This is a wonderful affirmation both for Mary and for Whitehead Institute.“

Gehring is the second Whitehead Member to be named a Pew Scholar. David Sabatini earned the same honor in 2003. Former Whitehead Fellow Fernando Camargo, now an investigator at Children’s Hospital Boston, became a Pew Scholar in 2010.