Heard has accepted the three-year, $105,000 Life Sciences Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, one of only about a dozen distributed nationally each year. She is the first doctoral candidate in the department to have won the award.
Though many postdoctoral grant opportunities are available to biology students, few are of the size of the Life Sciences Foundation award and competition for them is fierce, said Assoc. Prof. Kathy Dunn (Biology), in whose lab Heard is working.
"This fellowship recognizes individuals who have the potential to go the distance in science," Dunn said. "She had her own idea for a thesis, developed her own project, made a major contribution to the field as a PhD student and secured a good position in one of the best plant labs in the country."
Heard has been using genetics to focus on the symbiotic interaction between plants and bacteria in nodules that develop on plant roots. "I discovered some interesting genes in the nodule which could be involved in nodule development," Heard said.
Heard will graduate this summer and her postdoctoral research will be done at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she will work in a lab investigating how cells respond to harmful bacteria. One section of the lab is working on an agronomic project aimed at developing disease-resistant crops, which is where Heard expects to focus her work.
"Kathy and the Biology Department have provided support and a good environment to do productive work," said Heard. "There are a lot of people in the department to bounce ideas off of and that was a huge asset."
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