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Longstanding Partnership Attracts International Research Scholars Through Program Expansion

The Mary Kay Ash Foundation and UT Southwestern Medical Center collaborated to provide one-year postdoctoral fellowships and return grants to innovative global researchers.

Dr. Jerry Shay, Ph.D., who has chaired the Research Review Committee for the Mary Kay Ash Foundation Innovative/Translational Cancer Research Grant Program since inception in 1996, also serves as principal investigator for the Mary Kay Ash Foundation’s new international fellowship program.

The new one-year fellowships offer five international postdoctoral researchers the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge cancer research at the world-renowned UT Southwestern Medical Center facility in Dallas, and allow them to continue research activity in their native country.

“Expanding the program internationally will allow us to focus on cancers that affect women the most,” Shay said. “We plan to identify a group of dedicated postdoctoral candidates from around the globe, invite them to Dallas, and equip them with all the tools and resources they need to continue their groundbreaking research in our outstanding cancer lab. Their work could have a tremendous impact on how we understand and treat cancers around the world.”
To date, five international fellows have been awarded grants and are currently in Dallas, Texas pursuing their studies in mentor labs at the UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center world-renowned facility. Learn more about their individual pursuits in their captions below.

Liliana Teixeira
Liliana Teixeira, Ph.D., a radiation biologist and biophysicist from Portugal, will focus on biophysical techniques, including crystallography, to study signaling molecules involved in cancer metastasis.
Natalia Bernardes
Natália Bernardes, Ph.D., a biotechnological engineer from Brazil, will focus on studying the molecules in charge of maintaining the DNA organized inside the cells and identifying any problems with the DNA sequence that could lead to anomalous cell growth such as cancer.
Sebastian Diegeler
Dr. Sebastian Diegeler of Germany, will focus on understanding the interaction of the tumor with immune cells in the microenvironment in order to provide additional treatment options for radiation therapy.
Ana Martin
Ana Martin Vega, a Ph.D. student in cancer biology from Spain, will focus on lung cancer discoveries and associations among different scaffold proteins adding a further degree of regulation for an already tightly regulated cascade providing a novel means for manipulating ERK signals even with therapeutic purposes.
Shengyan Gao
Shengyan Gao, Ph.D., a microbiologist from mainland China, will focus on colon cancer cell proliferation and metastasis
Sebastian Diegeler Todd Aguilera
Dr. Sebastian Diegeler, Germany, and mentor Dr. Todd Aguilera examining lab samples.
International Postdoctoral Fellows
International Postdoctoral Fellows Dr. Shengyan Gao (seated far left) and Dr. Natalia Bernardes (seated far right) with their mentors Dr. Beatriz Fontoura (standing left) and Dr. Yuh Min Chook (standing right).