The Pew Scholarships—$240,000 over four years to each recipient—provide flexible funding to early-career scientists researching the basis of health problems, including diabetes, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.
“The Pew Scholars program gives innovative scientists both the freedom to take calculated risks and the resources to pursue the most promising, but untried, avenues for scientific breakthroughs,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of Pew. “Pew funding provides an ‘insurance policy,’ allowing our scientists to be adventurous with their research. Though their scientific fields are diverse, their commitment is uniform: harnessing scientific discovery to improve human health.”
One of 22 Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences, Li will continue his research on the centromere, the part of the chromosome that plays a significant role in cell division. Disruption of this structure can lead to the production of an abnormal number of chromosomes—a condition evident in 90 percent of cancer cases. Recently, Li and his colleagues identified how a vital protein is loaded by others into the centromere—research that sheds new light on genome replication and that may offer insights into the factors behind the production of abnormal numbers of chromosomes.
“Our long-term goal is to understand how changes in the organized structure of centromeric chromatin can lead to cancer, with the ultimate goal of offering new strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer,” explains Li.
Li has been on the NYU faculty since 2010.