Juan L. Mendoza, assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), has been named a 2023 Freeman Hrabowski Scholar by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The award program recognizes outstanding early-career researchers who have strong potential to become leaders in their fields and to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in U.S. science.
As a Freeman Hrabowski Scholar, Mendoza receives a five-year appointment as an HHMI lab head, along with full salary, availability of funds for equipment, a research budget of approximately $2 million over the first five years, and the potential of up to $8.6 million in funding over 10 years.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be named a Freeman Hrabowski Scholar,” said Mendoza. “In addition to being recognized for the science in my lab, I am personally honored to continue the critical work of extending the opportunity of STEM research and education to underrepresented people through the support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.”
Mendoza is a protein engineer and computational biologist specializing in immune system research. He combines bioengineering with computational analysis to explore and better understand cytokines—a group of proteins that act as the body’s early warning system against infection. He has received high praise for his work mapping critical structures in the immune system and engineering drug candidates aimed at a broad range of cancers, such as lung, colorectal, liver, cervical, and pancreatic.
As a Freeman Hrabowski Scholar, Mendoza will continue his research by painting a complete picture of cytokine signaling in order to develop more potent and less toxic immunotherapeutics. In addition to pursuing research, Mendoza will foster an inclusive lab environment and act as a role model of inclusive lab leadership, working to attract, support, and train undergraduates, PhD, MD, and postdoctoral fellows.
The Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program honors the contributions of Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, the outgoing president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a major force in increasing the number of scientists, engineers, and physicians from backgrounds underrepresented in science in the United States. Hrabowski’s leadership sparked the development of new and growing programs at UMBC, HHMI, and other institutions around the U.S., including the renowned Meyerhoff Scholars Program for undergraduate students.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a biomedical research institute and philanthropy that advances the discovery and sharing of scientific knowledge. HHMI employs scientists, provides research and education grants, offers free classroom resources, and promotes scientific developments.