Press Release

MBL Scientist Julie Huber Honored with 2007 L’Oreal USA Fellowship for Women in Science

By SpaceRef Editor
June 22, 2007
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Research helps understanding of how microbial populations function in and regulate the world’s oceans

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA–MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) Assistant Scientist Dr. Julie Huber has been selected to receive a $40,000 fellowship as part of the L’Oreal USA Fellowships for Women in Science Program. Laurent Attal, President and CEO, L’Oreal USA, and Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences honored Dr. Huber and four other young women researchers, at a ceremony today (May 24, 2007) at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Now in its fourth year, the highly selective L’Oreal USA Fellowships annually recognize and reward five up-and-coming female scientists who are conducting innovative and groundbreaking research in the life and physical/material sciences, as well as mathematics, engineering and computer science. The program supports its awardees financially, by granting them $40,000 each to put toward their independent scientific research. It also helps them strengthen their networks in the scientific community. And it provides coaching and professional development workshops with accomplished women leaders in corporate, academic and government fields to help these Fellows be better prepared as they publish research, apply for grant funding and advance their careers. A distinguished jury of nine eminent scientists–presided over by Dr. Cicerone–reviews the applications, and selects fellowship recipients.

Dr. Huber is a researcher in the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution where she investigates microbial communities within the subseafloor, a largely undiscovered environment that represents a unique and ubiquitous habitat on Earth. Due to the challenges of understanding this habitat, a range of techniques must be applied to every sample to advance scientists’ knowledge of resident microbial communities. Dr. Huber’s research applies a combined molecular diversity, metagenomic, and geochemical approach to provide a window into this world. Her work is a part of the International Census of Marine Microbes, a project of the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year global initiative started to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans–past, present, and future.

“The MBL is extremely proud of Julie and congratulates her on this remarkable accomplishment,” said MBL Director and CEO Gary G. Borisy. “The MBL has a long history of educating and training some of the world’s most distinguished women scientists. Julie’s successful past and promising future continues this tradition and sets a wonderful example for young investigators everywhere.”

As part of her L’Oreal USA Fellowship grant, Dr, Huber will be studying large insert DNA libraries, which will allow her to understand the metabolic capacity, genomic context, and phylogenetic relationships of subseafloor communities. This new application of “metagenomics” to microbial ecology is important for understanding how microbial populations function in and regulate the world’s oceans. Dr. Huber’s work relates to fundamental questions about the origin of life, limits of life in extreme environments, and the connection between life and geological processes that extend to global and extra-terrestrial scales.

Having logged over six months at sea on research cruises around the Pacific, Dr. Huber has professional and research experience that rivals those of peers beyond her age. As a graduate student at the University of Washington, she was instrumental in the formation and success of the NASA Astrobiology program. In addition, seven publications–four of which she first-authored–resulted from her graduate work.

Dr. Huber received her Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Washington in 2004. She received an undergraduate degree at Eckerd College, where she graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Dr. Huber has been awarded a National Research Council Research Associateship, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and was a Ford Foundation and NASA Scholar.

“It is vital that we encourage emerging scientists who hold the key to future discoveries,” said Dr. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences. “L’Oreal USA’s visionary Fellowships program cultivates women scientists and provides essential support as they embark on their careers.”

In addition to Dr. Huber, 2007 L’Oreal USA fellowships were also awarded to earth scientist and geochemist Dr. Jaime D. Barnes of the University of New Mexico; neuroscientist Dr. Sarah Clinton of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; physical chemist Dr. Maria Krisch of the University of California, Irvine; and biomedical engineer Dr. Kim Woodrow of Yale University.

SpaceRef staff editor.