Meet the 2018 PROLAB recipients

Published September 01 2018

Nine emerging scientists will receive grants this year from the Promoting Research Opportunities for Latin American Biochemists program, or PROLAB, to advance their research by working directly with collaborators in laboratories in the United States, Canada and Spain.

Over the past eight years, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Pan-American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the International Union for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology have given 69 young biochemists these travel awards.

This year’s PROLAB travel grants are going to six Ph.D. students and three postdoctoral fellows; these recipients are from Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil.

Maria Fernanda Aguilar

Ph.D student, Argentina

Home institution: Laboratorio de Cultivos Celulares de la Facultad de Bioquímica y Ciencias Biológicas de la Universidad Nacional del Litoral

Host lab: Arturo Casadevall, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Research: I study the influence of Fc domain glycosylation on the affinity and neutralizing ability of an antibody-like molecule (scFv-Fc).

What I hope to gain from my PROLAB studies: I am excited to work with Dr. Casadevall´s team and gain experience and knowledge about structural analysis of antibodies using X-ray crystallography. Also, I hope to build networks that have a lasting impact on my career and contribute to my personal and cultural enrichment.

Maria Fernanda Aguilar


Guilherme Braga de Freitas

Ph.D. student, Brazil

Home institution: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Host lab: Marco A.M. Prado, University of Western Ontario


Research: I study the role of irisin in the central nervous system and in Alzheimer’s disease models.


What I hope to gain from my PROLAB studies: Studying abroad represents a change of environment and an opportunity to improve knowledge about ourselves. Moreover, it enhances networking, which may be a career boost. Thus, this opportunity will help me find potential ways to follow up with my research and will contribute to my personal development.

Guilherme Braga de Freitas

Guillermo Eastman

Ph.D. student, Uruguay

Home institution: Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable

Host lab: George S. Bloom, University of Virginia

Research: I’m focusing on translation regulation in neurons by genomics approaches.

What I hope to gain from my PROLAB studies: This opportunity will be a great experience for me to learn about Alzheimer’s disease models and incorporate my background in genomics into the ongoing project. Also, it will be an invaluable opportunity to interact with other researchers and start to think about interdisciplinary collaborative projects.

Guillermo Eastman


Carolina Fabbri

Ph.D. student, Argentina

Home institution: Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology of Rosario

Host lab: Juan A. Hermoso, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Madrid

Research: I study the functional characterization of the sensor proteins of the beta-lactam resistance systems of Staphylococcus aureus.

What I hope to gain from my PROLAB studies: Studies abroad will allow me to expand my knowledge in crystallography of membrane proteins, which is a very useful technique not only for my research project but also for my group. I will be able to learn from experts in the field, in a challenging setting, using state-of-the-art techniques.

Carolina Fabbri

Mercedes Garrido

Ph.D. student, Argentina

Home institution: National Institute for Agricultural Research, University of Buenos Aires

Host lab: Gregg Beckham, National Bioenergy Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Research: I work on development of microbial enzymatic cellulolytic and xylanolitic complexes for biomass saccharification.


What I hope to gain from my PROLAB studies: I hope to learn new techniques in fungal molecular biology and enzyme characterization, interact with an interdisciplinary team of biochemists, chemists and chemical engineers, and establish a strong working relationship between the agrobiotechnology laboratory at the University of Buenos Aires, the bioenergy laboratory in Argentina´s National Institute for Agricultural Research and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S.

Mercedes Garrido


Laura Navas

postdoctoral fellow, Argentina

Home institution: Instituto de Microbiología y Zoología Agrícola , Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria

Host lab: Lindsay D. Eltis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Research: I study the characterization of thermophilic bacterial laccases for biomass valorization.

What I hope to gain from my PROLAB studies: I wish to do collaborative work with specialized scientists and learn techniques to bring back to my laboratory. I hope the project will provide important insights into the activity of thermostable bacterial laccases and the molecular basis for these activities, facilitating the development of biomass-transforming technologies based on these enzymes. Such technologies are critical for developing sustainable biorefineries and the global bioeconomy.

Laura Navas

Fernando Ogata

postdoctoral fellow, Brazil

Home institution: Universidade Federal de São Paulo

Host lab: Vivien J. Coulson−Thomas, University of Houston

Research: I study the influence of glycosaminoglycans on the behavior of the thioredoxin system.

What I hope to gain from my PROLAB studies: Thioredoxin system–deficient animals (genetically modified) had their transcriptome analyzed. These data suggest a change in glycosaminoglycan biosynthesis enzymes and core proteins of proteoglycans. These changes will be analyzed with Dr. Coulson-Thomas, an expert in the field of glycobiology.

Fernando Ogata

Diego Quiroga Roger

postdoctoral fellow, Chile

Home institution: Universidad de Chile

Host lab: Susan Marqusee, University of California, Berkeley

Research: The aim of my project is to understand the importance of strain in catalysis, determining the effect of the forces involved in the conformational changes associated to ligand binding and catalysis, considering the strain-induced theory as the catalytic framework using Aquifex aeolicus adenylate kinase as a model enzyme.

What I hope to gain from my PROLAB studies: I believe that there is a unique opportunity to advance understanding of the relation between protein function and structure, applying a feasible and novel approach to determine the forces and energies ruling catalysis. I trust that we will achieve this, demonstrating that researchers from Chile can answer important scientific questions.

Diego Quiroga Roger


Luciana Sampieri

Ph.D. student, Argentina

Home institution: School of Chemistry, National University of Córdoba

Host lab: Juan S. Bonifacino, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health

Research: I study changes in CREB3L2 transcription factor in cell differentiation models.

What I hope to gain from my PROLAB studies: I hope that interaction with scientists from a foreign and prestigious laboratory will give me more confidence in myself as well as increase my academic experience. I would like to gain more perspective by taking in every positive habit and piece of advice I learn during my stay in the host lab. Finally, I hope to bring back to my home institution everything I learn and apply it to improve the quality of my own and my colleagues’ work.

Luciana Sampieri


Related article

Acquiring new skills and growing networks
ASBMB Today science writer John Arnst delves in the background of the PROLAB travel awards, which help emerging scientists gain experience in labs in the U.S. and Canada.