BY KATE TURNER ’21
Mount Holyoke Professor Andrea Foulkes was awarded a $452,759 grant by the United States Department of Health and Human Services — specifically from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) on Sept. 21, 2017. Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA), who represents Massachusetts’ first Congressional District (where Mount Holyoke is located), congratulated Foulkes in a press release issued from his office.
NIGMS offers grant funding to encourage research at educational institutions that provide training for a notable amount of the U.S.’s research scientists. It focuses on funding research that aims to advance knowledge of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. It also provides leadership training for emerging scientists with the goal of diversifying the scientific workforce and enhancing the quality of scientific research conducted nationwide.
“I am so delighted to have been awarded this grant to develop statistical methods for analyzing huge datasets,” said Foulkes.
Foulkes received her B.A. in mathematics from Brown University in 1994 and an Sc.D. (Doctorate in Science) in biostatistics from Harvard School of Public Health in 2000. She joined Mount Holyoke’s faculty in 2014.
Her research analyzes large datasets collected from various experiments on the molecular and cellular level to explain the complex dynamic relationship among the players in the biological pathways in diseases. She utilizes various techniques to construct models that will help biologists understand how molecular components interact. She also studies why some antiviral drugs work in certain HIV patients but not others by analyzing the differences in their genetic makeup.
These funds will be used by Professor Foulkes to conduct her research on campus, which represents not only an opportunity for Foulkes to accomplish substantial work, but also for the Mount Holyoke students who will be involved in the project. Foulkes, who is the chair of Mount Holyoke’s mathematics and statistics department, will use the funding to continue her work on developing statistical methods for the analysis of large datasets.
“This could have an enormous impact on public health,” Foulkes said in a press release published by Congressman Richard Neal, who announced the grant. “For example, by examining how the body responds to immune activation, we may be able to develop new ways of understanding the genetic basis of cardiometabolic diseases and complex inflammatory disorders, both of which present major public health concerns.”
The organization awards research project grants to nonprofit and for-profit organizations, as well as government agencies, foreign institutions and occasionally to individuals with the necessary resources to conduct research. The grant is available for applications from all qualified scientists with institutional backing and the willingness to take responsibility for the funds if awarded. The grants are intended to fund research activity, salaries, equipment, supplies and other expenses.
Jon Western, vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of faculty for Mount Holyoke, said, “Professor Foulkes is an outstanding scholar and teacher and we are thrilled to see her research supported by NIGMS. Continuing in the long-standing tradition of Mount Holyoke faculty applying their research to address significant challenges, she is pioneering new and innovative statistical modeling and data science techniques that will help us better understand some of the most vexing public health problems. We are excited to see where this research will lead.”
“Massachusetts has consistently lead the way in the medical research field,” said Representative Neal. “It is encouraging to see this new wave of scientists and researchers getting their start right here at Mount Holyoke College.”