Two Graduate Students Named Schmidt Science Fellows

  • Jul 12, 2021
  • Caltech

Former graduate student Shashank Gandhi (PhD '21) and current graduate student Manuel Razo-Mejia have been named to the 2021 cohort of Schmidt Science Fellows.

The fellowship, created by former Google chairman Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy Schmidt, provides stipends to researchers who "tackle the world's most significant problems," in areas such as preventing future pandemics, creating sustainable energy systems, improving water and food security, developing more personalized and equitable health care, and understanding and mitigating the climate crisis, according to a press release issued by the organization.

Shashank Gandhi works in the laboratory of Marianne Bronner, Distinguished Professor of Biology and director of the Beckman Institute. Using chickens as a model species, Gandhi has uncovered the genetic network responsible for normal embryonic heart development. The work has the potential to lead to new treatments for congenital heart defects. As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Gandhi will investigate cutting-edge human tissue culture techniques to identify novel cancer-causing mutations, enable efficient prioritization of drug targets, and personalize the testing of treatment options. In particular, his work will focus on colorectal cancer, which lacks effective treatments for late-stage patients and is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Gandhi received his PhD from Caltech in June 2021.

Manuel Razo-Mejia works in the laboratory of Rob Phillips, Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics, Biology, and Physics. Razo-Mejia has studied the biophysics of single cells to investigate how single-cell organisms with no nervous systems can still use signals from their environments to make decisions. As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Razo-Mejia will pivot into experimental evolution with the aim of tackling antibiotic resistance. To do this, he will take an interdisciplinary approach to investigate experimental data on the evolution of antibiotic resistance in microorganisms, with the ultimate goal of informing new treatments.

Gandhi and Razo-Mejia are two of 28 early career scientists selected as Schmidt Fellows.