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John Haley Awarded Emerging Scientist in Metabolism by Weill Cornell Medicine

Date Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2023

PhD candidate John Haley was named the 2023 Emerging Scientist in Metabolism by Weill Cornell Medicine.  He was awarded the top prize in a national competition for senior graduate students who are conducting metabolism research.

“I knew I wanted to study metabolism, but I wasn’t certain in what context,” said Haley.  Dr. Guertin’s lab introduced me to brown adipose tissue (BAT), which I was unfamiliar with when I arrived here in 2018.”

BAT is unique in that it can uncouple the electron transport chain instead of producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source for use and storage at the cellular level, it releases heat instead.  The process of non-shivering thermogenesis is primarily activated through cold exposure, medication, and certain high-calorie diets.

“It’s a process that uses a lot of energy and requires large amounts of nutrients to fuel increased heat production,” he said.  “BAT is required to alter its metabolism to accommodate the increased energy demand.”

Adaptive thermogenesis by brown adipose tissue is an attractive anti-obesity target to many within the field.  Haley’s thesis is investigating what fuels BAT under various states of thermogenic activation.

During his time in the Guertin lab Haley has learned about the many complications associated with obesity.  “The more we can understand about metabolic consequences that occur during obesity, it will allow for the development of therapeutic strategies to treat its complications, such as liver disease and type 2 diabetes.”

He plans to pursue post-doctoral training focusing on the intersection of metabolism and signaling.  His interests include insulin resistance, cancer, and adipose tissue.  “I continue to remain open minded just like I was when I arrived at graduate school and had not yet heard of brown adipose tissue.”