Thomas Fazzio named 2011 Pew Scholar

Joins five UMMS colleagues in elite cadre of biomedical scientists

By Jim Fessenden

UMass Medical School Communications

August 04, 2011
Thomas Fazzio
Thomas Fazzio, PhD 

As a 2011 Pew Scholar, Thomas Fazzio, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine, joins a select group of researchers that includes 2006 Nobel Laureate and UMMS Professor Craig Mello, PhD. The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides $240,000 in funding over four years to young investigators with outstanding promise who are doing biomedical research relevant to the advancement of human health. Dr. Fazzio is one of 22 researchers named to this year’s class. 

“The Pew program has recognized many outstanding young scientists over the years who have gone on to do ground breaking work in their fields,” said Fazzio. “It’s a great honor to be named one of this year’s Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences and to join the list of distinguished UMMS faculty members who have been recognized by the Pew Trust.” 

Fazzio studies how the chromatin structure of a cell’s DNA impacts gene expression in stem cells, conferring on these cells the unique ability to replicate and differentiate into many different types of cells. “We’re interested in understanding the biological processes that allow a stem cell to become a muscle cell, a blood cell, or any other kind of cell,” he said. “Using molecular, cellular, biochemical and genetic approaches, we’re uncovering the mechanisms by which chromatin structure and chromatin regulatory proteins impact gene expression, self-renewal and differentiation in stem cells.” 

Funding from the Pew Scholars Program Trust encourages early-career scientists to advance medical research by providing crucial support that enables them to take calculated risks and follow unanticipated leads to maximize the benefits of their research for society. “This award allows us to pursue high-reward, big picture ideas in the lab that we couldn’t do otherwise,” said Fazzio. 

Fazzio received his PhD from the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2004. In 1999 he was awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship and completed his undergraduate training at the University of Utah. He joined UMMS in 2010 after completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California San Francisco.

For more information about the program and the scholars, visit the Pew website.

UMMS Pew Scholars 


  • 2011: Thomas Fazzio, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine 

  • 2010: David Guertin, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine 

  • 2005: Lambertus van den Berg, PhD, associate professor of molecular medicine 

  • 2000: Phillip D. Zamore, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Gretchen Stone Cook Chair of Biomedical Sciences and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology 

  • 1995: Craig C. Mello, PhD, 2006 Nobel Laureate, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine and distinguished professor of molecular medicine and cell biology 

  • 1992: John M. Leong, MD, PhD, professor of microbiology & physiological systems


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