Share this story

PhD student John Haley receives NIH fellowship to research metabolic signaling in the liver

Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award recognizes potential in PhD students for independent research

John Haley, a PhD student in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, was awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The four-year fellowship will allow Haley to study the impact that signaling and metabolic pathways have on a nutrient-sensing complex in the liver.

John Haley

Haley studies in the lab of David Guertin, PhD, professor of molecular medicine. The lab researches how cells sense and respond to varying levels of nutrients and how genetic mutations can alter those pathways to cause diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer.

“I’m very excited to have gotten this NIH award,” Haley said. “This is similar to what we do currently in the lab, but we’re pivoting to focus more on the liver in this project as opposed to the other tissues that we study.” Haley will receive $33,000 a year for the next four years.

The purpose of this Kirschstein-NRSA program is to enable promising predoctoral students with potential to develop into a productive, independent research scientists, to obtain mentored research training while conducting dissertation research.

“This award will allow me to put more emphasis on studying the liver as opposed to where this lab is mainly funded now, which is investigating brown fat,” he said.

Haley, who has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Stony Brook University, became interested in metabolic research to better understand how diseases like obesity affect humans.

“Obesity is a very important global health concern, and there are a lot of complications associated with it, such as type 2 diabetes and liver disease,” Haley said. “If we can better understand the metabolic consequences that take place during obesity, we’ll be able to come up with better therapeutic strategies to treat people with these diseases.”

In 2019, Haley received the Craig Mello Scholar Award, which the Molecular Medicine awards to graduate students in the department with “outstanding track records and bright futures.”

Haley’s work aligns with the lab’s overall focus on understanding the mechanisms of metabolic signaling in health and disease, Dr. Guertin said. 

“I am very proud of John and excited that he received this prestigious award. John is passionate about understanding how different tissues use carbohydrates and fats for fuel, and most importantly, how nutrient imbalances, such as in obesity, cause diseases such as type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and cancer,” Guertin said. “His career is off to a fantastic start and I’m looking forward to learning many new things from John and his research in the years ahead.”

Related UMass Chan news stories:
PhD student Catherine Nagawa examining link between social networks, smoking cessation with new NIH award
Nick Peterson and Samantha Tse named Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award recipients
Kevin Gao receives Kirschstein Award for research into role of B cells in pulmonary fibrosis caused by SAVI