Antentor Hinton Jr., assistant professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at the School of Medicine Basic Sciences, has been awarded a grant from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Science Diversity Leadership program. The $1.15 million, five-year grant will support his work on “finding organelle contacts in human tissue across ethnicities to increase representation in research,” according to information on the CZI website.
The Hinton laboratory’s expertise ranges from understanding the molecular mechanisms of cellular communication to developing automated imaging techniques for solving 3D structures of organelles, such as mitochondria, and the interactions among them in human disease. To accomplish this, the Hinton laboratory uses a novel imaging technology called Focus Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy, which allows the high-resolution reconstruction of objects in 3D. With FIB-SEM, the Hinton lab can unravel how structural changes in organelles or in organelle contact sites contribute to some of the most devastating diseases worldwide, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
“The CZI grant means the world to me,” Hinton said. “It means that I can enlarge my territory drastically as it relates to network, resources, commitment to diversity and scientific outreach. And, with this grant, my laboratory can accomplish cutting-edge research on how mitochondria transition from ‘normal morphology’ to ‘pathological morphology’ in humans. This will allow us to sharpen the medical and scientific fields’ understanding of how we can identify diseases in the future through a biopsy.”
Science Diversity Leadership awards recognize the accomplishments of researchers who—through their outreach, mentoring, teaching and leadership—have a record of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in their scientific fields. Hinton and his lab at Vanderbilt have been nationally recognized for commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as for mentoring and career development efforts. In addition, Steven Damo, adjunct assistant professor of biochemistry at Vanderbilt and assistant professor of chemistry at Fisk University, was also awarded a separate CZI grant. Damo is the only member of an HBCU to be given this award.
Earlier this year, Hinton published research on existing strengths and opportunities that will enable more Black graduates from predominantly white institutions to enter STEMM fields at higher rates than today. The paper also discusses how to strengthen HBCUs so they can continue preparing Black trainees to enter and succeed in the STEMM workforce.
Hinton is also co-principal investigator on a conference that aims to engage the scientific community in discourse and knowledge about humanizing underrepresented minorities in STEM.
The grant proposal was supported by Research Development and Support.
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About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges—from eradicating disease and improving education to addressing the needs of our communities. Through collaboration, providing resources and building technology, its mission is to help build a more inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.