|Yi-Jia Li studies proteins involved in DNA repair.|
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded City of Hope’s Yi-Jia Li, Ph.D., a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship award. The threeyear, $140,000 award will support her studies of small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) proteins and their role in the repair of DNA damage.
Li’s accomplishment was particularly notable since she obtained the award, known as an F32 grant, on her first attempt. Obtaining extramural funding can challenge even experienced investigators, but the odds weigh particularly heavy against younger researchers.
Grant awards are increasingly going to more experienced applicants, according to a 2005 commentary by Nobel Laureate Thomas Cech, Ph.D., published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Cech indicated that the median age of NIH award recipients holding Doctor of Philosophy degrees was 42 and has been increasing steadily for several decades.
Further, almost half of first-time applications never make it past the first stage of peer review, according to the commentary.
That trend applies to F32 applications, as well. In 2007, only 26 percent of applicants received funding, down from a peak of nearly 46 percent in 2000.
“We’re very proud of Yi-Jia,” said Yuan Chen, Ph.D., professor of immunology and Li’s mentor. “She is a talented scientist, and this is a wonderful accomplishment.”
Chen recently received a $1.3 million NIH grant to study SUMO proteins (see story on page 1). Li’s research efforts support that same project.
Prior to joining City of Hope in 2006, Li completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the
Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Southern
California. She obtained her doctoral degree from National Chung Hsing University
The current grant is a Ruth L. Kirschstein Individual National Research Service
Award, which supports individuals with a doctoral degree for a three-year period of
supervised research experience to achieve independence.
The grant is Li’s first extramural funding.