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Wexler receives Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship

Dec. 12, 2019, 10:27 AM


by Leigh MacMillan

Aaron Wexler, PhD, a research fellow in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, has received a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship.

Aaron Wexler, PhD

The program aims to “increase the number of imaginative, well-trained and dedicated medical scientists” by providing three years of financial support to early-stage investigators, according to the foundation. “Whitney Fellows have gone on to become some of the most highly regarded medical and scientific professionals in their respective fields and have served as mentors to succeeding generations of scientists.”

Wexler is one of 23 scientists to receive the award out of 383 applications received this year.

“I am honored to have been selected to receive a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee,” Wexler said. “There is little I can think of that is more motivating to an early-career scientist than effectively receiving a vote of confidence from such an esteemed panel of elite scientists.”

Wexler earned his PhD at Yale University, where he identified molecular mechanisms that allow certain beneficial species of bacteria to stably colonize the gut. He came to Vanderbilt in July 2018 to work with Eric Skaar, PhD, MPH, the Ernest W. Goodpasture Professor of Pathology and director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation (VI4).

Wexler is studying the intestinal pathogen Clostridioides difficile (C. diff), a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. His research focuses on how C. diff interacts and competes with the resident microbes in the gut to acquire the nutrients it needs to cause disease. He is using state-of-the-art analytical imaging tools to reveal how C. diff chemically alters the intestinal environment to perpetuate disease.

“This fellowship has given me renewed confidence in myself as I pursue my academic career goals,” Wexler said. “I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my mentor, Dr. Eric Skaar, whose continuous support made it possible for me to receive this award.”


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