June 29, 2023

Ayaka Sugiura, PhD, and Camille Wang receive P.E.O. Scholar Awards

Ayaka Sugiura, PhD, and Camille Wang, aspiring physician-scientists in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Vanderbilt, are among this year’s recipients of highly competitive P.E.O. Scholar Awards.

Ayaka Sugiura, PhD

Ayaka Sugiura, PhD, and Camille Wang, aspiring physician-scientists in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, are among this year’s recipients of highly competitive P.E.O. Scholar Awards.

Recipients of the $20,000 awards from P.E.O. International, a philanthropic organization based in Des Moines, Iowa, are women from the United States and Canada who are pursuing doctoral-level degrees at accredited colleges and universities and who have demonstrated the ability to make significant contributions in their chosen fields of study.

“To be selected for the P.E.O. International Award is a remarkable honor,” said MSTP director Christopher Williams, MD, PhD, professor of Medicine, associate dean of Physician Scientist Education and Training, and holder of the endowed directorship in Physician-Scientist Training.

Camille Wang

“This is a noteworthy achievement and a testament to their accomplishments and potential as future physician-scientist leaders,” Williams said.

A fourth-year medical student, Sugiura earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University, and completed her PhD training in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology under the guidance of Jeffrey Rathmell, PhD, the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Immunobiology and director of the Vanderbilt Center of Immunobiology.

Her thesis focused on investigating the interplay between immune cell function and cellular metabolism, with the aim of advancing immunotherapeutic approaches to the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

During her time in the lab, Sugiura developed a pipeline for performing forward genetic screening using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing in mouse models of inflammation.

A recipient of a Young Investigator Award from the American Association of Immuno- logists, she has contributed to more than 15 scientific publications, including a first-author research article in the journal Immunity.

Outside of research, Sugiura is the mother of a 3-year-old son. She enjoys painting, practicing kendo (Japanese sword-based martial arts), and tending to her vegetable garden.

Her artwork has appeared on the covers of Immunity, accompanying her research article, and the journal Cell Metabolism.

Sugiura is now preparing to apply for pathology residency with the aim of pursuing a career as a physician-scientist in academic medicine.

Wang also completed her undergraduate degree from Cornell University, and recently defended her PhD in Neuroscience.

Her graduate studies were conducted in the labs of Lisa Monteggia, PhD, professor of Pharmacology and Barlow Family Director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, and Ege Kavalali, PhD, William Stokes Professor of Experimental Therapeutics and chair of Pharmacology.

Her work has focused on elucidating fundamental properties underlying synaptic physiology, which is the unit of communication between neurons, particularly in the context of antidepressant mechanisms.

These findings have broad implications for improving the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Wang has received several awards for her research including, in 2022, the Elaine Sanders-Bush Award for Outstanding Neuroscience Research from the Vanderbilt Brain Institute.

Supported by an F30 predoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, she has published a first-author review article in the journal Cell, a first author research article in eLife, and she has co-authored several other manuscripts that have been accepted for publication.

Wang has held several leadership positions in the MSTP, including serving as co-chair of the women in training and leadership workshop committees.

After receiving her medical degree, she plans to pursue a career as a physician-scientist in psychiatry.

Since 2017, 10 aspiring physician-scientists from Vanderbilt have received P.E.O. Scholar Awards including, last year, Margaret Axelrod, PhD, Rachel Brown, PhD, and Simone Herzberg.