The Rappaport Scholars Fund at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital

For three decades, the Rappaport Scholars Fund has provided key support to exemplary young biological scientists at Harvard Medical School who are dedicating themselves to the elucidation and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dennis J. Selkoe, MD

Coates Professor of Neurologic Diseases, Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital

During the past twenty years, the Rappaport Scholars Fund at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has assisted bright young minds training in the area of fundamental biological research on Alzheimer’s disease. Established and endowed through the Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation in 1986, the Rappaport Scholars represent a group of outstanding graduate students, medical students and postdoctoral research fellows at HMS and BWH. Rappaport Scholars have leveraged the Foundation’s support to conduct experiments aimed at deciphering the molecular mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Foundation’s impact for students and fellows at the beginning of their scientific journeys is threefold – funding is provided for the young recipient, an opportunity for progress on the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is realized, and increasingly, benefits are extended to patients who are now receiving experimental treatments that have emerged in part from the research. The Rappaport Scholars have utilized the Foundation’s grants to conduct innovative, sometimes ground-breaking experiments on certain proteins that are believed to lead to the progressive failure of neurons serving memory and cognition. At a point in their careers when securing research stipends is a special challenge, the recipients of the Rappaport Scholarships are able to carry out studies to elucidate how proteins such as amyloid b-peptide, presenilin and tau compromise the structure and function of neurons during the aging process and in Alzheimer’s disease.

Beyond the concrete scientific advances that Rappaport Scholars have made, the program has provided a wonderful two-decade period of continuity for the laboratory’s quest to attract outstanding young students and connect them to senior leaders in this important area of applied neurobiology. As a direct result of the scholars’ work, HMS and BWH have been able to contribute to the identification of therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s disease, helping to usher in current clinical trials of potentially disease-modifying compounds that are now being tested in dozens of centers around the country.

During the tenure of their scholarships, the recipients not only receive training in the scientific method and the latest knowledge about Alzheimer’s and related disorders, but they also obtain new technical skills and conduct complex experiments using a wide array of methods extant in the laboratory. The scholars are supervised, but they are also encouraged to think in novel and independent ways and to design studies that involve an element of scientific risk. They are induced to tackle difficult projects that require careful, rigorous planning and meticulous execution. And by the time their scholarships conclude, they must write up their findings and submit them for publication in peer-reviewed journals that, over the years, have included Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cell, the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Neuron.

 

About the Selection Process

Rappaport Scholars are chosen from among a stellar group of candidates at HMS/BWH who have already declared their interest in molecular research on neurodegeneration and have begun their initial experimental work on Alzheimer’s disease. A committee of senior research faculty in neurology at BWH and HMS reviews the candidates’ academic and research records and makes the selection of the recipient each year. The committee selects from among students and postdoctoral fellows with existing appointments at HMS/BWH who have a very strong record of scholarly achievement and who have a stated interest in basic molecular research on Alzheimer’s disease and a desire to pursue such research at the Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

 

Curent Rappaport Scholar

The 2014 Rappaport Scholar is Ms. Huixin Xu.  She is a Ph. D. candidate at Harvard Medical School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS), Division of Medical Sciences).  Ms. Xu’s thesis work in Dr. Selkoe’s laboratory involves the study of how microglia cells “respond to an environmental paradigm and how that my help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, e.g., by decreasing toxicity of Amyloid beta.”  Her term of appointment began July 1, 2013 and will conclude on June 30, 2014.

Former Rappaport Scholars

Scholar

Scholarship Period

Degrees

Carmela Abraham

07/01/86 – 06/30/88

Received PhD in 1988

Marcia Podlisny

07/01/88 – 06/30/90

Received PhD in 1991

Albert Hung

07/01/90 – 06/30/92

Received PhD in 1993

Received MD in 1995

Cynthia Lemere

07/01/92 – 06/30/94

Received PhD in 1995

Deborah Watson

07/01/94 – 06/30/97

Received PhD

Taylor Kimberly

11/01/98 – 06/30/02

Received MD in 2007

Ronit Sharon

09/01/98 – 12/31/02

Received PhD

Jay Chyung

11/01/99 – 09/30/04

Received PhD in 2004

Brian Whalen

07/01/03 – 06/30/05

Received PhD in 2005

Ganesh Shankar

07/01/04 – 06/30/08

Received PhD in 2007

Received MD in 2010

Allen Chen

10/01/04 – 06/30/09

Received PhD in 2009

Matthew Hemming

10/01/05 – 06/30/07

Received PhD in 2009

Received MD in 2011

Soyon Hong

07/01/09 – 06/30/11

Received PhD in 2012

Heather Rice

07/01/2011 – 06/30/2013

Received PhD in 2013