Dr. Tiffany Reese, a UT Southwestern Medical Center immunologist, received the Pew Scholar award in Biomedical Sciences to investigate maternal inflammation during pregnancy and how it alters the immunity of the developing fetus.
Funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Scholars Program, the award allows Reese a 4-year grant for $300,000 to conduct her studies as one of 22 recipients chosen across the country. The program is targeted toward early-career scientists tackling some of the world’s most pressing health problems.
“These awards are very difficult to get and I know there’s a lot of stiff competition out there, so I was surprised but incredibly excited,” Reese says. “It’s an amazing opportunity and a great honor.”
The crosstalk between mother and fetus significantly affects development of the fetal immune system, but research about fundamental mechanisms that drive fetal immune programming is scarce.
“The fact that there’s not a lot done makes it challenging but it also means that there’s a lot of opportunity for us to make some sort of important contribution and increase our understanding in that particular area,” Reese says.
A Fort Worth native, Reese earned her doctorate from the University of California San Francisco, where her work included the study of molecules that drive inflammation. She joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2015 through the Endowed Scholars Program as a W.W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research.
Growing up, she says, her trajectory always pointed toward STEM.
“When I went to college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be an engineer or a biologist,” Reese says. Biology emerged as she waded further into her education.
Reese joins six other UT Southwestern faculty members who’ve been named Pew Scholars (the most of any institution in Texas). The most recent recipient was Dr. Yunsun Nam, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Biophysics, in 2014.
“Tiffany’s work is at the interface of virology, parasitology, immunity, and pregnancy, making it very interdisciplinary and bold,” Dr. Julie Pfeiffer, a professor of microbiology and 2007 Pew Scholar herself, says in a statement. “She is fearless in her approach and tackles long-term experiments that illuminate new biology.”