Van Andel Institute’s Juan Du, Ph.D. awarded Sloan Research Fellowship

Two-year fellowship honors exemplary early career scientists

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Feb. 12, 2020) — The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has named Van Andel Institute’s Juan Du, Ph.D., to its 2020 class of Sloan Research Fellows in recognition of her groundbreaking work in neuroscience.

Awarded annually since 1955, Sloan Research Fellowships honor exemplary early career researchers in the U.S. and Canada who are rising stars in their areas of study. This year’s class comprises 126 scientists across eight fields. Honorees receive a two-year, $75,000 fellowship to support their research. Du is the first VAI scientist to earn a Sloan Research Fellowship.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to be selected as a Sloan Research Fellow,” Du said. “I want to thank the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for empowering young scientists to investigate some of humanity’s most important and pressing questions.”

Past Sloan Research Fellows include many titans of science, such as neuroscientist Stanley Pruisner, M.D., and game theorist John Nash, Ph.D. In addition, 50 Fellows have gone on to earn a Nobel Prize and 69 have gone on to earn a National Medal of Science.

Candidates for Sloan Research Fellowships are nominated by their peers and selected by an independent panel of senior scientists based on the candidate’s achievements, creativity and potential to become a leader in their field, according to the Foundation. Nearly 1,000 scientists are nominated annually.

Du’s research centers on molecular communication hubs called ion channels, which allow chemical messengers into and out of cells. Her work, which has implications for treating fever, pain and neurodegenerative disorders among others, recently earned her federal funding from the National Institutes of Health as well as a pair of prestigious awards — the McKnight Scholar Award and the Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Award in Neuroscience.

Du joined VAI in 2017 as an assistant professor. Since then, she and her colleagues have resolved the structures of several major drug targets, including TRPM2, a protein integrally involved in temperature regulation, and CALHM2, a protein that helps process taste stimuli and mitigates toxicity in brain cells.


Van Andel Institute (VAI) is committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through cutting edge biomedical research and innovative educational offerings. Established in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1996 by the Van Andel family, VAI is now home to more than 400 scientists, educators and support staff, who work with a growing number of national and international collaborators to foster discovery. The Institute’s scientists study the origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translate their findings into breakthrough prevention and treatment strategies. Our educators develop inquiry-based approaches for K-12 education to help students and teachers become the next generation of problem-solvers, while our Graduate School offers a rigorous, research-intensive Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology. Learn more at vai.org.

Media Contact
Zane McMillin
Van Andel Institute
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