Dr. Kara Marshall named HHMI Freeman Hrabowski Scholar


Dr. Kara Marshall, assistant professor of neuroscience and a McNair Scholar, has been named a Freeman Hrabowski Scholar by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

She is among 31 scientists from across the country recognized as outstanding early career faculty members with the potential to become leaders in their research fields and create diverse and inclusive lab environments in which everyone can thrive.

“I am honored to be a part of this transformative program, particularly because it enables young labs to pursue innovative research while building inclusive training environments,” said Marshall, who also is a faculty member at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (Duncan NRI) at Texas Children’s Hospital.

As a Freeman Hrabowski Scholar, Marshall will be appointed to a five-year term, renewable for a second five-year term after a successful progress evaluation. She will receive up to $8.6 million over 10 years, to be used for research support. In addition, she will have the opportunity to participate in professional development to advance her leadership and mentorship skills.

“The Freeman Hrabowski Scholars program reflects HHMI’s continued commitment to supporting people, not projects,” said HHMI President Erin O’Shea. “We aim to provide Scholars with the resources they need to pursue scientific breakthroughs and empower others to ask critical research questions. In this way, our Scholars are well positioned to make an indelible impact on the future of science.”

Marshall’s research focuses on how the brain senses mechanical forces within the body. The nervous system continuously monitors internal organs, a collection of senses called interoception, to control basic bodily functions like blood pressure, feeding, digestion, and urination. All these processes rely partly on the detection of mechanical force for their varied roles: gastrointestinal stretch halts eating, and bladder stretch indicates the need to find a bathroom. The Marshall lab aims to understand the molecules and cell types that enable these important internal senses to drive physiology and behavior, in both health and disease.  

“HHMI focuses on supporting people, and through this approach facilitates remarkable discoveries. This is the ethos I also want to promote within the lab. Science needs people from all backgrounds to solve difficult problems, and this support will be essential for us to mentor the next generation of creative scientists,” Marshall said.

“I’m thrilled that Dr. Kara Marshall has been selected to be a part of this inaugural cohort of brilliant early-stage HHMI investigators,” Dr. Huda Zoghbi, founding director of the Duncan NRI, distinguished service professor at Baylor College of Medicine, and an HHMI investigator, said. “With her proven research expertise and collaborative spirit, she is a perfect candidate for this award, who will not only advance the science but also nurture the next generation of young scientists from diverse backgrounds.”

The Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program represents a key component of HHMI’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Over the next 20 years, HHMI expects to hire and support up to 150 Freeman Hrabowski Scholars – appointing roughly 30 Scholars every other year for the next 10 years. The institute has committed up to $1.5 billion for the Freeman Hrabowski Scholars to be selected over the next decade.

HHMI named the program in honor of Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president emeritus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a major force in increasing the number of scientists, engineers and physicians from backgrounds underrepresented in science in the U.S. HHMI announced the launch of the Freeman Hrabowski Scholars program in May 2022.

For a full list of honorees click here.