The Ferrante Postdoctoral Fellowship was established to recognize and pay tribute to Massachusetts State Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante for her longstanding commitment to the advancement of the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute (GMGI). Few others have been as fundamental to GMGI’s current success – and trajectory of future achievement – than Ann- Margaret. From her position as a respected state leader and community advocate, Ann-Margaret encouraged our establishment as a not-for-profit, championed the building of our flagship institute on Gloucester’s historic waterfront, and above all else has become a true friend of GMGI.
This prestigious postdoctoral fellowship will attract an early career scientist who recently graduated from a Ph.D. program for a 1-3 year appointment at GMGI. They will bring a passion for marine genomics and help catapult GMGI research to new levels.
Thanks to the generosity of individual donors, the Fellowship was launched in 2022 and Kate Castellano, Ph.D. was selected as the 2023 Ferrante Fellow.
I was always inquisitive about how the world works, and my dad is a scientist who encouraged me to explore and be curious. I originally thought I would be a teacher, but after taking a course that gave me the opportunity to snorkel on a coral reef, I wanted to learn everything I could about the ocean. It was in college that I discovered my love of genetics. While other students were falling asleep during our 8am class, I was on the edge of my seat soaking in the potential of genetics for expanding our understanding of marine organisms.
Innovative spirit: Scientists at GMGI are positioned to make discoveries and apply them to real-world problems facing the ocean, fisheries, and human health.
Next-generation thinking: Recently minted Ph.D.s bring the latest in scientific understanding and cutting-edge techniques to GMGI.
Science Advances: Early career scientists play a critical role in the pursuit of new marine genomic discoveries and contribute to GMGI’s peer-reviewed scientific articles.
Role models: GMGI’s scientists arenmentors to Gloucester Biotechnology Academy students, guiding them on their journey toward new careers in biotech.
Science Community: In the burgeoning field of genomics, our scientists have incredible opportunities for impact and contribute to the global science community. Cape Ann Community: GMGI is attracting a new generation of young ocean-centric scientists who live, work, and thrive on Cape Ann.
While completing my Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, I worked in a genomics lab as the only graduate student focused on marine organisms. Later, when looking for a postdoc position, GMGI stood out. Other research organizations focused on either environmental or biomedical research, but GMGI combines the two to address how marine genomics can have an impact on both the environment and human health. It was clear that GMGI would allow me to use the new tools I learned in graduate school to answer fascinating questions such as why some marine animals live for hundreds of years and how humans can live healthier lives.
My research focuses on developing sea urchins as models for understanding the mechanisms behind healthy aging. To do so, I helped to establish the first ever cultured cell lines for sea urchins, which adds a new and very important tool that can be used by the global science community. Cell cultures allow us to better study specific mechanisms of an organism at the cellular level – underpinning major scientific research from cancer to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
I am using a comparative approach to analyze the genomes of short and longlived urchins to identify genes and pathways required for healthy aging. Sea urchins are a great model for this because some urchins have short life spans (less than three years) while others have very long life spans (greater than 100 years). The long-lived red sea urchin, Mesocentrotus franciscanus, is my focus because this species lives more than 100 years, is reproductively active throughout its life span and has shown little to no signs of cancer. Because sea urchins share a close genetic relationship with humans, this might lead to discoveries that can support healthier aging in humans.
I’ve had the opportunity to supervise an Academy intern, Reanna, which has been really fun! I have always enjoyed mentoring young scientists in the lab so having the opportunity to continue this work at GMGI has been very rewarding. Reanna is now a full-time employee at GMGI.
I’ve been very fortunate to get to know Ann-Margaret Ferrante and it’s really a great honor to be named a Ferrante Fellow. She has given so much to the community in Gloucester and to GMGI, so I feel like my work furthers her legacy of making Gloucester a great place to live and flourish.