The Gift of Intellectual Freedom

In Feng Zhang’s Laboratory at MIT’S McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Broad Institute, members “share a sense of excitement and urgency,” says Omar Abudayyeh ’12, an MD/PhD student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. That’s because they are propelled by a common purpose: expanding the toolkit for manipulating genes in eukaryotic cells, and engineering genes in order to understand, treat, and cure some of our most intractable diseases and disorders.

Among the honors and fellowships that have fueled Abudayyeh’s graduate education and research is the 2015 Friends of the McGovern Institute Fellowship, which represents the collective power of numerous MIT supporters to champion the potential of a promising scientist. Abudayyeh explains that when he received that fellowship, “I was working on methods for applying CRISPR technology to target sequences of RNA. Because the fellowship covered my tuition and stipend, I had the freedom in the lab to explore different types of experiments, and maybe tackle bigger questions than I normally would. It gave me intellectual freedom, because I didn’t have to think about my budget all the time.”