New York, NY (July 10, 2024) — The Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024 Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowships, a unique grant program to train the next-generation of scientists with research expertise in Huntington’s disease (HD). The six awardees are all undergraduate students who will spend their summer working in the labs of established HD scientists.   

The 2024 Donald A. King Summer Research Fellows are: 

  • Alex De Almeida (University of Central Florida) will study the underlying biology of aggression in HD by comparing levels of genetic messages that control hormone production in the brains of aggressive and non-aggressive HD mice under the mentorship of Amber Southwell, PhD.  
  • Ana De Jesus (Columbia University) will work with HD mice to study a trash disposal system called autophagy that can remove clumps of harmful protein in the lab of Ai Yamamoto, PhD, with the support of Katherine Croce, PhD. She will look at the function of the system and whether it can be enhanced to clear away huntingtin.  
  • Kaleigh Hanley (University of Central Florida) will, under the mentorship of Amber Southwell, PhD, treat HD mouse models with a novel psychedelic drug that does not cause hallucinations to see whether it could have a positive effect on depression behaviors.  
  • Shai Lipkin (University of Central Florida) will work in the lab of Amber Southwell, PhD, to investigate the biology of HD inheritance in HD mice. They will study whether stress during pregnancy results in signs of neurodevelopmental disorders in the pups.   
  • Abby Matuszak (Marquette University) will work with a yeast model system to study how the huntingtin protein is shuttled by cells to areas where it can be better stored and broken down in the lab of Emily Sontag, PhD.  
  • Mariana Olivares-Cealy (Massachusetts General Hospital) will study different variants of a gene known to affect the age of onset of HD in the lab of Jim Gusella, PhD, and with support from Zachariah McLean, PhD. She will determine how multiple versions of this gene affect the length of CAG repeats in cells grown in a dish. 

The Donald A. King Fellowships serve two important purposes. First, to attract bright young scientists to Huntington’s disease research, and second, to facilitate meaningful HD research that clarifies the biological mechanisms underlying HD pathology. Huntington’s disease (HD) is a rare, hereditary neurodegenerative disorder currently affecting approximately 41,000 Americans symptomatically, with another 200,000 estimated to be at-risk. 

Applicants are evaluated by the quality of their personal academic achievements, mentoring plan, experimental design, and the feasibility of achieving their scientific goals in the short summer timeframe. This year, applications were reviewed by a panel of past and present HDSA Berman-Topper Family HD Career Development Fellows, a distinguished cohort of up-and-coming HD scientists who have received early career support from HDSA and the Berman and Topper families.  

 “The six 2024 Don King Fellows proposed to study a wide range of topics important to HD biology. This is the largest cohort in the program’s 12-year history,” added Dr. Arik Johnson, Chief Mission Officer at HDSA. “We look forward to seeing the outcome of their work and hope their interest in HD carries on throughout their careers!” 

HDSA established the Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowship program in 2005 in honor of Donald A. King who passed away suddenly in 2004.  Don was a tireless advocate for HD families and served as HDSA’s Chairman of the Board from 1999 to 2003. Click here to learn more about HDSA’s Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowship program. 


Huntington’s disease is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure. Every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faulty gene. Today, there are approximately 41,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease. 

The symptoms of HD are described as having ALS, Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s – simultaneously. 

The Huntington’s Disease Society of America is the premier nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of everyone affected by HD.  From community services and education to advocacy and research, HDSA is the world’s leader in providing help for today and hope for tomorrow for people with HD and their families. 

To learn more about Huntington’s disease and the work of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, visit www.hdsa.org or call (800)345-HDSA.