The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has named Princeton postdoctoral researcher Linnea Lemma a 2023 Hanna Gray Fellow, supporting her research on internal components of cells that facilitate photosynthesis. 

The HHMI Hanna H. Gray Fellows Program supports researchers from underrepresented groups who have the potential to become academic leaders, providing each fellow with up to $1.5 million in over eight years. The support comes at a critical time in these scientists’ careers — the transition from student to postdoctoral researcher to principal investigator — often seen as a bottleneck in the academic pipeline. HHMI’s 2023 cohort of Hanna Gray fellows includes 25 scholars from 18 institutions.

At Princeton, Lemma is working in the labs of two HHMI Investigators: her adviser Martin Jonikas, associate professor of molecular biology, and Clifford Brangwynne, the June K. Wu ’92 Professor in Engineering and professor of chemical and biological engineering.

Lemma investigates the connection between living cells’ energy use and their internal organization. Specifically, she studies a part of algae cells called the pyrenoid that concentrates carbon dioxide to enhance the photosynthesis process. Scientists believe pyrenoids enhance plants’ efficiency in converting carbon dioxide from the air into sugar, thereby acting as an essential component of the global carbon cycle.

A physicist by training, Lemma came to Princeton in 2021 following her Ph.D. at Brandeis University and her undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University. She was jointly appointed to three labs: the Jonikas lab, the Brangwynne lab, and the lab of Ned Wingreen, the Howard A. Prior Professor in the Life Sciences and professor of molecular biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics.

At the new Omenn-Darling Bioengineering Institute at Princeton, Lemma is one of five inaugural Omenn-Darling Bioengineering Institute – Innovators (ODBI2) Distinguished Postdoctoral Scholars. Along with Lemma, the ODBI2 Scholars are Pedro de Souza, Long Nguyen, Pengfei Zhang and Hongbo Zhao.

ODBI is also the home of the Gilbert S. Omenn ’61 and Martha A. Darling *71 Fellowship program. The inaugural Omenn-Darling Fellows are Jaewan Jang, Sara Kacmoli, and Meisam Zaferani.


  • Clifford Brangwynne

Related Center

  • Six people in lab looking toward camera.

    Omenn-Darling Bioengineering Institute