Biobehavioral health student receives predoctoral Ford Foundation Fellowship

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Francisco Alejandro "Alex" Montiel-Ishino, a predoctoral student in Penn State’s Department of Biobehavioral Health, is a recipient of a 2014 Ford Fellowship by the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program.

In 2014, the Ford Fellowship program has awarded approximately 60 predoctoral fellowships. The predoctoral fellowships provide three years of support for individuals engaged in graduate study leading to a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or doctor of science (Sc.D.) degree. Predoctoral fellowships will be awarded in a national competition administered by the National Research Council on behalf of the Ford Foundation. The awards will be made to individuals who, in the judgment of the review panels, have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.

Montiel-Ishino’s fellowship was awarded for his idea concerning Paraoxonase 1 (PON1). The project is titled, “PON1 gene expression feasibility study in Mexican migrant farmworker children exposed to organophosphate pesticides: The embodiment of environmental insults and social injustice.”

PON1 is a gene in humans that when expressed aids in the detoxification of organophosphates and similarly derived pesticides. Although helpful, this gene is associated with numerous chronic noncommunicable diseases. The limited human studies in clinical settings have found that children by age 7 expressed PON1 at rates of adults. A complex systems model will be used to integrate behavioral and environmental factors that account for PON1 expression in the ecological context of Mexican migrant farmworker families. The proposed research will be conducted in naturalistic settings.

Through its Fellowship Programs, the Ford Foundation seeks to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing their ethnic and racial diversity, to maximize the educational benefits of diversity, and to increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students. For more information about the Ford Fellowship, visit

For more information about BBH at Penn State, visit

Last Updated September 22, 2014