Seven current Rice students, including ChBE graduate students Jeron Chen and Quan Nguyen, have been named recipients of awards from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 2018 Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).
“Honestly, it is a great surprise, as only around 15 percent of the applicants are awarded every year,” said Nguyen. “I feel very fortunate, and excited at the same time, because with this award I will have more freedom to explore my research interests.”
The GRFP provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution). The support is intended for graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in science and engineering. 2,000 scholarships were awarded in 2018.
“I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with my wonderful advisor, Sibani Lisa Biswal. She gave me a lot of great tips for the application," Nguyen said.
Both students said they are excited to continue their research. Nguyen is currently looking into silicon as a high energy-density anode material for lithium-ion batteries, and Chen is currently working on using viruses for gene therapy in Dr. Junghae Suh’s lab.
“We give you DNA as medicine,” Chen said.
The group is working on targeted delivery of DNA to specific areas of the body that are in need of treatment. The virus is “locked,” so to speak, and is only unlocked when it comes into contact in the presence of a specific, upregulated enzyme.
“Every time there is this upregulation, our virus can go in, be activated and deliver DNA therapy to the specific cells needed,” he said.
Chen said he is passionate about the research he is doing, and about Rice.
“This area of study is very new, and a lot is still unknown,” he said. “It’s like the Wild West. It’s great to be able to use my chemical engineering perspective to solve a bioengineering problem.”
Other Rice students who are recipients of the 2018 NSF fellowships are listed below, along with their fields of study.
Ethan Perez, computer science
Grant Boggess, mechanical engineering
Weitong Chen, chemical and biomolecular engineering (ChBE)
Sarah Ann Hewes, bioengineering
Oscar Francisco Leong, computational and applied mathematics (CAAM)
Lorenzo Luzi, electrical and computer engineering
Quan Anh Nguyen, ChBE
Rice alumni at other schools who received NSF fellowships:
Justin Dong, ’14 CAAM/MECH, Brown University
Yamin Ishraq Arefeen, ’17 ECE, MIT
Sarah Kate Nyquist, ’16 computer science, MIT
Aaron Jeffrey Velasquez-Mao, ’17 BIOE, University of California at Berkeley
Kathleen Victoria Abadie, ’14 BIOE, University of Washington
Elisa Clark, ’15 BIOE, University of Washington
Matthew William Johnson, ’13 CS, University of Washington