Johns Hopkins University will be home to at least 21 new Graduate Research Fellows—outstanding students in science, technology, engineering, or math graduate programs who have been recognized by the National Science Foundation.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellows program is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind. Fellows receive three years of financial support in the form of an annual stipend of $34,000 and a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees paid to the institution. They have opportunities for international research and professional development, and have the freedom to conduct their own research.
This year, the NSF selected the 2,000 Graduate Research Fellows from 13,000 applicants from across the U.S.
"This unique program has nurtured economic innovation and leadership in the U.S. continuously since 1952—by recruiting and supporting outstanding students with high potential in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics very early in their graduate training," said Jim Lewis, the acting assistant director for education and human resources at the National Science Foundation. "These talented individuals have gone on to make important discoveries, win Nobel Prizes, train many generations of American scientists and engineers, and create inventions that improve our lives."
The 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellows who will conduct their research at Johns Hopkins are:
Brittany Avin, from Clemson University, is a PhD Candidate in the biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology graduate program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Brittany is a member of the lab of Christopher Umbricht and Martha Zeiger where she studies human telomerase reverse transcriptase regulation in thyroid cancer. Brittany's passion for cancer education and advocacy has led her to many volunteer opportunities with the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute dedicated to closing the communication gap between patients and scientists—a focus she hopes to pursue in her career.
Elana Ben-Akiva is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering. Elana currently works in the Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Lab of Jordan Green and the Bloomberg Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy under Drew Pardoll. Elana is interested in developing polymeric nanoparticles for gene delivery and biomimetic particles that harness the immune system to treat cancer.
Cody Call is a PhD candidate in neuroscience in Dwight Bergles' laboratory. Cody is interested in how the brain's glial cells modulate neural circuits in response to sensory experience. He aims to remain in academia by becoming a professor, while making neuroscience an approachable topic for the public through interactive K-12 programs.
Madeline Cassani, from San Francisco State University, is a first-year PhD candidate in the biochemistry, cellular, and molecular biology program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Previously, she did research on transposon activity in the Drosophila germline at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Soon she will join a lab and begin her thesis work.
Althea Cavanaugh, from Bowdoin College, is a second-year PhD student in the Neuroscience program. Althea works in David Foster's lab, where she studies the role of the hippocampus in spatial learning and navigation.
Rami Walid Chakroun is a PhD candidate at the Institute of NanoBioTechnology, working at Honggang Cui's lab. Rami aims to develop a drug-based supramolecular hydrogel, to be used for local brain tumor treatment. With great interest in teaching and research, Rami aspires to follow his dad's footsteps in becoming an academic professor.
Helen Clark is a graduate student in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. She is studying innate immune signaling dynamics using single cell analysis in the Regot lab.
Gregory Howard, from the University of Akron, is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering and a member of Hai-Quan Mao's lab where he is working at the intersection of immunology, materials science, and engineering. Greg's main focus is the development of scalable protein- and DNA-nanoparticle vaccine platforms for emerging pathogens and cancer. Outside of the lab, Greg is active in tutoring and community outreach programs. After graduate school, he aspires to teach and to lead the development and translation of medical technologies from bench to bedside.
Erez Krimsky is a senior graduating from Johns Hopkins with a degree in mechanical engineering. He has done research at the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute, the United States Army Research Lab, and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. Erez's research at Hopkins has centered on understanding how fractures form and propagate in ceramic armor material. In the fall he will begin a PhD in mechanical engineering with a focus in robotics.
Adam Li, a second year PhD student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, aims to create advanced data analytics for neurosurgeons that are treating epilepsy patients. Adam's research involves analyzing brain recordings as a networked system and characterizing network system characteristics to make predictions of the onset region in epilepsy. In addition to building clinical tools, he seeks to understand epilepsy and different clinical seizures through computational modeling at a whole-brain level. He is also an aspiring entrepreneur for healthcare technology and seeks to use data science to revolutionize the way we diagnose and treat patients.
Celia Litovsky, from the University of Rochester, is a PhD student in the Department of Cognitive Science. Celia's current research focuses on Bayesian modeling of visually guided reaching and visual perception in patient populations and healthy adults. She is also passionate about studying the cognition of reading and writing, and applies this research to volunteering with brain-injured illiterate adults. When not in the lab, Celia loves teaching science and math to prison inmates through the Johns Hopkins Jail Tutorial Project and the Goucher Prison Education Partnership.
David Maestas is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering. David currently works in the Translational Tissue Engineering Center in the laboratory of Jennifer Elisseeff. David's research and passion centers around regenerative medicine. His work seeks to investigate biomaterial interactions with the immune system and how both can be utilized to promote functional tissue regeneration after injury.
Denise Neibloom is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Denise currently works on the role of nanoparticles in spontaneous emulsification and how this phenomenon can be utilized to create complex materials for a variety of applications. She hopes to apply her work to the large-scale production of photovoltaics. Denise intends to use her background in materials development to help shape government policies on energy technology and the environment.
David Ottenheimer, from Yale University, is a PhD student in the neuroscience department. He works in the lab of Patricia Janak where he studies how neurons in the rat nucleus accumbens encode various features of rewarding substances. He is particularly interested in the concept of food addiction and hopes that his work will help elucidate the differences and similarities between the consumption of certain foods and drugs of abuse.
Jasmin Perez is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. She currently works in the Lab for Child Development, under the guidance of Feigenson and Halberda. Jasmin's research investigates the ways in which young learners develop and test hypotheses about the world around them. After completing her graduate work, Jasmin looks forward to joining her previous and current mentors as a colleague in developmental psychology.
Brian Ryu, from Johns Hopkins University, is a senior graduating with degrees in chemical and biomolecular engineering and applied mathematics and statistics. Brian has done research on hydrodynamic properties of biomimetic surfaces under professor Joelle Frechette. He has previously participated in an REU program at Georgia Institute of Technology and an internship at Genentech. In the fall, he will begin a PhD program in chemical engineering.
Pingdewinde Sam, nicknamed PSam, is a PhD student in cellular and molecular physiology originally from Burkina Faso. He graduated from San Francisco State University and is currently working to characterize functionally critical motifs in Phosphatidylserine decarboxylase 1 in the Claypool Lab. As an entrepreneur scientist, PSam has developed sustainable approaches to solve poverty and health related issues in his country. He is the founder of Teebo.org, an organization that is making long lasting impacts in West Africa, and co-founder of EDEN School.
Laura Scott, from Campbell University, is a PhD candidate in the cellular and molecular medicine program. She is a member of the lab of Ted Dawson, where she studies the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying Parkinson's disease, with a primary focus on mitochondrial dysfunction. When not in lab, she is involved in intramural volleyball leagues, training her new corgi puppy, and learning how to play the piano. She is currently exploring career interests in both academia and science communication.
Joshua Shubert is a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering and is part of the Photoacoustic and Ultrasonic Systems Engineering Lab, which is directed by Muyinatu Bell. He is working on developing autonomous robotic ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging systems to aid in radiation-free diagnostic and intraoperative imaging. Joshua says his goal is to combine autonomous imaging robots with autonomous surgical robots, thus creating an entirely autonomous surgical system in order to bring state of the art surgical practices to both resource limited and extreme environments.
Emily Wisniewski, from Northeastern University, is a PhD candidate in chemical and biomolecular engineering. She works in the lab of Konstantinos Konstantopoulos. Emily's current research aims to improve our understanding of cancer metastasis by elucidating mechanisms of confined cancer cell migration. After she completes graduate school, Emily aspires to become a leader in the biotechnology field and develop novel therapeutics for patients.
Hannah Zierden, from The Ohio State University, is a PhD candidate in chemical and biomolecular engineering. Working in the Center for Nanomedicine with Laura Ensign and Justin Hanes, Hannah is currently developing nanotechnology-based tools for the characterization and prevention of preterm birth. She studies physiological changes that occur during pregnancy as well as techniques for engineering therapeutic nanocarriers.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Graduate Research Fellows who will conduct their research at Johns Hopkins. Two of those included in our initial report have not officially decided where they will conduct their research. The Hub regrets the error.