A Record 15 BE Students Receive 2020 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

The Department of Bioengineering at Penn is incredibly proud of its fifteen current and future graduate student recipients of the 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP). This total surpasses last year’s record of twelve students. In addition, one current student was selected for honorable mention and one additional incoming student has been named a Fullbright Scholar.

The prestigious NSF GRFP program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported fields. Further information about the program can be found on the NSF website. BE is thrilled to congratulate our excellent students on these well-deserved accolades! Continue reading below for a list of 2020 recipients and descriptions of their research.

Current Students:

William Benman

William Benman is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, Lukasz Bugaj. His work in the Bugaj lab focuses on developing novel optogenetic tools to control and study cell function.

Paul Gehret

Paul Gehret is a Ph.D. student and Ashton Fellow in the lab of Riccardo Gottardi, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine. Paul works on pediatric cartilage and airway tissue engineering for children with subglottic stenosis. He and his team apply classic tissue engineering principles to the airway.

Rebecca Haley

Rebecca Haley is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Michael J. Mitchell, Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in Bioengineering. Her current project aims to use polymer and/or lipid nanoparticles for the intracellular delivery of proteins. Successful delivery of proteins (such as antibodies) in this fashion may allow for targeting of previously undruggable intracellular targets.

Patrick John Mulcahey

Patrick John Mulcahey is a Research Assistant and Graduate Student in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Epilepsy Research Lab of Douglas A. Coulter, Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine. His work focuses on developing techniques that combine electrophysiology with two-photon excitation microscopy to study a potential biomarker of the seizure onset zone in models of drug-refractory epilepsy.

Catherine Porter

Catherine Porter is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Alex J. Hughes, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering. She is working on developing high-throughput methods to produce and characterize human-cell-derived kidney organoids for disease modeling and genetic screening. Currently, she is focused on engineering physicochemical control to improve organoid homogeneity.

Sarah Shepherd

Sarah Shepherd is a Ph.D. student who is co-advised in the Michael J. Mitchell lab and the lab of David Issadore, Associate Professor of Bioengineering and Electrical and Systems Engineering (ESE). Her research aims to combine microfabrication with biomaterial design of lipid nanoparticles to address major shortcomings in the field of nanomedicine. Currently, she is prototyping a scale-up microfluidic device to produce lipid nanoparticles for gene therapy.

Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Dennis E. Discher, Robert D. Bent Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE), Bioengineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM). His current research examines phenomena leading to mechano-induced genomic variation in multiple cell subtypes. Through better understanding of characteristic pathways and subsequent cell responses, he hopes to improve treatments for malignant solid tumors.

John Viola, a Ph.D. student in the Hughes lab, was listed as an honorable mention.

Incoming Students:

Additionally, eight NSF GRFP honorees from other institutions will be joining our department in the fall of 2020. We congratulate them as well and look forward to welcoming them to Penn:

Finally, incoming Ph.D. student Dora Racca was awarded a Fullbright Scholarship. Dora will will have rotations in the BIOLines Laboratory of Dongeun (Dan) Huh, Associate Professor of Bioengineering and the McKay Orthopaedic Research Laboratory of Robert Mauck, Mary Black Ralston Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Professor of Bioengineering.

We would like to send congratulations once again to all our current and future graduate students on another year of outstanding research!