Chemical and Biological Engineering PhD, 2013
Kevin is a graduating Ph.D. candidate majoring in Chemical and Biological Engineering and will be supported by the Whitaker Scholars Program as a Post-Doctoral researcher. His undergraduate and MS research was conducted in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Neuro-engineering. During his Ph.D., he has focused on single molecule biophysics and nanotechnology under MinJun Kim (Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics). During his Ph.D. he has worked on elucidating protein folding and binding kinetics within nanofluidic architectures. This research has applications in understanding disease progression as well as developing personalized diagnostic devices. The Whitaker grant was awarded to Kevin in order to develop next generation biosensors using DNA-Machine functionalized nanofabricated devices. This work will be conducted at Imperial College London jointly between Bioengineering and the Department of Chemistry. On campus, Kevin holds multiple leadership positions including those within the Graduate Student Association (GSA), Alumni Associations Grants Committee, and served as an international TA mentor and a Fulbright Mentor. After his Post-Doctoral research Kevin hopes to form his own research group, teach, start a small business, or form a non-profit organization to help resource-limited areas of the world.
I was informed of this fellowship opportunity just after the due date of the previous year and began planning my application at that moment so I would have a very strong application for the upcoming submission year. I think this long term planning was one key factor in my award. Good technical writing of the essays is one of the areas in which planning really made a difference. Second, the long term planning allowed me to participate in activities which helped satisfy the “Broader Impact” criteria of the GRFP. Giving back to your university and having interest in teaching or mentoring students is important. Lastly, having strong recommendation letters is extremely important and the GRFP does not set a limit on the number of letters that you can submit.
This award has done a number of amazing things for me and my research. The funding and recognition of this award makes this award very competitive. However, the NSF is interested in all types of research so I would encourage anyone doing research to apply after reading the NSF GRFP website to see if you are eligible. Initially, I was worried I was not eligible since I already had a Masters degree. Since it was through a BS/MS program, I was still eligible. Also, I would recommend applying when you’re a senior even if you do not know your exact research topic or graduate school. You are allowed to take the fellowship with you wherever you end up going for your graduate research.
My adviser informed me of this fellowship as well as another graduate student who received this same fellowship last year. This particular fellowship funds students working on nanotechnology related projects which I began working on only just recently under Min Jun Kim in Mechanical Engineering. Many of the other students who receive this fellowship are in Materials Engineering or a related field. Since this fellowship is strictly for UPenn and Drexel students, meetings, journal clubs, and other networking events are one of the advantages of this fellowship! The application process was fairly simple and if you have any questions, you can speak to the IGERT coordinator who is right on campus.