May 16, 2013

ASU engineering students win major graduate fellowships

Posted: May 16, 2013
Teagan Adamson receiving master's degree
Dean Paul Johnson congratulates Teagan Adamson at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering convocation ceremony. Adamson received her master’s in biomedical engineering in December 2012. She recently won a Fulbright Scholarship and a Whitaker Fellowship to pursue advanced studies and research abroad.
Photo by: Jessica Slater/ASU
Teagan Adamson FURI research exhibit
Teagan Adamson presents her work in multimarker diabetes management research to faculty mentor Jeff La Belle at the culmination of her senior capstone design project.
Photo by: Jessica Slater/ASU

Students in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering are again among those who have been awarded some of the most prestigious fellowships to support graduate studies and advanced research.

The fellowships from both public and private sources are sought after by thousands of top students from the most prominent colleges and universities throughout the country.

Teagan Adamson will be pursuing her goal to aid the battle against cancer with support from two of the most prominent organizations dedicated to advancing the careers of young researchers.

Adamson, who has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering at Arizona State University, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship as well as a Whitaker Fellowship. She plans to use the funding the awards provide to do research at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBS) at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica.

Funded by the Institute of International Education, the Fulbright and Whitaker programs seek to promote international relations and cross-cultural collaborations among scholars and researchers.

The Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars Program sends promising young biomedical engineering and bioengineering researchers from the United States overseas to advance their careers as well as promote the professions on an international level.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards grants to students and young professionals in a broad range of fields throughout more than 150 countries, seeking to unite scholars and researchers from various cultures and backgrounds who are seeking solutions to global societal challenges.

Adamson, a student in ASU’s Barrett, The Honor College, as an undergraduate, began making strides in her research efforts by assisting faculty members in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

With support from the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, she worked for two years in the lab of assistant professor of bioengineering Jeffrey LaBelle. She helped advance research for the development of a new electrochemical diabetes monitoring meter, a technology that could be developed for use in detecting other diseases.

As a result of her contribution, she and a fellow member of the Multiplexed Diabetes Management research team were selected to present their work at the 2nd World Congress on Diabetes & Metabolism in Philadelphia in 2011.

“We were the only undergraduates to speak at this conference,” where the audience was a group of physicians and PhD’s “who were all experts in their fields,” Adamson recalls. “It was really intimidating but it was also a lot of fun.”

In 2012, she was the lead author of an article based on her undergraduate research that was published in the research journal Analyst. The report became the basis for the master’s thesis she completed later that year.

Around that time Adamson decided not to pursue her doctorate and instead to focus her future plans on post-graduate research. She began searching for work and institutions offering opportunities to pursue advances in personalized medicine, specifically cancer therapeutics.

"I am going to use the unique antibodies developed in the IBS lab as a platform to engineer new bi-functional molecules," she explains.

The function of these molecules will be to bind with polyethylene glycol, a polymer found in most pharmaceuticals and also with commonly found receptors on the surface of cancer cells.

By producing molecules with these antibodies, Adamson and the IBS research team will seek to enhance medicine containing polyethylene glycol, specifically targeting it to cancer cells.

"This biomedical advancement would reduce the effects of normal tissues being exposed to the anti-cancer medicines, which as we know has really bad side effects,” she says. With further research, the antibodies could be tailored to individual types of cancer cells.

Even with, securing a position at the IBS lab, support from a Fulbright Scholarship was not a certainty.

"For the Fulbright program, the number of people who will be accepted [to do research in any particular country] varies from country to country, and for Taiwan only 10 people were selected to do research there," Adamson says.

Her academic record and research experience proved impressive enough to earn her a dual fellowship through which the Fulbright and Whitaker programs will share funding of her research, travel and cost-of-living expenses for a year, beginning this fall.

The fellowship will also support Adamson as she continues studies in Taiwan. She will be doing coursework in molecular medicine at IBS and also taking classes in Mandarin.

"I did my minor in Chinese, and since I’m going to be in the country I might as well study a little bit more," she says.

With family members in medical and engineering fields, Adamson's study of biomedical engineering as well as the Chinese language seemed pre-determined. Her family had some roots in East Asian culture.  Her grandparents lived in Taiwan. Her grandfather was an endocrinologist there and and her father grew up there.

Through a high school program, Adamson studied Chinese and came to embrace the culture, while at the same time developing a deep interest in engineering, technology and science.

"These life experiences of Chinese culture, along with exposure to medicine and engineering through my grandfather, a physician, and my brother-in-law, an aerospace engineer, eventually led me to Arizona State University," Adamson says.

Through the cultural experience she will get in Taiwan and the involvement in advanced research to improve cancer treatment, Adamson says she hopes to enhance her marketability for other research positions in the future.

Gaining an international perspective on the biomedical research field will enable her to collaborate effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and those who have varied skills sets, she says.

As an undergrad at ASU, Adamson was active outside of the classroom and the lab. She was a member of the Engineering Student Council and the student organization representative for the Theta Tau engineering fraternity, as well as the fraternity’s vice president of public relations. She also served as a senator representing the engineering schools in the Undergraduate Student Government.

During her graduate semester, Adamson founded the Biomedical Engineering Adventure Movement (BAM!), a club that promotes social and professional networking among biomedical engineers and students through seminars and other events.

She also founded and served as director of outreach for the Students for the Outreach of Diabetes Awareness (SODA). The group provides screening of diabetes to at-risk populations and leads educational seminars on the topic.

Adamson’s hometown is Chandler. She graduated from Horizon Honors High School, an extension of Horizon Community Learning Center.

Nathan Gaw has won a graduate fellowship from Tau Beta Pi, The Engineering Honor Society. He will use it to complete work for a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at ASU.

He’ll do research with the director of the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, focusing on upper-limb cognitive neuroscience. His goal will be to create a control model of the upper-limb neuromuscular system for use in education and in programming prosthetics that better emulate human motion.

A student in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, as an undergraduate he assisted in research in the Neural Control of Movement Laboratory, the ASU-Mayo Clinic Radiology Informatics Laboratory and the Spinal Biomechanics Laboratory at the Barrow Neurological Institute.

Gaw did research at ASU through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative. He recently won a first-place award from the Phoenix section of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers for the best student research paper and presentation, plus the second-place award in the Southwest Region stage of the competition.

Gaw served as a representative to industry for the ASU chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

He was the featured student speaker at this year’s spring semester Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering graduation ceremonies.

He graduated from Chaparral High School in his hometown of Scottsdale.

Thao Ngo will use a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue a doctoral degree in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champagne.

As an undergraduate, Ngo won scholarships from the ASU Parents Association (now the Sun Devil Family Association) and the Collaborative Interdisciplinary Research Community, among others.

She conducted research at ASU with support from the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative and a NASA Space Grant internship. She participated in summer projects at the University of Kentucky and Kansas State University through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program supported by the National Science Foundation.

She has been working in the lab of ASU chemical engineering program chair Lenore Dai for the past three years.
That research has included work on recycling of electronic circuit boards catalysts for energy systems, and applications of nanoparticles.

Ngo hopes to go into a field in which she can apply her chemical engineering expertise to developing new energy sources and technologies.

She served as an undergraduate teaching assistant in engineering courses and a mentor for ASU’s Motivated Engineering Transfer Student program.

A native of Vietnam, Ngo’s family moved to Sierra Vista, Ariz., more than seven years ago. She graduated from Buena High school in Sierra Vista.

Justin Echols has won a National Science Foundation Research Fellowship to support his studies toward a doctoral degree in electrical engineering.

He was awarded his bachelor’s degree this spring semester and will begin doctoral studies at ASU in the fall with his graduate studies adviser Armando Rodriquez, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

Echols will focus on research on control systems – flight control in general and specifically control of hypersonic vehicles.

During his undergrad years, he did an internship in electrical engineering research with the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. His project involved examining the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation (sending certain signals into the brain) in reducing seizures in epileptic rats. The goal was to develop a micro-electronic control system that predicts and prevents seizures.

During his undergrad years, Echols worked in the Engineering Tutoring Center, assisting students with theoretical and applied mathematics, physics and engineering concepts.

Echols attended Mountain View High School in his hometown of Mesa.

Janet Reyna will continue work to earn a doctoral degree in civil, environmental and sustainable engineering at ASU with support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Her studies and research will focus on urban sustainability under direction of her adviser Mikhail Chester, an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

She received her master’s degree in the field at ASU this spring after earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University in 2011 – with minors in French, environmental and ecological engineering,  and in global engineering studies.

Her research includes a team project to develop urban infrastructure and energy sustainability assessments for the city of Los Angeles.

She has done a study of transit-oriented development in metropolitan Phoenix to develop strategies for mitigating negative environmental and human health impacts as the urban area continues to develop.

Other research projects involve developing improved assessments of air quality in Phoenix and the surrounding region and work with the Central Arizona Planning Long-Term Ecological Research project (CAP-LTER) to assess the impacts of the building infrastructure in Phoenix on area’s ecosystems.

Another ongoing study focuses on assessing the environmental and energy impacts of water-usage patterns and building infrastructure in the Phoenix area.

Her research has earned grants from the CAP-LTER and the national Air and Waste Management Association.

Reyna’s studies abroad have taken her to France, China and Turkey. She is a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Pi Tau Sigma (Mechanical Engineering Honors Fraternity), Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honor Society) and the Society of Women Engineers.

Reyna is from Oklahoma, where she grew up in Tulsa and graduated from Jenks High School.

Michael Thompson will continue to pursue a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering at ASU with support from a GEM Fellowship. He earned his bachelor’s degree in the field at ASU in 2012.

GEM is the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science (GEM), a non-profit consortium of universities and major corporations.

Thompson’s research focus is on modeling, analysis, control and design of micro scale/nanoscale air vehicles, which are expected to be critical to development of the next generations of mobile sensing, intelligence gathering, defense and military technologies.

His research advisors are Armando Rodriguez and Kyle Squires, professors in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

During his undergrad years, Thompson did an internship with Intel Corp. and completed more than 20 specialized training courses at the company in manufacturing-related specialties.

He will do an internship this summer with Ford Motor Co. in Michigan, working on computational fluid dynamics.

He was awarded the 2012 Vertical Flight Engineering Scholarship from the American Helicopter Society and made a presentation at the National Science Foundation Engineering Education Awards Conference.

Alongside doctoral students at ASU he was the only undergraduate from the university to make a presentation at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics.

Thompson has made a patent submission for a discovery in drag reduction in computational fluid dynamics – a result of work he did in the summer of 2011 at the University of Alabama as part of the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates.

During the past year, he was the academic director for the ASU chapter of Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers for ASU.

He also worked with the president of the Arizona Alliance of Black School Educators to develop and implement an educational outreach program called STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics program).

The STEAM Enrichment Program works with traditionally underserved youth to expose them to the STEAM fields through hands-on learning activities, and to promote their interest in pursuing careers in these areas.

Thompson was an active member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and before enrolling at ASU was vice president of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Club at Glendale Community College.

He grew up in Phoenix and graduated from Greenway High School.

Jennie Appel will continue studies to earn a doctoral degree in electrical engineering at ASU with the aid of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in the field in 2011 from Auburn University in Alabama. The same year she came to ASU as a research associate. Since then, she has won the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Fellowship Award and the Fulton Fellowship Award.

While still an undergraduate at Auburn, she spent a summer at ASU participating in the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) Research Experience. There she worked with Junseok Chae, an associate professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

The project helped convince her to pursue graduate studies at ASU. Chae is now her graduate studies and research adviser.

Appel’s research focuses on micro electro-mechanical systems, and using them to design and build sensors for devices that can detect signs of diseases or other health problems or improve detection of environmental hazards.

During her undergraduate years, her industry experience included a series of internships with the Southern Nuclear Company Plant in Augusta, Ga., from 2007 through 2009.

Appel is a member of Tau Beta Pi, The Engineering Honor Society. She is also a mentor for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization.

She graduated from Auburn High school in Auburn, Ala.

Jacelyn Rice won a graduate fellowship supported by the National Science Foundation through ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City. She will use it to complete studies for a doctoral degree in environmental engineering.

Rice earned a master’s degree in the field from ASU in 2011, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in engineering in 2007 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she served a stint as vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers.

She has worked as an assistant civil engineer at Kimley-Horn and Associates, a land development intern for Pardee Homes, and a planner and maintenance engineering intern for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Her research focuses on water quality and treatment, disinfection byproducts, wastewater reuse and energy usage related to water systems and infrastructure.

To support her graduate studies, Rice has also won GK-12 Graduate Fellowship from ASU funded by the National Science Foundation and a Diversity Across Curriculum Fellowship from the ASU Graduate College.

Rice grew up primarily in Georgia and Florida and graduated from Mojave High School in Las Vegas.

Eric C. Stevens will pursue a doctoral degree in chemical engineering with support from a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

He plans to focus on studies and research in renewable and alternative energy at North Carolina State University.

Stevens is the 2013 Outstanding Graduate from ASU’s chemical engineer program, graduating summa cum laude.

As undergraduate at ASU, he conducted research with support of an ASU/NASA Space Grant and the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI), working with the chair of the chemical engineering program, Lenore Dai. He also worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for a Department of Energy summer research program.

He earned his bachelor’s degree with support from awards, scholarships and grants from the Provost Scholarship, the Moeur Award, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honorary Society, the ASU/NASA Space Grant and FURI, among others.

Stevens served one-year terms as secretary and vice president of the ASU chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, was a lead counselor for ASU’s Summer Engineering Experience, and served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for three chemical engineering courses.

With faculty advisors Lenore Dai and Hanqing Jiang, and fellow doctoral students, he co-authored a peer-reviewed journal article and presented his research at professional conferences and research symposia.

Stevens hopes to continue his research on renewable and alternative energy in a scientist position at a national government laboratory.

He graduated from Horizon High School in his hometown of Scottsdale.

Written by Joe Kullman and Natalie Pierce

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Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering