New Grant to Fund Nanobiotechnology Graduate Fellowships

By Mark Dwortzan

GAANN fellowships will support ENG PhD students focused on the use of nanostructures to study biological processes and advance healthcare solutions. (Image courtesy of Lab on a Chip.)
GAANN fellowships will support ENG PhD students focused on the use of nanostructures to study biological processes and advance healthcare solutions. (Image courtesy of Lab on a Chip.)

The College of Engineering has received a highly competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will provide fellowships to outstanding Biomedical Engineering or Electrical and Computer Engineering PhD students seeking to focus on nanobiotechnology. Fellows will receive a $30,000 stipend for one to two years to pursue academic studies and research in this field, which is well-represented at Boston University through its Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology (CNN).

Offered by the Department of Education’s Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Program, the grant enables graduate students with financial need to obtain high quality training in disciplines recognized as critical areas of national need.

“Nanobiotechnology addresses key elements of next-generation clinical applications, information industries and communications, and will be essential to national competitiveness, personalized medicine, security and innovation in a flat world,” said Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE), ENG associate dean for research and graduate programs. “The GAANN grant will enable BU to train eight to 10 additional PhDs in this emerging field.”   

Over the next three academic years, at least eight ENG doctoral students will participate in the GAANN fellowship program. Fellows will develop their teaching skills through mentored classroom and laboratory teaching assignments, and independent research abilities through interdisciplinary classes and faculty-directed research activities. They’ll also be prepared for leadership roles in the technology transfer and commercialization of nanobiotechnology.

Coursework will include a nanobiotechnology seminar, a Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) teaching methods course, and interdisciplinary courses in photonics and other nanobiotechnology specializations. Teaching experiences will consist of training and practice in delivering content; service as a mentor and role model in urban high schools; and teaching and directing laboratories for BU undergraduate students. GAANN fellows will also complete two laboratory internships in nanobiotechnology with CNN faculty. Over the past year, the CNN has led a campus-wide initiative in nanomedicine, providing seed grants to interdisciplinary teams of science, engineering and medical school faculty.

“Through their interactions with a broad range of scientists, engineers and medical researchers and immersion in real-world teaching environments, our GAANN fellows should emerge well-positioned to assume leadership roles in nanobiotechnology in academia, government or industry,” said Ünlü.

GAANN fellows will formally enroll as ECE or BME majors while pursuing interdisciplinary study through the CNN. To qualify, students must be U.S. citizens, complete a qualifying exam in ECE or Physics, maintain a grade point average that’s above 3.5 and demonstrate financial need. At least one-third of the GAANN fellows will be recruited from traditionally underrepresented groups.

Nearly all College of Engineering PhD students participate in external or College-based funded programs. The new GAANN program adds to the number of external fellowships now available to ENG graduate students, which include NIH training grants in Biomaterials and Quantitative Biology and Physiology, and BU/CIMIT Healthcare Engineering fellowships. The College of Engineering also directly funds about 250 Research Assistantships, 20 Dean’s Fellowships and 56 Graduate Teaching Fellowships to incoming students. ENG departments offer additional fellowships to incoming and continuing students.


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