Two Jewell Lab Researchers Receive 2023 Outstanding Graduate Student Awards
This spring, Shrey Shah and Haleigh Eppler, student researchers at the Fischell Department of Bioengineering’s (BIOE) Jewell Research Lab, earned Outstanding Graduate Student awards for their respective departments.
Shrey Shah is a BIOE Ph.D. student. He was inspired to attend the University of Maryland (UMD) because of the exceptional research conducted by faculty in BIOE, particularly in the field of biomaterials. He was especially drawn to the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices for its work on translating scientific discoveries into practical solutions that can help people.
Shah's current research is focused on developing microneedle arrays (MNAs). These micron-sized needles deliver cargo to specialized immune cells in the dermal skin layers, offering the potential for precision modulation of a unique skin/immune niche of solving challenges associated with current vaccines and immunotherapies. His current interest is twofold: first, using MNAs as tools to understand the underlying immune mechanisms in the skin; and second, using MNAs as a platform to modulate these underlying immune mechanisms to better vaccines and immunotherapies.
Shah noted that the Jewell Lab's environment is very welcoming and inclusive. Chris Jewel, head of Jewell Lab and MPower and Minta Martin Professor in BIOE, is an excellent mentor who provides opportunities to support both the research and personal goals of his lab members.
"I feel honored and humbled to be awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Award," Shah said. He conveyed that this accomplishment has helped contribute to other achievements, including the publication of several articles and collaborations with UMD’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.
Their creativity and intellect have allowed them to propel their work forward in a way that contributes to new immunological understanding and to new tools for others in the lab. The recognition is a testament to the quality of work being conducted by trainees in multiple disciplines and departments.
This summer, Shah will participate in a UMD Graduate Student Summer Research Fellowship. After graduation, Shah is determined to use his knowledge and skills to develop new biomaterial-based strategies and technologies to better vaccines and immunotherapies for improving lives.
Haleigh Eppler, a recent cell biology and molecular genetics Ph.D. candidate, was always interested in working in the Jewell Lab when she applied as a rotation student. Eppler's current work involves understanding how our body can differentiate between itself and other organisms. She likes that biology is like a puzzle; if you try the right combination, you can learn something new.
"Working in the Jewell Lab is great. I am surrounded by coworkers who constantly challenge me to be my best," she said. Eppler is also an NIH F31 Doctoral Fellow. She noted that even though she had not felt confident in her ability to receive an F31 fellowship, it had worked out with support and encouragement from her labmates.
On receiving the Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Eppler said, "It feels very humbling to have the hard work I have put into my degree be recognized. I try to maintain a positive attitude and take a lot of chances applying for different funding opportunities and awards."
On May 15th, Eppler successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis and joined the ranks as the Jewell Lab’s tenth Ph.D. graduate. Following graduation, Eppler would like to become a Principal Investigator somewhere similar to UMD.
Chris Jewell said that it is a pleasure to have outstanding scientists and engineers like Eppler and Shah in the lab. "Their creativity and intellect have allowed them to propel their work forward in a way that contributes to new immunological understanding and to new tools for others in the lab," he said. "The recognition is a testament to the quality of work being conducted by trainees in multiple disciplines and departments— I’m super proud of them!"
Published May 25, 2023