Amanda Nash, a second-year Ph.D. student in bioengineering at Rice University, has been awarded a 2020 Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) from the National Science Foundation. Nash is one of 21 students in the George R. Brown School of Engineering who received one this year.
The fellowship program recruits high-potential, early-career scientists and engineers and supports their graduate research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and the social sciences. It is part of NSF’s overall strategy to develop a globally engaged workforce to ensure the nation’s leadership in advancing research and innovation.
The program provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period: a $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution. The funds are intended for graduate study leading to a research-based master or doctoral degree in STEM.
Nash’s fellowship will fund her immunoengineering work in the laboratory of Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh. The focus of Nash’s research is development of a living drug delivery system that operates as a “switch” for unbalanced or malfunctioning immune systems.
“Studying bioengineering has provided me a deeper understanding of both the physiological and the engineering constraints that must be overcome in order to develop such a modular delivery system,” Nash said.
Switched “on,” the drug-delivery system delivers cytokine immunotherapies to stimulate the immune system to treat intraperitoneal cancers, such as ovarian and pancreatic. When the system is switched “off,” it delivers therapeutic molecules to repress the immune system for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
“Amanda quickly impressed me by her motivation to have an impact on patient lives through her cancer research project. She has come up with a transformative solution and is driving this project all the way to human trials,” Veiseh said. “Her creativity, dedication and passion are remarkable. She is a rising star in the field of cancer research.”
Nash joined the bioengineering Ph.D. program after graduating from the University of Houston in 2018 with a degree in biomedical engineering. Before starting classes at UH, she considered not attending college at all, yet approached her biomedical engineering classes with an open mind and a drive to excel. After a fellowship at the NYU School of Medicine in her junior year, Nash decided to pursue her Ph.D.
“You can do whatever you want to do if you try hard enough,” she said. “Anything that you’re even a little bit interested in is worth a shot.”
Amanda Nash is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice University.