Pictured: Tristan Marchena (L) and Kidochukwu Atube (R)
College of Engineering and Computing students Kidochukwu Atube and Tristan Marchena were recognized with awards at last month’s University of South Carolina Office of International Student Services student graduate reception. The awards are presented annually to an undergraduate and graduate student in recognition of academic excellence, community engagement and leadership.
Atube and Marchena were nominated by Michael Gower, assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, whom they have worked alongside in the lab. “It has been an honor working with Kido and Tristan,” Gower says. “I'm impressed by their academic achievements and humbled by their service to our UofSC community. I look forward to—and hope for—continued collaboration with both of these scholars. Their tenacity and innovation are inspiring.”
Atube, a chemical engineering doctoral candidate, received the International Student Excellence Scholarship. He began his doctoral studies at UofSC in 2019. Atube’s emphasis of study is bioengineering and drug delivery, with a focus on developing novel bio-inspired drug delivery carriers to target and modulate macrophage function to facilitate muscle regeneration and the treatment of inflammatory diseases.
“It is an honor to be recognized for my academics and research,” Atube says. “My work in the Gower lab has given me so many opportunities for improvement, such as serving as a mentor to brilliant undergraduate students, which has allowed me to grow in my research and as a leader. I am very thankful to my advisor, Dr. Gower. The opportunity to learn and work in the lab with him has been such a blessing.”
Upon graduating in 2024, Atube hopes to return to his native Nigeria and pursue a career in academia by using what he has learned to develop novel drug delivery techniques to combat diseases, such as sickle cell anemia. “I hope to continue to make an impact in this area of research. This will be a huge asset to take back to my home country,” he says.
Marchena, a native of Aruba who graduated magna cum laude last week from the Honors College with his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, earned the International Student Achievement Award. During his time in Gower’s lab, he led an independent project investigating the effects of retinoids on muscle atrophy using in vitro models that he developed. In the fall, Marchena will pursue his master’s degree in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, where he will conduct research in cancer immunotherapies.
“I will be forever grateful for Dr. Gower’s mentorship,” Marchena says. “The opportunity to do research in his lab opened a lot of doors and provided me with unique critical thinking skills that will be invaluable in my career as a biomedical scientist and engineer.”
Marchena also received the Outstanding Senior Award, President’s Award and the Tau Beta Pi Fellowship, the most distinguished fellowship in engineering. “I believe these awards recognize the sacrifice and hard work I gave to my studies,” he says. “It is unusual for students in Aruba to pursue higher education in any other country besides the Netherlands due to limited funding opportunities. The decision to come to the United States was not an easy one, but I believed in myself and what UofSC has to offer.”
After completing his masters, Marchena will pursue an M.D./Ph.D in biomedical engineering. He eventually plans to return to Aruba to help improve the country’s health care system and increase opportunities in STEM education. “I hope that my accomplishments can serve as motivation for other students, especially international students, to believe in themselves and work hard,” Marchena says. “No matter where you come from, you can achieve whatever goal you set for yourself.”
The Office of International Student Services provides support to F-1 and J-1 visa holding students and their families, striving to be a welcoming space for international students with a focus on excellent customer service, genuine care and immigration expertise.