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Molinaroli College of Engineering and Computing

  • 2023 Koerner Family Foundation Fellows

Five graduate students awarded Koerner Family Foundation Fellowships

Pictured: Front (L-R): Aaron Horwood, Candice Cheung, Mihyun (Jane) Waugh
Back (L-R): Mitchell Sepe, Kyle George

The College of Engineering and Computing (CEC) is proud to announce that five doctoral candidates have been selected as 2023 Koerner Family Foundation Fellows. Each Fellow will receive $12,000 toward their research and other educational expenses. The recipients represent biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and nuclear engineering programs. 

Established in 2001, the Koerner Family Foundation (KFF) Fellows program provides graduate fellowships to students in various disciplines of engineering at selected universities. The students must be U.S. citizens, have successfully passed their candidacy exams leading to a doctoral degree and expressed an interest in a research career within academia, industry, or government in the U.S. 

“The Koerner Family Foundation has a rich history of supporting engineering doctoral students, and they recognize that great engineering leaders and their achievements played a huge role in making America a great nation,” says Michael Matthews, CEC associate vice president for research. “The fact that the College of Engineering and Computing has five awardees is a testament both to the caliber of these promising individuals and the quality and significance of their work to America.”

The five Koerner Family Foundation Fellows are:

Candice Cheung
Biomedical Engineering
Faculty Mentor:  Michael Gower, associate professor, chemical and biomedical engineering

Cheung developed drug-loaded biomaterial therapies to accelerate recovery after muscle atrophy. The results of her microparticles increased muscle fiber size in cast-atrophied mice compared to saline control. Cheung is also investigating whether these particles will be helpful in different populations, such as in obese and aged mice that have undergone atrophy.

I've had quite a few medical issues this past year and receiving the KFF over this past year has allowed me to continue to pursue my degree. I wouldn't have been able to afford my medical bills without the KFF, and I am incredibly grateful to be able to continue to pursue a career in science and engineering.

- Candice Cheung

Mihyun (Jane) Waugh 
Biomedical Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Melissa Moss, professor, and Chair, Department of Chemical Engineering

Waugh has studied the effect of peptoids (class of biochemicals) as therapeutics against Receptor for Advanced Glycation Endproducts (RAGE)-associated neuroinflammation in Alzheimer's disease. She is also investigating machine learning models to predict mesh-associated surgical outcome using a combination of blood cytokine levels and medical record data. 

I am very honored and proud to be recognized as a Koerner Family Foundation Fellow. The foundation’s recognition of my work serves as great encouragement to its completion. As I carry out the final year of my doctoral studies, I look forward to sharing the effects this generous fellowship has had on me and to encourage other engineers to pursue graduate degrees.  

- Mihyun (Jane) Waugh 

Kyle George
Chemical Engineering 
Faculty Mentor: Monirosadat Sadati, assistant professor, chemical engineering 

George’s research focuses on directing the self-assembly process in liquid crystalline polymer systems by using the precisely controlled shear forces offered by extrusion-based 3D printing to achieve novel photonic materials. Using a thorough understanding of the system's rheological (study of the flow of matter) behavior, printing parameters that correlate with unique states of the underlying nanostructure can be implemented in the printing process to enhance or modulate the printed object’s optical properties.

I am truly grateful to have received the Koerner Family Fellowship. This recognition not only acknowledges the strides I've taken in my research but also identifies me as a potential source of inspiration for the upcoming generation of engineers in the U.S. The generous financial support from the Koerner family has alleviated the financial burdens linked with graduate school, considerably easing stress and enhancing my overall quality of life. This support has not only positively impacted my personal life but has also significantly elevated the quality of my work.

- Kyle George

Mitchell Sepe 
Chemical Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Sirivatch Shimpalee, research professor, chemical engineering

Sepe utilizes mathematical modeling to predict transport in porous media for fuel cells and electrolyzers. His specific interests lie in the gas diffusion layer for fuel cells and porous transport layer for electrolyzers, both key components in these technologies. He is currently investigating two-phase transport through bilayer porous layers to assess if a combination of pore structures can enhance the efficiency of oxygen evolution. Results from this work aim to provide insight for the advancement of fuel cells and electrolyzers as a viable option for sustainable power generation.

The Koerner Family Foundation Fellowship fosters research to improve engineering knowledge and practice. Support from this award will permit more extensive laboratory testing and simulation of my nature inspired research.

- Mitchell Sepe

Aaron Horwood 
Nuclear Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Travis Knight, Chair and Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering; program director, nuclear engineering graduate program 

Horwood’s research focuses on the use cases of transportable nuclear power for the Department of Defense, disaster relief and commercial use. This includes policy work, modeling of the unique aspects of transportable reactors, and creating a dynamic probabilistic risk assessment and optimization tool looking at how mobility affects energy networks. His work is in partnership with the University of South Carolina, Idaho National Laboratory, and the nuclear power branch of the Office of the Chief of Engineers. 

This fellowship helped my family significantly throughout the year to cover my daughter's health insurance and cover several unexpected vehicle and home repairs. I am extremely grateful for the Koerner family's generosity.

- Aaron Horwood 

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