Three INBT Students Announced as Siebel Scholars

Above photo: Morgan Elliott (left), David Wilson (top right) and Chrissy O’Keefe (bottom right). 

Siebel scholarships are prestigious awards that honor about 100 of the top graduate students nationwide in business, bioengineering, computer science, and energy science programs. Recipients are selected during their final year of studies based on their outstanding academic performance and leadership and receive a $35,000 award.

The recently announced 2020 recipients includes three students from the Institute for NanoBioTechnology. All three recipients are PhD candidates in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and include Morgan Elliott, David Wilson, and Chrissy O’Keefe.

Morgan Elliott

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death and results in over half a million coronary artery bypass surgeries each year. Small-diameter tissue-engineered vascular grafts (sdVGs) used in bypass surgery have become increasingly complex to fabricate. To benefit cardiovascular patients, Morgan Elliott has been focusing on improving the clinical and commercial relevance of sdVGs and her translational study was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She and her team are now working to further validate these grafts in a large animal study.

“I am honored to be named a Siebel Scholar and proud to represent Johns Hopkins University. I would like to thank Dr. Sharon Gerecht, my mentor, for providing guidance and opportunities to develop as a bioengineer.  The support of my fiancée, faculty, family, and friends throughout my doctoral studies has been invaluable,” said Elliott.

David Wilson

During his doctoral studies, David Wilson engineered materials for the safe and effectively delivery of genetic cargoes to treat a wide range of human diseases from cancer to genetic disorders. Delivery of genetic cargoes remains a challenge because nucleic acids like DNA naturally, and rapidly, degraded when outside of their normal location in human cells. The promise of gene delivery is the functional replacement of defective genes, which Wilson’s research has advanced through materials engineering that facilitates genes to reach the desired cells in a safe and effective manner. The materials he invented are currently being used in preclinical studies for novel cancer therapies, treatment of retinal diseases and for delivery of innovative vaccine platforms.

“I am immensely grateful to have been selected as a Siebel Scholar and I am extremely thankful to all the individuals I have worked with and learned from during my PhD. In particular, I would like to thank my advisor Dr. Jordan J. Green, thesis committee, collaborators, lab-mates, and the ten undergraduate students I mentored during my doctoral studies. Also thank you to the members of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) and Translational Tissue Engineering Center (TTEC) for the support that made my research projects both possible and fun to undertake. Finally, I extend my gratitude to my two rambunctious cats Mavid Suprenant and Dorkin Winnifred and my lovely wife, Yuan Rui,” said Wilson.

Chrissy O’Keefe

Chrissy O’Keefe’s research focus is on developing technology to identify rare indicators of disease, especially cancer. O’Keefe and her team have developed a platform that can detect when part of a person’s DNA starts to deviate from its normal state. She uses microfluidic technologies to increase the sensitivity of the test so that even rare diseased molecules in a simple blood sample could be detected. They are hopeful that that this information can lead to early cancer detection.

“I feel very honored to have been chosen among such a talented community for this award. I have been very blessed to have supportive family, friends and coworkers to help me along this path. I would like to thank God and my family for setting me up for this opportunity. I also want to thank the Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering community, my professor Dr. Jeff Wang, and the Siebel foundation for their amazing support of biomedical research,” said O’Keefe.

See the full list of Siebel Scholars and press release.