The University of Illinois Bioengineering Department awarded its first graduate student fellowship on April 29 as part of its inaugural Graduate Student Symposium. Sixian You, a fourth-year doctoral student, received the McGinnis Medical Innovation Graduate Fellowship.
The McGinnis Fellowship is made possible by a generous gift from Illinois alumnus Jerry McGinnis (BS Mechanical Engineering 1958), an inventor and founder of Respironics, which made the first continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea in the mid-1980s. Purchased by Royal Philips Electronics in 2008, the Pittsburgh-based company—Philips Respironics—is a global leader in sleep and respiratory medical device markets.
You, who is a member of Professor Steve Boppart’s Biophotonics Imaging Lab at the Beckman Institute, is working on a real-time, label-free optical imaging system that surgeons or pathologists could potentially use in the operating room or the path lab to examine unstained breast tissue specimens during a biopsy. This system promises to provide patients with a faster and more reliable diagnosis over conventional cancer detection methods, which take several days and sometimes requires additional surgery.
According to Boppart, You has an incredible passion for her work. “There is an emotional connection that drives her to fully understand not only fundamental principles, but also the technology and underlying meaning of her data, and how she can effectively translate discoveries into real clinical applications,” Boppart said. “She has both an intellectual and personal maturity for her research, and exhibits an infectious personality, enthusiasm, and conviction for achieving her goals.”
“The McGinnis Fellowship is a tremendous honor and reinforces my commitment to conducting translational research that will ultimately improve the lives of people who suffer,” said You. “This award not only supports my doctoral research towards translational medical imaging, but gives voice to the millions of cancer patients who desire faster and more reliable diagnostic/prognostic devices. It is an inspiration and encouragement for me to continue researching better ways of diagnosis.”
The McGinnis Fellowship was presented at the conclusion of the department’s Graduate Student Symposium, which showcased the department’s cutting-edge research while promoting future research collaborations. Nearly half of the department’s 75 graduate students were selected to present their work either through a talk or poster presentation.
Yi Zhang, a graduate student in Professor Jun Song’s Computational Biology group, won the Symposium’s Best Poster Award for her work on identifying causal genetic variants for breast cancer. Mohammad Zahid, a graduate student in Assistant Professor Andrew Smith’s group, won the Best Presentation Award for his work on evaluating mechanisms of cytoplasmic delivery of nanoparticles through single-quantum dot tracking. Zahid also received a 2016 Teaching Excellence Fellowship award.
Other graduate students who were presented with awards included:
- Yanfen Li, 2016 Teaching Excellence Fellow & 2017 Graduate Student Leadership Award
- Parinaz Fathi, 2017 Teaching Excellence Fellow
- Walden Li, 2017 Teaching Excellence Fellow
- Olivia Cangellaris, 2017 Teaching Excellence Fellow
- Ian Berg, 2016 Teaching Excellence Fellow
The Graduate Student Symposium was organized by the Graduate Biomedical Engineering Society, a student-run group that hosts professional development activities, social events, speaker exchanges, and provides mentorship opportunities for undergraduate students and first-year graduate students.