Phuong Le receives prestigious Schmidt Science Fellowship


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumna, Phuong Le (PhD, Bioengineering, '19), was awarded a Schmidt Science Fellowship, one of only twenty-two awarded worldwide.

While earning her doctorate, Le was part of the Bioengineering Associate Professor Andrew Smith’s lab at the Grainger College of Engineering. Her research focused on developing new technology that combines innovative quantum dot nanotechnology and single-molecule counting to provide new insights into cancer and inflammation at a single-cell and single-protein scale.

As a Schmidt Science Fellow, she will combine her bio-imaging technology experience with stem cell modeling and functional genomics to identify early markers and the time progression for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Launched in 2017 by former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, and his wife, Wendy, the Schmidt fellowship offers a unique postdoctoral training opportunity. The core of the program consists of a one-year postdoctoral experience in which fellows research in a field-leading laboratory where they will focus on a discipline that is different from their existing area of expertise. The goal of this "interdisciplinary pivot" is to introduce them to the ideas, practices, methods, and cultures of other scientific disciplines, broadening the scope of their experience.

“This is our second awardee from Illinois, and we could not be prouder," said Ken Vickery, director of fellowships in the Graduate College, "The Schmidt Fellowship offers a transformative experience for participants, and I am very happy Phuong will be a part of it.”

Awardees receive a $100,000 stipend and the opportunity to undertake full-time postdoctoral study for at least one year in a world-leading laboratory. The program intends to give the world's best aspiring scientific minds a broader perspective, the ability to engage in an interdisciplinary way, and the opportunity to make a lasting impact in society.

“As the need for rapid and innovative scientific discovery and response grows more urgent during this global pandemic, we are convinced now, more than ever, there is tremendous value in recruiting the most promising scientific minds to apply their intellectual rigor and investigation to additional disciplines,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures, "These exceptional early-career scientists join a growing community of Schmidt Science Fellows working to make transformative contributions, including new ways to fight against pandemic pathogens. Eric and I are excited to see what they can accomplish together.”

Entering its third year, the growing community of Schmidt Science Fellows now numbers more than 50 emerging interdisciplinary science leaders. Members of previous cohorts are now pursuing roles in universities, start-up companies, not-for-profits, and national research institutes and are part of a lifelong Fellowship community.