San Diego, Calif, Nov. 3, 2017 -- Five bioengineering graduate students from the University of California San Diego have been named 2018 Siebel Scholars. The Siebel Scholars program recognizes exceptional students at the world’s leading graduate schools of business, computer science, and bioengineering and provides them with a generous financial award for their final year of studies.
This year, all five of the UC San Diego Siebel Scholars are affiliated with the Department of Bioengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. UC San Diego ranked first in the nation for biomedical engineering, according to the 2010 National Research Council (NRC) rankings.
The new Siebel Scholars are part of a growing group of faculty, students and researchers at UC San Diego who are working with interdisciplinary partners to advance medicine and biomedical science through engineering. Michael Gibbons, for example, is co-mentored by an orthopaedic surgery professor and a bioengineering professor. This arrangement is allowing Gibbons to contribute to future treatments for shoulder rotator cuff injuries.
The five 2018 Siebel Scholars and some of their accomplishments are outlined below.
Michael Gibbons is a Ph.D. student co-mentored by UC San Diego bioengineering professor Adam Engler and orthopaedic surgery professor Sam Ward from the UC San Diego School of Medicine. For the past several years, Gibbons has led a rotator cuff research group that includes local orthopedic surgeons, principal investigators, orthopedic surgery residents, medical students, lab technicians and other fellow trainees. The group has published five significant studies, including three high-impact first-author studies (and many more co-authored) by Gibbons that challenge the current paradigm of rotator cuff injury and treatment in patients with the most chronic, untreatable rotator cuff disease. In addition, Gibbons has been just as invaluable to the UC San Diego bioengineering community as a whole. As an executive member of the Bioengineering Graduate Society (BEGS), he was elected as graduate student chair of the department’s annual two-weekend recruiting event. Gibbons also is the co-chair of the graduate student curriculum development committee, honing the group’s mission statement to address projects that would offer more flexibility in graduate student electives as well as reward teaching assistants for outstanding performance. Gibbons earned a master’s and bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Xuanyi (Michelle) Ma
|Xuanyi (Michelle) Ma|
Xuanyi (Michelle) Ma is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego. She is part of nanoengineering professor Shaochen Chen’s research group. Her research focuses on 3-D bioprinting lifelike, functioning human tissues using stem cells called human induced pluripotent stem cells. These stem cells are derived from skin cells, which means that researchers can build new human tissues without extracting cells from inside the body. Ma’s research has led to the development of a 3-D printed liver tissue that works like the real thing. Her work has applications in precision medicine, particularly in the areas of patient-specific disease modeling and drug screening. Ma has received various awards in recognition of her scholarly work, including an Interdisciplinary Research Award in 2015 from UC San Diego, an Outstanding Presentation Award from the 2015 Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society World Congress, and an Institute of Engineering in Medicine (IEM) Graduate Student Researcher Scholarship in 2017. Her career goal is to become a professor and continue research in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
Tri Nguyen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego who conducts research in the lab of bioengineering professor Sheng Zhong. He has pioneered the development of a technology to map out tens of thousands of RNA-RNA interactions inside cells. The technology, dubbed MARIO (Mapping RNA interactome in vivo), will enable researchers to discover new genomic functions by investigating RNA interactions. The ultimate goal of this project is to map out the entire set of RNA interactions in vivo. Nguyen is also developing technology to map out RNA-DNA interactions in vivo. Outside the lab, Nguyen holds leadership roles in groups that foster connections between communities in academia and industry. He served in the Bioengineering Graduate Society at UC San Diego as a co-chair of the committee that organized quarterly panel discussions with industry experts on topics such as transitioning from academia to industry, joining a startup or a corporation, and developing technologies for third-world countries. He was also an ambassador for the San Diego Chapter of Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable, a group led by students and postdocs that connects 10,000 students, academics and industry professionals across the U.S. and U.K. in healthcare and life sciences.
Troy Sandberg is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego working in the lab of bioengineering professor Bernhard Palsson. A goal of his research is to understand principles of cellular adaptation and how evolution can be harnessed to engineer microbial strains with desired phenotypes. He has studied how E. coli cells adapt to high temperatures and different growth media, and then used information gained from these studies to develop genome-scale metabolic modeling techniques for predicting evolutionary outcomes in dynamic environments. Sandberg has helped develop and optimize a custom machine technology in Palsson’s Systems Biology Research Group to enable these and many other studies in the area of Adaptive Laboratory Evolution, which exploits natural selection to generate microbial strains with improved fitness and beneficial mutations. Sandberg was also instrumental in setting up and training personnel on this so-called “ALE machine technology” in the labs of collaborators in Denmark. Outside the lab, Sandberg is involved in science outreach. He has performed science demonstrations for elementary school students and is currently a volunteer at the Fleet Science Center.
Jessica Ungerleider is a Ph.D. student in the lab of bioengineering professor Karen Christman. Ungerleider works on injectable biomaterial therapies for treating damaged muscle, with a particular focus on peripheral artery disease. Ungerleider was first author on a paper detailing a new therapy for critical limb ischemia, a condition that causes extremely poor circulation in the limbs and leads to an estimated 230,000 amputations every year in North America and Europe alone. She is currently working on studies to prepare for a submission to the FDA with this technology. Her work has significant potential to translate to the clinic and lead to the first regenerative biomaterial therapy to improve the quality of life of patients with peripheral artery disease. Ungerleider also has participated in several bioengineering and outreach initiatives including leading teams of students taking part in the San Diego and USA festivals of science. Ungerleider earned a bachelor’s at the University of Virginia. She is also a Gordon Fellow and ARCS Scholar here at UC San Diego.
Siebel Scholars Program
The Siebel Scholars program was established by the Siebel Foundation in 2000 through grants to 16 universities in the United States, China, France, Italy, and Japan. Each year, top graduate students from 27 partner programs are honored as Siebel Scholars and receive a $35,000 award for their final year of studies. Learn more.