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Washington Research Foundation Fellowships Announced

Submitted by Casey Renneberg on December 6, 2019 - 11:20am

Washington Research Foundation Fellowships support promising students who work on creative and sophisticated science and engineering research projects under the guidance of UW faculty. Three of our students, Jon Mah, Hugo Pontes, and Irika Sinha, have been awarded 2019-20 WRF Fellowships.

John Mah

Jon Mah is a senior majoring in Applied Computational Math Sciences, Biochemistry, and Microbiology. Since winter 2018, he has worked with Dr. Jesse Bloom’s group at Fred Hutch on experimentally-informed quantitative models for protein evolution in viruses. Since summer 2019, he has also worked with Professor Kirk Lohmueller’s group at UCLA performing forward population genetics simulations modeling the effect of domestication on the distribution of fitness effects in canids. He is broadly interested in investigating both basic and medical questions regarding mathematical evolution, protein biochemistry, and molecular genetics. Outside of research, Jon enjoys performing with local musical theatre groups as a pit musician and serving as a teaching assistant for the Department of Microbiology. After completing his undergraduate degree, Jon intends to pursue a PhD in bioinformatics and eventually a career in research, ideally at a large academic or federal research institution. Jon thanks the Washington Research Foundation for their generous funding support, his wonderful mentors Sarah and Jesse for their guidance and expertise, and all past and present members of the Bloom and Lohmueller groups for providing incredibly kind and welcoming research environments.

Hugo Pontes

Hugo Pontes is a senior studying Chemical Engineering. Hugo is interested in merging engineering tools to study complex biological systems. Aligning his interests of engineering design with research for neurological diseases in the Chemical Engineering department, Hugo decided to join Dr. Elizabeth Nance’s lab during his second year at UW. His project aims to understand nanoparticle diffusion in the extracellular matrix of the diseased brain microenvironment to be able to probe structural integrity of the brain. Previous work that Hugo did involves a project with Dr. Lilo Pozzo to understand the impact of Hurricane Maria in people who depend on power for their medical needs in Puerto Rico. His passion for helping patients has led him to work in these projects both from a public health point of view, as well as from a clinical perspective. As such, Hugo plans to pursue a Master’s in Public Health as well as a PhD in Bioengineering after college to continue working on research projects that advance healthcare from a global perspective. Hugo would like to thank everyone in the Nance Lab for the unconditional support, and he would also like to thank the Washington Research Foundation for giving him the opportunity to keep working in the research he has always dreamt of doing.

Irika Sinha

Irika Sinha is a junior double majoring in Biochemistry as well as Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. In the past, she has done research at Kaeberlein Lab in UW Pathology and the Ginger Lab in UW Chemistry. She joined the McGuire lab in summer 2019 and her project focuses on the therapeutic application of CAR-T cells for Epstein-Barr associated cancers. In the future she hopes to earn her Ph.D. researching neurodegenerative diseases. Outside of lab, she also tutors at C.L.U.E. and works at Suzzallo Library. In her free time, she illustrates for “the Daily”, rock climbs, and practices Taekwondo.

Congratulations to Jon, Hugo, and Irika! For more information regarding the Washington Research Foundation Fellowships, visit: