2012-13 Hugh Hampton Young Fellows Named

July 23, 2012

Five graduate students at MIT have been named recipients of the prestigious Hugh Hampton Young Memorial Fund Fellowship for the year 2012-13. The fellowship, named for the pioneering medical researcher Hugh Hampton Young, is a highly selective research fellowship at MIT. Recipients are chosen for traits that include academic achievement, demonstrated leadership skills, and research that shows breadth of vision and crosses disciplinary boundaries, as well as passion for a field that promises broad social impact. Candidates must display integrity and moral character, strong will and determination, coordination and leadership skills, broad interests, interdisciplinary development and creativity in cross-disciplinary concepts.

Painting by Eric G. Haupt; oil on canvas, 39.5 by 31.5 inches, 1931.

James Allen Ankrum is a Ph.D. student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST). He received a BSE in biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa and an M.Phil. in engineering design at the University of Cambridge. Stem-cell based therapies are at the core of Ankrum’s research. His thesis research focuses on inflammatory infections of the lung, which are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Researchers have found a potentially exciting treatment for such infections using mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), which have been shown to have positive effects on infected tissue. Yet the value of MSC therapy is limited, because most of the transplanted stem cells die within hours of transplantation. In response, Ankrum is developing “a strategy to engineer MSC with an intracellular survival ‘pack’ to promote survival and preserve the therapeutic phenotype.”

Shiben Banerji is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Architecture. (He received a Master in City Planning from MIT.) An aspiring academic researcher, he studies urban design from a global and comparative perspective. His thesis research is historically oriented: it tells the story of two American architects—one of them a woman who graduated from MIT—who worked in the US, Australia, and India between 1895 and 1949. Unusually for the period, Banerji says, this husband-wife team sought to break out of the confines of national boundaries and design instead for a common humanity and a globalized world. “They saw architecture as a way to think about that—about the economic and political conditions that would be necessary to create a global community,” he says. “They had a view about the importance of globalization, and then they sought to make that view visible.”

Roberto Guerrero Compeán is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. A scholar of development economics, he has turned his expertise in social issues to the study of climate change and weather disasters in his home country, Mexico. His research investigates the potential benefits of government safety nets in the case of weather disasters, an issue that he expects to become even more pressing as climate change worsens in the coming decades. As he phrases the core questions of his research: “How can public policy change the behavior of individual people? How do we measure the differences, in terms of impact, of different kinds of disasters, like floods and heat waves, things like agriculture or health outcomes? And does extreme weather change affect the poor differently from other groups?” After he graduates, he hopes to work for an inter-governmental organization such as the UN.

Bryan Owens Bryson is a Ph.D. student in Biological Engineering. (He received a B.S. in Biological Engineering from MIT.) The question that drives him as a scientist, he says, is “how a cell makes any type of decision—how it interprets any signal or set of signals and then decides to form a tissue, or become cancerous, et cetera.” His thesis research focuses on lycene acetelation, the phenomenon that may enable red wine to help prevent cancer. Bryson’s research focuses on the mechanism rather than the result, seeking better ways to peer into the workings of the cell. “If you give someone the drug, and the tumor shrinks,” he says, “what actually goes on inside the black box of the cell?”

Danielle Zurovick is a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering. (She also received an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT.) Her research focuses on designing novel healing technologies for the treatment of open wounds, which are a serious and relatively common medical problem and can lead to complications such as infections, HIV, and trauma. In developed countries, the preferred treatment for open wounds is “negative pressure wound therapy,” which involves using a controlled vacuum machine to keep dressing sealed over the wound. Yet this treatment is expensive and requires some expertise to perform. Medical researchers have recently shown interest in “simplified negative pressure wound therapy devices,” which are lower cost and can work in austere surroundings. One such device is the recently designed “Wound-Pump,” which is inexpensive, lightweight, works without electricity, and needs only one person to apply. Zurovik is working to design a functional, air-tight dressing that the Wound-Pump system can use.

Congratulations to this year’s Hugh Hampton Young Fellows!

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