Whitaker Fellow to Pursue Cancer Research

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Harvey Mudd College senior Kate Crawford will receive a 2013-2014 Whitaker International Fellowship to study biomedical engineering in Istanbul.

The fellowship, which funds a year of graduate study and research abroad, includes round-trip international airfare, a monthly stipend and health insurance. Fellows may also receive up to $35,000 in tuition reimbursement.

Crawford will complete a year of study and research at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, exploring the structural properties of a receptor-ligand pair implicated in cancer growth. The goal of her research is to help inform the development of an effective chemotherapy that targets the receptor.

“I chose this project because I want to devote my life to cancer research,” Crawford said. “I’ve performed other types of cancer research, but cancer is not necessarily well understood and the research is multi-faceted, so I would like to gain experience in a new field.”

Crawford’s undergraduate research experience includes participation in cancer research projects at the University of Washington and MIT, and bioengineering research at HMC. She has worked in engineering Professor Liz Orwin’s research lab since 2011, helping to create a novel scaffold material on which to grow cells for a tissue-engineering “brain patch” project.

“Kate is not afraid to try new things, brings a can-do attitude to her research and is not deterred by obstacles that get in the way,” said Orwin. “The breadth of education she has acquired at HMC makes her an excellent candidate for working in an interdisciplinary field such as bioengineering.”

Crawford and other members of her research team presented their work last October at the Biomedical Engineering Society’s annual meeting. She also founded an Engineering World Health student chapter at HMC, which is currently working on an infant respirator system for developing nations.

“The chapter she started will last beyond her time at HMC, and it will provide opportunities for students to get real biomedical design experience before they graduate,” said Orwin.

After her fellowship year, Crawford plans to pursue a doctorate in biomedical engineering.

Founded in 2005, the Whitaker International Program sends the nation’s emerging bioengineering leaders overseas to undertake a self-designed project that will enhance their careers within the field. The program aims to help develop professional leaders who are superb scientists that advance the profession through an international outlook.

Crawford is HMC’s second Whitaker Fellow. Engineering major Marie Godla ’11 received a 2011 Whitaker Fellowship to study 3-D bioprinting of skeletal tissue at the Institute for Biomechanics in Switzerland. Alumna Lindsay Wray ’08 received a 2012 Whitaker Fellowship to conduct research on designing a membrane model for in vitro platelet production at the University of Pavia in Italy.