McCormick Graduate Student Wins Foresight Institute’s Distinguished Student Award

PhD candidate David Walker recognized for research in nanoscale electrostatic interactions

David A. Walker, a PhD candidate studying nanotechnology at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, has been awarded the 2012 Distinguished Student Award by the Foresight Institute, a leading think tank that advances transformative technologies.

The Distinguished Student Award recognizes a student with notable work in the field of nanotechnology. 

David Walker

Walker, a PhD candidate in chemical and biological engineering, is researching nanoscale electrostatic interactions and their ability to precisely assemble nano-objects to within a few nanometers. His adviser is Bartosz A. Grzybowski, Kenneth Burgess Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and director of the Non-Equilibrium Energy Research Center.

"I am interested at how electrostatic interactions can be implemented at the nanoscale,” Walker said. “Nature has been using these forces for eons to assemble molecules and fold proteins while we, as scientists, are just beginning to implement their use in nano- and supramolecular-chemistry. Not just their ability to assemble nanoparticles, but their ability to regulate properties at a molecular level, is simply remarkable."

Walker has authored 11 articles and has had work published in nanotechnology and chemistry journals such as Nature Nanotechnology, Nano Letters, and Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed. He is also an NSF MRSEC Fellow, a Patrick and Shirley Ryan Fellow, a Harold Smith and Borrous Martin Fellow, and an honorary DoE NERC fellow.

The Foresight Institute, established in 1986, is the leading international think tank and public interest organization focused on transforming future technologies through nanotechnology. The institute is also known for its $250,000 Feynman Grand Prize, named after physicist Richard P. Feynman, established to motivate scientists and engineers to design and construct a functioning nanoscale robotic arm with specific performance characteristics.

Walker is the first Northwestern student to be granted the student award since its inception in 1997. Several Northwestern professors have received Foresight Institute recognitions, including Mark Ratner and Chad Mirkin, Fraser Stoddart, and George Schatz, who have received the professorial level Feynman Prize in previous years.