Two McCormick Graduate Students Chosen for HHMI International Fellowship

PhD students Wenzhong Liu and Huanyu Cheng were chosen from nearly 400 candidates to receive $43,000 in funding for up to three years

Two graduate students from Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering have been selected as 2013 International Student Research Fellows of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a prestigious award designed to facilitate the research training of outstanding international pre-doctoral candidates in the biomedical and related sciences.

Wenzhong Liu, a PhD student in biomedical engineering, and Huanyu “Larry” Cheng, a PhD student in mechanical engineering, were among 42 award recipients chosen from 377 qualified applicants.

HHMI established the fellowships in 2011, and is now supporting 140 students from 35 countries during the most critical years of their PhD work. The fellowships are designed to fund the students’ graduate education at a pivotal point in their scientific careers when they delve into intense laboratory research for their doctoral dissertations.

The award supports up to three years of graduate study toward a PhD in a biomedical or related scientific or engineering field. Eligible fields of study include biology, chemistry, physics, math, computer science, engineering, and plant biology, as well as interdisciplinary research. It includes a stipend of $30,000 per year, an annual fellow’s allowance of $3,000, and an annual educational allowance of $10,000, in lieu of education and fees.

The Institute created the program because it recognized a problem: international students in U.S. graduate schools often have difficulty getting funding to support their studies. They are not eligible for federal fellowships or training grant support, or other governmental opportunities that are generally reserved for U.S. citizens. The Institute chose to fund the third to fifth years of graduate school, because by this time most students have chosen a graduate adviser, identified a research project, and demonstrated their potential for success in the lab.

“We hope that the HHMI award will encourage each student to build on their already considerable accomplishments, to apply creativity to current problems and to explore new ideas, to venture forward without fear, and to take risks as they work to solve difficult problems,” said David J. Asai, senior director in science education at HHMI.