Senior Wins Gates Cambridge Scholarship to Develop Disease-Fighting Therapeutics
- Monday, Feb 18, 2013
Rebekah Scheuerle, a chemical engineering senior at The University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to fund graduate research focused on developing affordable, efficient and novel therapeutics to fight diseases such as cancer.
Scheuerle is one of 39 students nationally to receive the highly competitive, full-ride scholarship to the University of Cambridge in England. She is the fourth-ever UT Austin student to be selected for the honor and the third from the Cockrell School of Engineering.
“We are delighted to announce our new scholars. They are an outstanding group of individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds,” said Robert Lethbridge, provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust. “They fully meet the criteria of the scholarship in being both intellectually outstanding and having a capacity for leadership and a commitment to improving the lives of others. They should be proud of this achievement and we can expect much of them."
Scheuerle will be working with Cambridge University professor Nigel Slater, chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, and member of the Bioscience Engineering Group. She will research biopharmaceutical processing and drug delivery. The group develops formulation and purification strategies for biopharmaceuticals, as well as biopolymers for targeted intracellular drug delivery.
During her undergraduate career in the John J. McKetta Jr. Department of Chemical Engineering, Scheuerle has worked on developing responsive drug delivery systems under the guidance of Nicholas Peppas, professor of biomedical engineering, chemical engineering and pharmacy and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. She has focused on researching polymeric nanoparticles to enable oral delivery of gene therapeutics to treat genetic disorders and cancers.
“Rebekah has been an exceptional contributor to our advanced biological research over the past three years,” Peppas said. “Her innovative approach in siRNA delivery research and insightful contributions to the design of novel bio polymer careers allow us to develop better treatment systems. Rebekah is a great example of how undergraduate research at UT Austin can help educate the new generation of biomedical leaders while also aiding in the improvement of the quality of life of the patients in Texas and the nation.”
Her research experience also includes an internship, funded by the National Science Foundation, at the University of California, Berkeley developing microfluidic devices to diagnose HIV. The technology could make diagnosis of diseases in rural and resource-limited environments affordable. Last summer, she was a Merck Engineering & Technology Fellow in the Sterile Liquids Commercialization Department. She supported the scale-up of filtration processes for vaccine formulations, determining how full-scale filter trains — necessary for product sterility and safety — would be affected by formulation changes.
“Promising therapeutics for many debilitating and fatal diseases — including some cancers and HIV — already exist, but a lack of drug delivery methods and diagnostic strategies prevent the treatment of millions of people,” Scheuerle said. “At Cambridge, I look forward to utilizing and building upon the skills I’ve gained at UT Austin to develop affordable, efficient and novel therapeutics that can improve healthcare globally. I am very grateful to the Gates Cambridge Trust for giving me this opportunity.”
Scheuerle won a UT Austin Undergraduate Research Fellowship, sponsored by the university's Vice President for Research, in 2011. She served two terms as president of the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, served as secretary and service chair of the Omega Chi Epsilon student honor society in chemical engineering and was a member of the Longhorn Band.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program began in 2000 with a $210 million donation from Bill and Melinda Gates and has supported 1,074 scholars from 94 countries. The scholars are selected on the basis of outstanding intellect, leadership potential and a demonstrated commitment to improving the lives of others.