Graduating seniors Neha Jain ’17 and Sidney Perkins ’17 recently received prestigious Fulbright Fellowships to work abroad and represent the United States as cultural ambassadors. Jain, who majored in operations research and studied Mandarin and Chinese culture at Columbia, will teach English to young people in Taiwan, while Perkins, a biomedical engineer, will work just outside of Paris on designing synthetic living arteries, continuing fluid biomechanics research he began after his sophomore year.
Both have been exceptional student leaders during their time on campus, and served on the Engineering Student Council: Jain as president and Perkins as vice president of policy. Jain has also helped lead Chinese Students Club and worked as a residential advisor for the last three years, while Perkins is a former co-president of Columbia’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders.
Jain, who interned at the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama White House, aims to apply her operations research skills to help large organizations develop and implement strategies to reduce systemic inequality. After her fellowship, she will return to New York to work at Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm.
“During my college years I’ve increasingly gravitated towards public service and community building,” said Jain, who grew up in Southland, Texas. “Working as a teacher in Taiwan will allow me to have a point of reference as to how other countries run their educational systems and help find best practices for serving our nation’s most underserved populations.”
Collaborating with a vascular surgeon, Perkins hopes to develop a sophisticated in vitro system with multiple cell types that will empower the research community to perform high-throughput pre-clinical drug and gene testing as well as stent testing without relying on large animal subjects. The research extends his earlier investigations into cell signaling and remodeling in the context of atherosclerosis, and might one day contribute to transplants for patients with damaged arteries. The native of Tully, New York will also consult with a Parisian startup called Instent to develop a sensor on a “smart stent” to report biochemical profiles of tissue it touches, helping physicians monitor patients throughout treatment.
Developing innovative biomedical solutions has been Perkins’ passion at Columbia, including collaborating with the student startup Neopenda for better neonatal care in the developing world and conducting field research in Uganda last August. For his senior design project, Perkins has teamed up with peers on a prototype for Lumenda, a product to diagnose bacterial meningitis in low-resource settings.
A member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honors society, Perkins recently received honorable mention from the National Science Foundation for the Graduate Research Fellowships Program. After returning to the U.S., he plans to continue helping to fill gaps in treatment.
“I have no doubt that the Fulbright program’s support of my biomedical research will help me attain my long-term goals of becoming a physician pursuing research and making a world-wide impact,” Perkins said.