In 2018, with support from a donor, the Department of Chemical Engineering established a program to recognize three Ph.D. students for academic achievement during their first semester, earning them distinction as a Gaden, Gainer or Kirwan Fellow.

The fellowships, named for former UVA chemical engineering professors Elmer Gaden, John Gainer and Donald Kirwan, support the students through their first year in the program.

This year’s fellows are:

Gaden Fellow Jerwin Go works in assistant professor Rachel Letteri’s Polymer (Bio)materials Lab. His research is focused on investigating poly(beta-amino ester)s for delivering therapeutic peptides.

Gainer Fellow Parastoo Sakinejad is advised by assistant professor Nick Vecchiarello, whose lab develops bioseparations and chromatography materials. She is investigating adsorption of biomolecules onto novel surfaces to develop purification solutions for pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Kirwan Fellow Ching-Heng Tai is advised by assistant professor Chris Paolucci, whose research group specializes in computational catalysis. Tai is researching oxidation and reconstruction of noble metal surfaces.

Go, Sakinejad and Tai make up the fifth cohort of Gaden, Gainer and Kirwan Fellows.

The initial gift, which supported nine “GGK” fellows over three years, came in response to a UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science Graduate Fellows Initiative to ensure funding for all promising Ph.D. candidates.

The program was immediately successful, with the fellows producing more than five published papers and eight presentations, completing six teaching assistantships and mentoring 11 undergraduate researchers among the first three cohorts. The department hopes to continue rewarding excellent students through new support.

Composite photo of the Gaden, Gainer and Kirwan fellows

From left, Jerwin Go, Parastoo Sakineja and Ching-Heng Tai