Kayla Chun Named a Recipient of the Clark Doctoral Fellows Mid-Career Award

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Kayla Chun (they/she) was named a recipient of the Clark Doctoral Fellows Mid-Career Award, which recognizes high-achieving doctoral students already progressing in their studies.

Chun is a fifth-year bioengineering Ph.D. candidate in Fischell Institute Director Bill Bentley’s Biomolecular and Metabolic Engineering Lab.

The award, a complement of the Clark Doctoral Fellows Program, is part of an effort to encourage those who have demonstrated excellence in their studies to continue progressing their high-quality scholarly work and complete their doctoral degree in the A. James Clark School of Engineering. Mid-career fellows receive a $3,000 award and $1,000 travel stipend, supported by the Clark Foundation. Nominated doctoral students have a record of high distinction in their academic studies and research, as well as clear potential for continued excellence.

“I feel proud to be honored for my progress thus far,” said Chun. “I think in research, there’s delayed gratification with all of the work that leads to publications or graduation, so it is nice to be acknowledged with this award.”

The award supports Chun’s research, which uses a computationally aided approach to study how molecules communicate within biological systems. This task is two-fold.

First, they explore how bacteria communicate and utilize network modeling to gain insight into the dynamics of these complex systems. Second, they are developing a pipeline that uses electrochemical methods to probe for information in biological systems, like the microbiome and bioreactors, in the form of electrical signals. Once collected, the measurements of those signals can then be interpreted using machine learning.

“I chose to pursue this research because microbes have always interested me, and I am excited by the quantitative interdisciplinary methods we can use to study them,” Chun said. “I also wanted to get a doctorate in bioengineering to develop my research skills and engage in quantitative and translational research.”

Chun hopes to work in the biotech industry following the completion of their doctorate. Before that, they plan on finishing a few more projects and publications, and attending a few more conferences to share their work and connect with others in the field.

“Kayla’s quantitative nature, experimental prowess, and refreshing curiosity will surely help in whatever path they choose,” said Bentley. “Perhaps most importantly, they would contribute significantly to the community by bringing their talents, curiosity, and quantitative bioengineering perspective to the group of awardees and to the entire Clark School.”

While at the Clark School, Chun was also awarded an NSF-funded training fellowship through the Computation and Mathematics for Biological Networks (COMBINE) program and has contributed to three publications, two of which they are the lead author on.

Published February 16, 2024