Leah Dignan Named 2021 Sidney M. Hecht Graduate Fellow in Chemistry

The University of Virginia Chemistry Department is pleased to announce Leah Dignan as the 2021 recipient of the Sidney M. Hecht Fellowship in Chemistry. Leah is currently a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the laboratory of James P. Landers. She came to UVa after receiving her B.S. in Chemistry with ACS Certification from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

The Landers Group uses microfluidics to address real-world problems. Leah’s graduate work has contributed to research that has developed centrifugal microfluidic devices for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus, forensic detection of human DNA and illicit substances. She has published three manuscripts in highly ranked, peer-reviewed journals, being the lead author on one, and currently has an additional three manuscripts in preparation or under review.  Her work has been recognized by winning the First Place Poster Presentation Award at the 35th International Symposium on Microscale Separations and Bioanalysis held in Corvallis, OR and she was selected as an oral presenter at the 23rd International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences in Basal, Switzerland where most PhD students present posters. 

In her application Leah says she wants to apply, “the knowledge, techniques, and skillset acquired during her education to a career conducting high-impact, translational research…with a goal centered on making practical improvements to existing techniques with real, societal impacts.”

Her mentor, Prof. Landers, says this about Leah, “We are delighted to see Leah awarded the Hecht Fellowship. Leah is exploring an impressive array of research topics, and showing superb progress on all fronts. Key to the ability to do so, is her inherent curiosity and drive for success, which has led to a number of innovative developments, all with the common thread of potentially creating technology addressing unmet needs or defined technology gaps.”

The Hecht Fellowship was established by Professor Sidney Hecht whose mid-career spanned 28 highly prolific and influential years in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Virginia. Currently at Arizona State University (, Professor Hecht is a leader in biological chemistry and a great friend and benefactor of our department.