Renna Nouwairi Awarded Jefferson Dissertation Year Fellowship

UVA Chemistry graduate student Renna Nouwairi of the Landers Group has been awarded a 2023 Jefferson Scholars Foundation Dissertation Year Fellowship. The Fellowship provides funding for one academic year and is inclusive of tuition, health insurance and stipend. According to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, "The Jefferson Scholars Graduate Fellowship Program was established to attract to the Grounds the most promising graduate students in the country, students who will make exceptional contributions to the University of Virginia and to society at large after graduation."

Renna describes what she will be working on during this year:

During my dissertation year, I will be completing two primary projects, and a number of smaller projects, all with the goal of optimizing standard, commercialized assays for translation into portable, automated, sample in—answer out microfluidic systems with the potential for commercialization and real-world implementation. One main project aims to integrate mRNA extraction, amplification, and electrophoretic separation on a microfluidic disc and develop a fully-enclosed mechatronic system that automates all on-disc processes to perform body fluid identification in under 1 hour at a crime scene, as opposed to 10+ hours in a lab. My other primary project focuses on optimizing a microfluidic amplification instrument to perform sub-15 min real-time analysis of nucleic acids with comparable sensitivity and specificity to gold standard instrumentation, which traditionally consumes multiple hours. Furthermore, I will expand the capacity of the system to perform high resolution melting for epigenetic analysis.

Renna talks about her time here at UVA and her future:

UVA has given me many incredible opportunities to take advantage of programs, courses, and experiences both in and out of the lab to prepare me for my career. Fortunately, the nature of my application-driven research is such that I am compelled to think beyond the science and explore innovation through the lens of patentable and scalable technologies. As a result, I have participated in multiple Ph.D. Plus courses in collaboration with the Darden School of Business and am currently interning with UVA’s Licensing and Ventures Group (LVG) to engage with the language of business and learn how businesses are engaging with society to make science more accessible and ethical. Similarly, I have had opportunities to attend local Cville BioHub events and Virginia-based biotechnology conferences that highlight local entrepreneurs and facilitate networking. Furthermore, I have been a member of the chemistry department’s Career Seminar Series Committee, which aims to bring in guests from diverse career backgrounds with the goal of providing students with information relevant to career choices and professional preparation. These experiences have allowed me to learn about the biotech industry from both a science and business viewpoint and have motivated me to pursue a career that permits lifelong learning, teaching, discovery, and implementation of new ideas into the real world. Within the next year I plan to obtain my project management certification, and upon receiving my Ph.D., I plan to work with a local company or startup in the biotech industry.