Spring 2018

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Training the Next Generation of Scientists

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Philanthropic support for the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute’s research programs creates opportunities for future innovators.

Lambert Fellowship recipients
Clockwise, from top left: Andrew Chan ’80, ’80 MS with the Lambert fellows — senior Chi-Li Ni, junior Leighton Zhao, senior Colin Lynch, senior Zer Keen Chia and junior Terrence Stilson

The discoveries of tomorrow are already underway at Northwestern’s Chemistry of Life Processes Institute, which integrates research in chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering and medicine to create a holistic understanding of molecular processes. CLP takes a transdisciplinary approach that opens up new areas of discovery and applies rapidly emerging insights toward new methods for preventing, detecting and treating disease — transforming science in order to transform lives.

Within CLP are donor-supported programs that enhance the student experience. They include the Lambert Fellows Program, which provides multiyear funding for hands-on laboratory research for rising sophomores and juniors majoring in chemistry under the mentorship of CLP faculty. The program is made possible by Andrew Chan ’80, ’80 MS, who has made $908,000 in gifts toward it. Chan founded the fellowship in 2010 and endowed it in 2016 in honor of Joseph Lambert — a former Northwestern professor and Chan’s master’s thesis adviser. Lambert was director of the Integrated Science Program (1982–85), chair of the chemistry department (1986–89) and a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence (1999–2003). He retired in 2010.

“Research is continually questioning, answering and more questioning, so that with every experiment and every answer, you have more questions.” — Andrew Chan ’80, ’80 MS

“Joe Lambert, who was a professor of chemistry at the time, took me into his lab when I was a sophomore,” Chan says. “The important thing I learned from that experience is that research is continually questioning, answering and more questioning, so that with every experiment and every answer, you have more questions.

“Exposing students to that experience allows them to make an informed decision about pursuing a career in research,” explains Chan, who mentors the Lambert fellows and chairs the CLP executive advisory board. After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s in chemistry from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Chan earned his medical degree and doctorate. He is senior vice president of research biology at Genentech Inc. in San Francisco.

There currently are five Lambert fellows, each of whom is awarded $7,000 a year for a period of two full years of academic research study. Funds go toward lab supplies and materials plus conference and travel expenses. The program has produced 12 graduates thus far.

“The Lambert Fellows Program prepared me with critical research skills that have allowed me to thrive as a PhD candidate in chemistry at Stanford University,” says former fellow Hsiao-Tieh Hsu ’13, ’13 MS. “I learned useful laboratory techniques as well as how to frame, break down and solve complex scientific problems.”

Kalli Koukounas ’17, who is pursuing a master’s in health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, credits the Lambert Fellows Program for giving her “the ability to deeply explore the world of scientific and biochemical research.”

“I emerged with a much greater understanding of how to read and summarily interpret scientific literature, plus a deep set of critical thinking skills that has been invaluable to me,” she says. “The program exposed me to a group of incredibly passionate research students as well as an inspirational mentor in Dr. Chan.”

Other CLP research opportunities include the CLP Undergraduate Summer Scholars Research Program (summer funding), which is supported by philanthropic gifts, and the CLP/Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium Research Program (academic-year funding), which is supported by CLP executive advisory board member Chandler Robinson ’06.

“CLP is a perfect incubator to train the next generation of transdisciplinary leaders in bioscience research,” Chan says.