Aswini Krishnan, a fourth-year bioengineering major at the University of California San Diego, has been awarded a Churchill Scholarship, one of the most prestigious and competitive awards available to American students pursuing science, mathematics and engineering fields. The award provides one year of funding to pursue a master’s degree at Winston Churchill College at the University of Cambridge. Krishnan is the fourth UC San Diego student to receive the award since the program’s inception in 1963.
The UC San Diego senior is one of just 15 students from the U.S. selected for the prize, which recognizes undergraduates for their research talent and potential to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in science, math and engineering. The scholarship provides $50,000 to $60,000 to cover the cost of university tuition, a living stipend and travel expenses.
For her master’s program, Krishnan will pursue basic science research in biochemistry under the supervision of Nobel Prize-winning biologist Venki Ramakrishnan. Specifically, her work will focus on the study of ribosomal structures and translational mechanisms, which govern how cells produce proteins. Ultimately, she plans to become a physician-scientist, contributing to the medical field through both patient care and scientific research.
“I am thrilled and humbled to receive this fantastic opportunity to study at a renowned lab at the University of Cambridge,” said Krishnan. “As an aspiring physician-scientist, this opportunity will allow me to expand my skills as a scientific researcher and further fuel my passion for medical discovery.”
Since her freshman year as a bioengineering student at the Jacobs School of Engineering, where she received the prestigious Jacobs Scholarship, Krishnan has been involved with undergraduate research in the lab of Weg M. Ongkeko, an associate professor in the Division of Head and Neck Surgery in the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. There she has contributed to the study of the roles of non-coding RNAs in cancer pathogenesis and progression, and more recently, to investigating the roles of immune-associated genes in cancer. She has published three first-author papers and Ongkeko expects that she will publish at least two more high profile scientific papers in the near future.
“Aswini has truly impressed me with her first class mind and her work ethic, and I expect continued great things from this remarkable young woman,” said Ongkeko. “I have no doubt that she will be an international superstar in research in the not-too-distant future.”
Krishnan credits her experience in Ongkeko’s lab with igniting her interest in research and motivating her to pursue a career as a physician-scientist. Through undergraduate research, she has gotten a taste for what it’s like to explore and develop possible solutions to relevant medical problems.
“Dr. Ongkeko has been an incredible mentor,” said Krishnan. “He has provided invaluable support and guidance to conduct scientific research in his laboratory, and he always encourages his students to strive for their highest potential.”
The Churchill Scholarship is funded by the Winston Churchill Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1959 by American friends of Winston Churchill in order to cultivate an American-UK scientific exchange. The scholarship program aims to advance science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic, helping to ensure future prosperity and security for both regions. To learn more about the scholarship and this year’s recipients, visit the Churchill Scholarship website.