Trine senior selected for NSF graduate fellowship

April 09, 2024

Amy ApgarTrine University senior Amy Apgar has been selected for the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) and will enter the biomedical engineering Ph.D. program at Carnegie Mellon University this fall.

The Wickliffe, Ohio, native will graduate in May with a biomedical engineering degree. She is the second Trine biomedical engineering graduate named to the fellowship since 2020.

The oldest STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fellowship program in the United States, the GRFP, through a competitive selection process, recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees.

Since its beginnings in 1952, the program has funded more than 70,000 fellowships — including more than 2,000 this year — out of more than 500,000 applicants.

GRFP Fellows have a high level of success, both academically and professionally. Forty-two have become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research experiences

Amy Apgar Research
Amy Apgar with her research poster at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) annual meeting, held in October in Seattle. The Trine University senior has been selected for the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) and will enter the biomedical engineering Ph.D. program at Carnegie Mellon University this fall.
Apgar has completed two summer research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) while at Trine. She learned about the GRFP during her first REU in 2022 at Iowa State University, following her sophomore year.

“During my junior year, I took a class through the biomedical engineering department that was an NSF GRFP Prep course,” she said. “This really helped me understand the application process, timeline and how to write my application clearly.”

She started the application, which included a two-page research proposal and a three-page personal statement, during her junior year and submitted it during her senior year.

“The research proposal incorporated skills learned from both of my REUs,” she said.

Continuing her work

Her research at Carnegie Mellon will continue the work she did in her second REU at the University of Pittsburgh in 2023. She focused on creating a library of probiotic capsules that can be used as personalized therapeutics for treating diseases such as C. difficile infection.

She will work in the lab of Tagbo Niepa, Ph.D., who was at the University of Pittsburgh before joining Carnegie Mellon last fall.

Apgar’s long-term career goal is to become an engineering scientist in a research and development department that creates therapeutics or diagnostics for gut health.

“I hope to help shift the industry toward personalized therapeutics and probiotics, and increase patient accessibility,” she said. “I would also consider joining a start-up focused on gut health or potentially becoming a professor at a teaching-oriented institution where I can raise awareness for this field and encourage younger generations to pursue graduate-level research.”

She is grateful for the flexibility in her biomedical engineering curriculum at Trine, which allowed her to explore her research interests.

“I was able to take Microbiology, which gave me a good background in learning about bacteria, and I used that information and apply it to things I was learning in my BME classes to see the relationship between humans and microbes,” she said. “I also added a bioprocess engineering minor, which allowed me to take a Biochemical Engineering course. This helped me apply my microbiology and BME knowledge toward chemical engineering processes. These courses helped expand my interests and narrow down my future research focus to the gut microbiome.”

“In addition, the BME department focuses on very thorough education and really helps push us toward success,” she said. “I really feel like we get great hands-on experience being at a smaller private school, and our department feels like a family.”

News Information


Amy Apgar
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program
BSBME 2024

News Story Type

Trine-Built Story


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