Biochemistry graduate student Sasha Padilla has been awarded a 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. This fellowship program recognizes outstanding graduate students by providing a yearly stipend to support their research as well as opportunities for professional development. Sasha is one of nine current graduate students, along with eight undergraduate alumni, from Notre Dame to be selected for this honor this year. For the 2017 competition, NSF received over 13,000 applications resulting in only 2,000 awards.
Padilla works in the laboratory of Brad Smith, Emil T. Hofman Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Her research focuses on the development of near-infrared active chemical probes to enable the improved imaging of thin and buried nerves. Ultimately, these types of probes can be used in fluorescence guided surgery (FGS), which is an emerging technique that allows surgeons to better visualize nerves surrounding the surgical site and therefore avoid damage to healthy tissues. Currently, twenty- to six hundred-thousand patients per year experience nerve damage following surgery.
Padilla is originally from Brooklyn, NY, and she received her B.S. from SUNY Oswego in 2016.