2019 Graduate Research Fellowship Program awardee Daniella Fodera '18 is Cornell PhD student

Bioengineering alum Daniella Fodera ’18, who is pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering at Cornell University, has been awarded a prestigious research fellowship grant from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP).

Fodera works in the lab of Nelly Andarawis-Puri, an associate professor at Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, where she will examine the role of inflammation in the repair of tendon injuries using regenerative animal models.

“In years down the line, by doing this basic research and looking at the mechanisms underlying different injuries and repair, it will better inform clinical management,” says Fodera, who is passionate about the clinical translation of her research in the biomedical field.

The long-standing NSF GRFP supports talented graduate students in STEM fields conducting NSF-supported research.

“Recipients of the fellowship are selected for their demonstrated potential to become outstanding, high-achieving scientists who are committed to creating a broader, positive societal impact,” says Susan Perry, a professor of practice in Lehigh’s Department of Bioengineering and its faculty graduate coordinator.

Three current Lehigh students were also among the 2019 list of awardees announced in April, and Fodera joins two other Rossin College bioengineering graduates, Kathryn Kundrod '15 (now studying biomedical engineering at Rice University) and Erin Akins '18 (now a student in the UC Berkeley/UCSF joint bioengineering PhD program), who have received NSF GRFP fellowships in recent years.

Students receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 and additional support for tuition and fees. The prestigious fellowship is highly selective and honors nearly 2,000 applicants each year.

Fodera credits her participation in research as a Lehigh undergraduate—including time spent as a lab assistant with Michael Layden, an assistant professor of biological sciences, who studies the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, as well bioengineering-focused work with Himanshu Jain, Diamond Distinguished Chair and Professor in materials science, and biology professor Matthias Falk—with developing her interest in attending graduate school.

During that time, Fodera was a coauthor on two research publications: “Characterization of NvLWamide-like neurons reveals stereotypy in Nematostella nerve net development” and “New bioactive glass scaffolds with exceptional qualities for bone tissue regeneration: response of osteoblasts and osteoclasts.”

Perry worked with Fodera throughout her undergraduate studies, serving as her academic adviser; coordinating a 2016 summer research internship at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in which Fodera participated; and working with her on Bioengineering curriculum development through Lehigh’s Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) grant.  

The research projects Fodera was involved in “were varied, in-depth, and highly collaborative,” says Perry, “and all were productive, which is rare for an undergraduate researcher. Clearly, Daniella has found a formula for success and, not surprisingly, it is based on her strong work ethic and a dedication to making an impact on healthcare through the tools of bioengineering.”

—Madison Hoff ’19 is a student writer for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science

Daniella Fodera

NSF GRFP awardee Daniella Fodera ’18 says that being selected for such a prestigious award has added “credence to what I have done and what I want to do.”