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Andrea d’Aquino and Yuanzhao Zhang named 2020 Schmidt Science Fellows

Andrea d’Aquino and Yuanzhao Zhang, both Ph.D. candidates at Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, have been named 2020 Schmidt Science Fellows, Eric and Wendy Schmidt announced April 6.

The Schmidt Fellowship supports early career scientists pursuing interdisciplinary approaches to tackle long-term societal challenges, including infectious disease, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Andrea d’Aquino is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry. She develops synthetic molecules that can assemble into structures that resemble the behavior of natural proteins. By mimicking the ability of a protein to adapt its structure and function in response to environmental changes, these synthetic molecules have many potential applications.

As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Andrea will pivot into biomedical engineering and aims to develop biomaterials for controlled drug delivery to treat diseases such as diabetes.

Yuanzhao Zhang is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Physics. He is interested in developing theories to predict collective behavior in complex systems. This ranges from the synchronous flashing of fireflies without a leader to neurons unleashing avalanches of firing activities while processing information. During his Ph.D. work, he focused on the theory of synchronization in coupled oscillator networks and showed how disorder can restore synchrony.

As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Yuangzhao plans to combine dynamic modeling and experimental data to study the benefits of cell heterogeneity on the circadian clock. He hopes this work could lead to new ideas to treat sleep disorders.

Schmidt Science Fellows undertake a year-long postdoctoral placement with a renowned scientific lab following the completion of their Ph.D. program. These placements represent a significant disciplinary pivot from their Ph.D. topic and are central to the program’s aim to foster greater interdisciplinarity. The fellows receive a stipend of $100,000 for their living expenses. 

The program, now in its third year, is funded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt in partnership with the Rhodes Trust.

Students interested in learning more about the Schmidt Science Fellowship should contact Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships.