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Lucy Lin Joins Growing List of TSRI Graduate Students Honored with Prestigious Scholarship



Lucy Lin Joins Growing List of TSRI Graduate Students Honored with Prestigious Scholarship

By Jeremy Pyle

One of the most competitive and highly regarded scholarships for U.S. graduate students comes from a source you might not expect. It’s made possible by the generosity of taxpayers… in Canada!

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is one of five funding agencies of the Canadian government responsible for financing academic research at Canadian universities. What’s notable about NSERC’s roster of scholarships and fellowships is not the number of opportunities available to young Canadian scientists (there are many) but rather the existence of a scholarship program that supports Canadian students attending graduate programs outside of Canada.

Since 2013, five doctoral students enrolled in The Scripps Research Institute’s (TSRI) Graduate Program on both campuses have been awarded one of these scholarships, known as NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships-Doctoral (PGS-D). Each NSERC PGS-D award provides up to $21,000 of funding annually for up to three years.

The newest TSRI recipient is Lucy Lin, a first-year graduate student in the laboratory of Professor Kim Janda. Lin, who completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, will use the NSERC award in support of research that seeks to develop a therapeutic that may one day save many lives following a tragic act of terrorism.

“Lucy is recipient of the NSERC award for research that will be conducted upon botulinum neurotoxin,” said Janda, the Ely R. Callaway, Jr. Professor of Chemistry on TSRI’s California campus. “Botulinum neurotoxin is the most toxic of all neurotoxins and is considered one of the highest ranking bioterrorism threats. There is no approved therapeutic treatment for this neurotoxin, so Lucy’s research is targeted to find ways to neutralize the toxin, and ultimately reverse its devastating pathophysiology.”

Beyond enthusiasm for her research, Lin appreciates the opportunity afforded by the NSERC award to pursue her research aims at the institution best suited to her interests and goals, regardless of national borders.

“Science is an international effort—that's what this award means to me,” said Lin. “It's great to feel the support from my own country, as well as the one I study in.”

Brian Paegel, a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry on TSRI’s Florida campus, shares Lin’s appreciation for the global aspect of the NSERC program.

“I think it speaks volumes of the Canadian government’s dedication to education and scientific progress that they are so open to funding these young scholars to study in the USA,” said Paegel, whose graduate student Marie Malone received an NSERC PGS-D award in 2014. “The NSERC program is a reminder that science has no nationality.”

Malone, who is in the third year of her NSERC scholarship, noted that while the award is project-specific, the program is flexible and accommodates inevitable changes in research direction.

“Each year you submit a progress update with goals for the next year and a summary of your professional development activities, and that has to get approved to renew funding for the next year,” said Malone, who studied chemistry at the University of Victoria. “I originally proposed to develop the chemical and biochemical methodology to assess and optimize chemical reactions for use in DNA-encoded synthesis of combinatorial libraries. The project has since continued to encompass the synthesis of DNA-encoded solid-phase libraries as well as the microfluidic droplet-based screening of these libraries.”

Other TSRI recipients include Katrina Tjhung and Steven Crossley, who pursue graduate studies on TSRI’s California campus in the TSRI labs of Professor Adjunct Gerald Joyce and Associate Professor Ryan Shenvi, respectively; as well as Jeremy Mason, who studies on the Florida campus with Professor William Roush. Tjhung and Crossley both received their NSERC fellowships in 2015, while Mason earned his in 2013.

"This award is a testament to the outstanding mentorship that I received as an undergraduate and the promising work happening at TSRI,” said Tjhung, who studied pharmacology at the University of Alberta. Tjhung’s NSERC award supports the development of a test tube-evolved RNA molecule that can assemble enantiomeric, or mirror image, RNA for both biomedical application—and to understand RNA’s possible role in the early history of life on Earth. “I am incredibly grateful that NSERC provides funding to students studying outside of Canada."

Crossley, who studied chemistry at the University of British Columbia, echoed Malone’s appreciation for the flexibility of the NSERC program: “This award provides a large degree of freedom in my own research—which entails the development of first row transition metal catalysts for use in chemical synthesis, and studies in total synthesis—areas of study which are not necessarily supported by the Shenvi lab’s NIH and NSF grants, but which are inherently interesting to me and provide excellent training as a chemist and scientist."

According to NSERC’s website, eligibility for the award is open to students who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada and “intend to pursue, in the following year, full-time graduate studies and research at the doctoral level in an eligible program… in one of the areas of the natural sciences and engineering supported by NSERC; and have obtained a first-class average (a grade of "A-") in each of the last two completed years of study (full-time equivalent).” Students may use the award at “any eligible foreign university, provided (they) have received a previous degree from a Canadian university.” More information about the NSERC program can be found at

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lucy lin

Lucy Lin, a first-year graduate student in the laboratory of Professor Kim Janda. (Photo courtesy TSRI Graduate Program.)