By Patrick Kurp
Special to Rice News
Stephanie Tzouanas, a senior in bioengineering who has worked in the Rice University lab of Professor Antonios Mikos since the summer before her senior year of high school, has received a prestigious 2014 Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Fellowship Award for graduate education.
Each year, the highly competitive Hertz Fellowship is given to 15 students pursuing careers in the applied physical, biological and engineering sciences. Tzouanas was selected by the Hertz Foundation from among 50 finalists from 29 universities announced in February. About 800 students applied.
Valued at more than $250,000 per student and lasting up to five years, the Hertz Fellowship is ranked as the nation’s most generous.
In 2012, Tzouanas was named a Goldwater Scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. In 2011, with the aid of a Global Engineering Research Scholarship, she worked in the National University of Singapore’s Tissue Modulation Laboratory. The following year she took part in the National Science Foundation’s Cellular Engineering Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates at Rice, and in 2013 she worked at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Tzouanas has also been active in the Global Health Technologies program at Rice.
Tzouanas received the Society for Biomaterials’ 2014 Student Award for Outstanding Research in the undergraduate category. As a Rice Century Scholar, which includes a two-year merit scholarship and a research stipend, Tzouanas has studied bone-regeneration materials and techniques in the lab of Mikos, the Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering, professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of the Center for Excellence in Tissue Engineering at Rice.
Tzouanas’ research focuses on the formulation of epoxy-based, injectable hydrogel scaffolds for delivering cells and growth factors for optimized tissue regeneration. The injectable scaffolds have been shown to be minimally invasive and can fill complex tissue defects or voids found in craniofacial bone regeneration after trauma, tumor resection or birth defects.
Tzouanas serves as president of the Rice Biomedical Engineering Society and of the Rice Society of Women Engineers, and as student leader of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership. She chaired the 2013 Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium and was the Class of 2014 representative to the Centennial Commission Advisory Board.
Tzouanas plans to pursue a doctorate in bioengineering and continue her research into techniques for promoting bone regeneration and treating bone defects resistant to traditional therapies.
The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation was formed with the goal of supporting applied sciences education. The founder, John Daniel Hertz, was an Austrian emigrant who came to the United States as a poor young boy and lived the American dream. He became a leader in the advent of the automotive age. The Hertz Foundation has awarded more than $200 million in fellowships for graduate education to more than 1,100 fellows since 1963, in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
—Patrick Kurp is a science writer in the George R. Brown School of Engineering.