Mohamad Ali Najia, an Honor's Program undergraduate in Georgia Tech’s Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, has earned the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for his work in science and engineering. Najia chose to enroll at Georgia Tech in 2010 because of the biomedical engineering department’s reputation and research opportunities.
“It has always been my long-term plan to go on to graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering,” Najia said. He was first drawn to this area of study in high school as he learned about the potential of stem cells and their role in curing disease.
In his first semester, Najia joined Associate Professor Todd McDevitt’s "Engineering Stem Cell Technologies" laboratory, where he was worked with mentor Jenna Wilson, a Ph.D. candidate in Georgia Tech's BioEngineering Graduate Program. Najia’s research project, “Influencing encapsulated stem cell factor secretion through hypoxic conditioning,” was to design a culture environment that would generate a greater impact on tissue regeneration. Soon after joining the McDevitt lab, Najia was selected as a Beckman Coulter Petit Undergraduate Research Scholar in the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
The Petit Scholars program is a competitive, full-year independent research opportunity for elite undergraduate students in bioengineering and bioscience who are mentored by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The Petit Institute has sponsored this program since 2000 and has successfully supported the research of over 200 young scientists, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in academics, medicine and industry.
"To earn a Goldwater Scholarship is an extreme honor, and one that could not have been accomplished without the supportive community at Georgia Tech," Najia stated.
Throughout his undergraduate career, Najia has focused on his dream of generating fully functional tissues for implantation into patients, with the goal of curbing a nationwide allograft shortage, improving patient recovery, and saving lives. He hopes to become a professor with a lab focused on genome engineering and is already excited to mentor the next generation of scientists.
In addition to his research activities, Najia went on to become editor-in-chief of The Tower, Tech’s peer-reviewed undergraduate research journal, and, last summer, he was a bioinformatics fellow through the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.
“I am incredibly grateful for the institutional support, both through the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, the Biomedical Engineering department and Georgia Tech as a whole,” he said. “Most importantly, I am thankful for the mentorship of several faculty members, including Georgia Tech faculty members, Todd McDevitt and Brani Vidakovic.”
Named for U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, the Goldwater Scholarship is awarded to students in science, mathematics and engineering who intend to pursue research careers in their fields, with the intent of providing a continuing source of highly qualified scholars in these areas.