Scholarship gift from alum benefits individuals and field of BME

Posted: May 3, 2023
Sydney Anderson works in the lab.
Sydney Anderson working in the lab

Sydney Anderson is investigating adrenocortical carcinoma—a rare cancer of the adrenal glands that has less than a 10% five-year survival rate. Her research focuses on the genetic aspects of what causes adrenocortical carcinoma and what makes the tumor so aggressive. She’s working under the guidance of Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Aleksander Skardal.

“In her relatively short period of time at Ohio State, Sydney has shown talent as a very outside-of-the-box thinker,” said Skardal. “She’s taken published literature and her scientific knowledge and synthesized some very creative ideas. This is a great characteristic, and with the right training and mentorship, [her perspectives and abilities] can be honed into an immensely important scientific skill and tool.”

After earning her PhD, Anderson wants to apply her passion for science and engineering expertise to policy writing and research at the federal or international level to help address the disparities in health care and environmental challenges.

“If we don't have a diverse set of graduate students, it's very hard to make impacts in health care disparities or other types of biomedical engineering applications,” explained Samir Ghadiali, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “I'm proud of how the department has diversified our faculty and students. And beyond that, we have instituted mentoring programs and other initiatives to help all of our students succeed—including students from underrepresented backgrounds.”

But this ambitious and caring graduate student wouldn’t have become a Buckeye without critical donor support that, in combination with fellowship funding, enabled the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) to make a competitive offer to secure the top-notch candidate.

Philanthropic gifts that support graduate students provide a critical way to bridge that gap.

A thoughtful donation from distinguished biomedical engineering alumnus Theodore Nicholson (MS ’09, PhD ’10) provided the necessary support to secure Anderson’s acceptance. His gift established the BME Graduate Student Support Fund, which aims to boost diversity among the department’s graduate student population.

“Society needs individuals with these skills and expertise, so it's very beneficial not only to the individual, but to the collective,” he explained. “Whoever this gift helps, the bigger impact will be in what they'll be able to do and the problems they can solve with the training they’re given.”

The BME Graduate Student Support Fund gives special consideration to candidates with an undergraduate degree from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The BME department is working to develop relationships with HBCUs and expand their outreach to tap into that critical talent pipeline.

“As someone who has gone through this pathway, I want to create a connection point to this vast amount of individual creativity and curiosity that exists at these other institutions,” said Nicholson, who completed his undergraduate studies at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. “The issue is not these students’ interest or ability, it's usually resources to attend these institutions.”

As the director of software for Alio Inc., co-founder for startup IASO Automated Medical Systems and owner of a medical device consulting firm, Nicholson sees a critical need for more engineers with a background in medical devices.

By making the first gift that supports BME graduate students, Nicholson is “setting a precedent,” Ghadiali said. And with a few more contributions, the department could recruit cohorts of students each year.

If you would like to make an online gift to the Biomedical Engineering Scholarship Fund so we can continue to recruit and support diverse and talented students in BME you may do so here.

Tag: Giving