Seven graduate students, including one from the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology, have been awarded 2021 Beckman Institute Graduate Fellowships. The program offers University of Illinois graduate students at the MA, MS, or PhD level the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary research at the institute.

The 2021 honorees include Amanda Weiss, molecular and integrative physiology, Evan Anderson, neuroscience; Elizabeth Bello, entomology; Bashar Emon, mechanical science and engineering; Rong “Ronny” Guo, electrical and computer engineering; Nil Parikh, aerospace engineering; and Yuxuan “Richard” Xie, bioengineering.

Headshot of Amanda Weiss

Amanda Weiss will work with professor Martha Gillette of cell and developmental biology and Hyunjoon Kong of chemical and biomolecular engineering. She will study how the blood-brain barrier's permeability (or how easily substances can move into the body's brain and nervous tissue) is related to circadian rhythms, or the body's 24-hour internal cycles. A more permeable blood-brain barrier can cause strokes and neurodegeneration, and the accumulation of fibrin and other blood-derived factors can cause inflammation and cellular damage.

Weiss will learn about the circadian rhythms of endothelial cells, which line the blood-brain barrier. She'll then measure their permeability at different phases in the circadian cycle. Her work will help researchers better understand why early mornings are a peak time for strokes and why blood factors are so bad for brain cells and function.