Graduate fellowships awarded for biomedical research at Notre Dame

Author: Arnie Phifer



Two students at the University of Notre Dame, each working on distinct technologies that could change the way cancer is understood and diagnosed, have been awarded the 2015/16 Berry Family Foundation Graduate Fellowships in Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics. Melinda Lake and Cody Narciso received the fellowships for their high-quality scholarship and the potential that their research could lead to significant improvements in Precision Medicine.


Lake, from ND’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, will serve as the engineering lead of an interdisciplinary team of investigators developing a new way to rapidly sort healthy and cancerous cells based on their intrinsic mechanical properties, like cell rigidity. This approach can be used to identify cells that have transformed from healthy to cancerous, and those with a higher metastatic potential.


“Our device has the potential to revolutionize cell processing by enabling biological researchers to sort large populations of cells on a mechanical basis at unparalleled throughput,” said Lake. “This will affect how researchers study cancer.”


Through his fellowship, Narciso, who is in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, will test and refine Reveal3D, a novel tissue processing technology recently developed at Notre Dame.


“Today’s 2D histology techniques, upon which researchers and physicians base many of their decisions, do not take into account that tissues develop in a three-dimensional landscape, and are limited in the number of biomarkers that can be analyzed for a given tissue specimen. That can leave out a lot of important information,” explained Narciso. “Our approach will give researchers an automated platform to perform multiplex biomarker labeling on whole tissue samples to provide increased information.”


“These are potentially game-changing developments in precision medicine, with high clinical and commercial value” said Paul Bohn, Arthur J. Schmitt Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of the Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics (AD&T) initiative at Notre Dame.


“Melinda and Cody are very deserving of these fellowships, but the application process also showed the breadth and depth of quality research being conducted by graduate students in labs across campus. We are grateful to the Berry Family Foundation for supporting these efforts.”


Launched in 2013, the Berry Family Foundation Graduate Fellowships fund the work of young researchers who are tackling significant problems in human and environmental health. Fellows receive support for their studies and travel expenses for an academic year.


“This year’s fellowships highlight the collaborations that are growing at Notre Dame, in this case represented by students and projects backed by both AD&T and the Harper Cancer Research Center Institute,” Bohn added. “They demonstrate just how strong and interdisciplinary biomedical research has become here.”


Contact: Arnie Phifer, ofAD&T at or 574-631-3057.

Originally published by Arnie Phifer at on July 13, 2015.