March 6, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 11

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    Biancalana will study drug development with Churchill scholarship

    By Julia Morse
    News Office


    Matt Biancalana


    Fourth-year Matthew Biancalana is one of 12 recipients of a Churchill scholarship this year.

    Biancalana, whose concentration is Biological Chemistry, will spend the 2008-2009 school year working toward his M.Phil. at Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, where he will participate in a yearlong research project.

    “The people at Cambridge do fantastic research, and working in their labs will be a great opportunity,” he said, adding that he will be engaging research that is a fusion of basic protein engineering and drug development.

    “I’ve already spent a few years studying basic protein science, but drug development is new to me,” Biancalana said. “This experience will allow me to test the waters, and if it’s something I enjoy, I may pursue it during my Ph.D.”

    The Churchill scholarships, established in 1963 through the Winston Churchill Foundation, are awarded annually to students with exceptional academic achievements and who have the potential to contribute to the fields of science, engineering or mathematics.

    The scholarships are worth between $44,000 and $50,000—including all tuition, fees and an allowance for living expenses.

    Applicants are required to select a mentor at Cambridge during the application process. Biancalana chose Peter Leadlay, the Herchel Smith professor of biochemistry at the University of Cambridge.

    “I knew I wanted to conduct research in biochemistry and was drawn to Leadlay’s lab because his research interfaces protein design with drug development,” he said.

    At Chicago, Biancalana has worked several years in Shohei Koide’s lab at the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Science. His research is funded through the highly competitive Program in Physical and Chemical Biology for College students.

    “If I hadn’t had this outstanding academic experience, I wouldn’t be able to articulate my research and goals in the way I can today,” Biancalana said.

    In what spare time he has, Biancalana enjoys photography.

    “I wish I had more time for it, really,” he said. “But my time has been incredibly focused on my research and applying for graduate scholarships.”

    Although he is not sure what he would like to do after receiving his graduate education, Biancalana said he could see himself conducting academic research.

    But for now, his focus is on the next chapter at Churchill College.

    “I am most looking forward to seeing how scientific research is done outside the United States,” he said. “As for the chance to explore Europe during my school breaks—I’m certainly not going to fight that.”