Shachi Mittal and Erika Portero Win FACSS Thomas Hirschfeld Scholar Awards

Shachi Mittal and Erika Portero are the 2019 recipients of the FACSS Thomas Hirschfeld Scholar Awards.

Shachi Mittal and Erika Portero are the 2019 recipients of the FACSS Thomas Hirschfeld Scholar Awards. The awards will be presented to Mittal and Portero at the SciX 2019 conference, in Palm Springs, California, on October 13. The Hirschfeld awards are presented to outstanding graduate students who wish to attend and present their work at the SciX conference.

Mittal is a Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her dissertation work was completed in June of 2019 under the supervision of Prof. Rohit Bhargava in the university’s Department of Engineering. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biochemical engineering and biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology, in Delhi, India, in 2014. Selected as an Illinois Distinguished Fellow for her graduate study, Mittal’s work focused on developing efficient and robust computational models using spectroscopy data for early cancer detection and prognostic assessment, particularly breast cancer. Her current interest involves combining patient information obtained from chemical imaging, genomics, proteomics, tissue, and patient-level disease information, to identify multilevel statistical associations to fuel improved diagnostics, treatment, and management of cancer.

Portero, who is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland, College Park, is currently doing research under the supervision of Prof. Peter Nemes. Her goal is to develop next-generation mass spectrometry technologies to enable the analysis of small molecules in single cells. She is a first-generation college graduate who was born in Ecuador. She received her B.S. in chemistry from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and participated in the International Research Experience for Undergraduates program by the National Science Foundation to conduct research at the Université-et-Marie-Curie in Paris, France. Her research focuses on developing single-cell mass spectrometry tools to investigate cell heterogeneity in the developing vertebrate embryo. Her goal is to extend bioanalytical tools for systems cell biology. Portero has served as a mentor to sever high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. She is committed to helping underrepresented students join STEM careers.