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The 2021 recipient of the FACSS Student award is Vanessa Cupil-Garcia, a fourth-year PhD candidate in Ruan Vo-Dinh’s group in the Department of Chemistry at Duke University (Durham, North Carolina). The award, which will be presented at SciX 2021 (September 26–October 1, Providence, Rhode Island), honors a student who has furthered the state-of-the-art in their chosen field, advancing the understanding of important scientific or societal questions. The winner must have a strong research record and be identifiable as an emerging leader in analytical chemistry.
Cupil-Garcia graduated summa cum laude from Meredith College (Raleigh, North Carolina) with degrees in chemistry and biology, and an international studies minor. She conducted a summer of research at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia) under Stefan France, where she synthesized indole carboxylates and worked on the carbon hydrogen functionalization of naphthalene diimide. She also worked at the Oregon Health and Science University (Portland, Oregon), quantifying the genetic variability in mitochondrial supercomplexes in D2 and B6 mice strains in Kari Buck’s laboratory.
At Duke, Cupil-Garcia’s research focuses on integrating nanotechnology and chemistry to develop diagnostic and therapeutic tools. Currently, she is synthesizing inorganic and organic nanomaterials for the treatment of cancers combined with immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs. She also is adapting inverse molecular sentinel sensors for microRNA detection in plants for bioenergy purposes.
Cupil-Garcia has received the Kathleen Zielek Fellowship, the Duke Nanoscience Program Fellowship, and the Fitzpatrick Foundation Scholar. She has presented multiple peer-reviewed publications at various local and national conferences. She mentors Latinx students who are pursuing higher education, and she values scientific outreach. She has spearheaded multiple in-person outreach programs, and during the pandemic helped advance two projects enabling virtual outreach and take-home science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) kits. In her role as a volunteer with Siembra, in North Carolina, she schedules COVID-19 vaccine appointments for non-English speakers.