May 06, 2010

Doctoral student wins prestigious fellowship

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- A doctoral student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has won a highly competitive international fellowship that will allow him to pursue research overseas.

Nicholas Whiting, of Carbondale, received an International Research Fellowship Program award from the National Science Foundation’s Office of International Science and Engineering. The $131,000 award will send Whiting to the Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

Whiting said winning the fellowship would help him pursue his research in nuclear magnetic resonance and its application to magnetic resonance imaging technology.

“(This grant covers) the type of research I want to do,” he said. “I will have the opportunity to study internationally, and to build those connections for the future. Also, it’s hard to find a job right now, so getting your research funded is big.”

The two-year fellowship will serve as a post-doctoral grant for Whiting, who is scheduled to complete his doctorate this summer. The NSF awards only about 30 such awards each year, making the competition for them fierce, said Boyd Goodson, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and Whiting’s doctoral adviser.

“Applicants must be both excellent scholars and researchers,” Goodson said, adding that Whiting is an excellent student with many awards, publications and conference presentations under his belt. “Nick is an outstanding student and highly talented young scientist and experimentalist. He’s also a great problem solver.”

The grant is aimed at scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers, promoting them through international collaborative research and helping them forge long-term professional relationships with scientists, technologists and engineers in other countries.

Supporting international activities is an integral part of NSF’s mission, which includes strengthening the country’s science, mathematics and engineering capabilities. The grant supports top young researchers and their educational activities.

To qualify, applicants submitted a detailed research proposal outlining how they would use the grant. They also must have recently earned their doctorate and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Whiting's work involves improving the sensitivity of nuclear magnetic resonance technology to examine the binding sites of proteins. He will be working on ways to further improve MRI technology during his two-year fellowship.

Whiting will begin his fellowship in August, working with Michael J. Barlow and Thomas Meersmann at the Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre. The facility is named for the co-winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine, who developed the magnetic resonance imager (MRI).

A native of Galatia, Whiting is the son of Jeff and Jane Whiting and the spouse of Keithsha Whiting, who will accompany him overseas.

Whiting earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at SIUC in 2005 and immediately began a doctoral program. In 2007, Whiting was selected to attend the 57th Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students in Germany, becoming one of just 49 graduate researchers in the U.S. delegation. In 2009 he received the award for top dissertation at the University. He has won multiple scholarships and fellowships, as well as awards for teaching at SIUC.

Whiting said getting the fellowship is an important opportunity.

“It will allowme to expand and broaden my horizonsby collaborating withinternational scientists of world-renown in an interdisciplinary research environment, and be a great stepping-stone to my futurecareer as a scientist,” he said. “I look forward to ratcheting up my level of research by working at the Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Center, which houses a unique collection of state-of-the-art research instrumentation and expert personnel. The opportunityto workabroad will no doubt be a life-changing experience, both professionally and personally.”

Goodson said the University is extremely proud of Whiting’s latest accomplishment.

“When Nick graduates he will be greatly missed, but I am extremely proud of his achievements and look forward to working with him in the future as part of our extended collaboration with the University of Nottingham,” Goodson said.