Graduate Students Honored At 2017 Crest & Fest


Holly Lauridsen and Matt Bersi – both graduate students of Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science - were honored Tuesday, May 17 by SEAS Dean T. Kyle Vanderlick at the annual Crest & Fest celebration.

The 2017 Harding Bliss Prize for exceptional achievement in research in Engineering & Applied Science was awarded to Holly Lauridsen, a graduate student in the lab of Anjelica Gonzalez, the Donna L. Dubinsky Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering.

Lauridsen’s doctoral thesis focused on developing novel in vitro models of the human microvasculature to elucidate the roles of pericytes and extracellular matrix in innate inflammation.

In the course of her Ph.D., Lauridsen contributed to nine publications, including four first-author papers and one first-author book.

In a nominating letter, Amanda Pellowe, a Ph.D. candidate in the Gonzalez lab, noted that Lauridsen developed many of the methods during her Ph.D. work that now serve as the backbone for current projects in the laboratory. For instance, she devised a system that previously hadn’t existed for mimicking the human protein membrane, which is now being incorporated into projects throughout Yale.

Pellowe and several other nominators described Lauridsen’s generosity with her time and knowledge.

“From my first weeks here in the Gonzalez Lab, Holly treated me as an equal and would carefully listen to my thoughts and opinions about research ideas and strategies, challenge me to think further, and provide me both meaningful and realistic insight regarding the nature of science,” wrote Rita Matta, a Ph.D. candidate the Gonzlaez lab.

Lauridsen has lent her skills to numerous organizations, including the Yale chapters of ManyMentors and the Society for Women Engineers. She also shared her interest in science as a participant in the Advanced Graduate Leadership Program (AGLP), where she worked with the Office of Public Affairs and Communications as a science writing and social media intern.

Matt Bersi, a doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was awarded the Henry Prentiss Becton Graduate Prize. His academic record includes a perfect graduate course record at Yale (all honors). His advisor, Jay Humphrey, the John C. Malone Professor and chair of biomedical engineering, noted that Bersi “has or soon will have, contributed significantly to 18 total papers during his Ph.D. studies at Yale.” Typically, Humphrey wrote in a nominating letter, an excellent Ph.D. student will have published about five papers.

His dissertation research focused on the effects of blood clot maturation on the evolving mechanical properties of aortic dissections. Humphrey noted that, by mastering complex research methods and initiating new lines of investigation, Bersi’s work could prove critical to the field and even “change the way biomechanicists think about hypertension-induced aortic remodeling and regional disease propensity.”

In addition, Bersi helped make the work of his peers shine as well. He often assisted other students (doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate) troubleshoot their experiments and would offer advice on software development or usage.

“He has already accomplished much, as revealed in part by the many excellent papers, but I feel even more strongly that he will soon distinguish himself as one of Yale’s very best Biomedical Engineering graduates,” Humphrey wrote.

Richard Carson, professor of biomedical engineering and radiology and biomedical imaging, called Bersi “the go-to member of the lab, equally comfortable with hardware and software.”

“He has mentored seven undergraduates, stepping up without being asked,” Carson wrote. “Again, there are often graduate students who show some of this skill set, but it is truly exceptional to see the entire package in one student.”