Two Engineers Named Hellman Fellows

Michelle Digman and Mo LiAug. 28, 2017 - Two Samueli School engineers – Michelle Digman and Mo Li – have been selected  2017 Hellman fellows. The Hellman Fellows Program supports the research of promising assistant professors who show capacity for great distinction in their chosen fields of endeavor. Digman and Li are among six UC Irvine faculty out of 54 applicants who received the award this year.

Digman, an assistant professor in biomedical engineering, received $45,000 to further her research. She is developing non-invasive imaging techniques to study alterations of intrinsic fluorescent biomarkers that can provide important information about cellular health, cancer invasiveness, neurodegenerative dysfunctions and mouse embryo development. “Our goal is to develop a non-invasive embryo viability index (EVI) for selecting and predicting healthy embryos for implantation through IVF,” explained Digman.

Li, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, received $40,000 for her research to create sustainable infrastructure materials that use industrial wastes as precursors and are capable of autonomously regenerating function upon damage. She is exploring fundamental mechanisms and approaches to tune the chemistry, structure and physical properties of inorganic polymers, to design environmentally friendly and less energy-intensive alternatives to cement – the most heavily consumed man-made material on earth. “Through a material-based approach, we aim to achieve safer, adaptive infrastructure that more closely resembles nature’s resilience,” said Li.  

Established in 1994 by Warren and Chris Hellman of San Francisco, the Hellman Fellows Program now supports junior faculty at 14 institutions, including all 10 UC campuses.

– Lori Brandt