Chemistry and Biochemistry

Graduate Student Awarded Competitive Analytical Chemistry Fellowship

Posted: Apr 05, 2012

When Pankaj Aggarwal came to BYU in August 2009 to start his PhD studies, he wasn’t sure if he was doing the right thing. He entered Dr Milton Lee’s research group that December and began studying new liquid chromatographic methods used for identifying proteins and peptides.

Two and a half years later, Aggarwal is still uncertain of what the future may hold, but there is a difference. Then, he was unsure and uneasy. Now, he is simply open to the possibilities and ready to take advantage of the opportunities that come his way. His hard work and diligence have already paid off with the authorship of three peer-reviewed published papers with Dr. Lee, and soon he will take advantage of another key opportunity: a nine-month fellowship awarded by the American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry (ACS DAC).

“I was thrilled, excited, and also surprised [to find out that I received the fellowship],” Aggarwal said. “Only two people in the world get it. While I was applying, I was hoping I would get it but I didn’t know if I would.”

Dr. Lee said Aggarwal’s exceptional work ethic, intelligence and determination make him a good fit for the fellowship.

“He knows how to use information from the literature and what he’s learned in the lab to design new experiments, solve problems and obtain new, exciting results,” Dr. Lee said. “He doesn’t give up easy. He’s really dedicated.”

The nine-month ACS DAC fellowship includes a $21,000 award to fund a student’s dissertation research in the field of analytical chemistry at their home institution. Each fellowship is sponsored by one of four organizations: Eli Lilly (Aggarwal’s sponsor), Agilent Technologies, Eastman and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh.

“For this year’s competition, we had two nine-month fellowships and five summer (three-month) fellowships. We received 37 applications, so the awards were very competitive, particularly for the nine-month fellowships,” said Dr. Emily Niemeyer, a professor at Southwestern University and co-chair of the ACS committee that selects the fellows. “Students who receive awards have typically already published a considerable amount of high quality research and show the potential to continue that trajectory with support during the fellowship period.”

Aggarwal will start receiving funding from the fellowship in September. When his nine months are up, he will present a report of his research at Eli Lilly in June 2013.

Aggarwal expressed his gratitude for the three years he’s spent so far at BYU.

“I remember when I first joined Dr. Lee. He said the feeling you get when you discover something new, which nobody knows, is great!” Aggarwal said. “I’m still searching for that feeling. I’m thankful to get the opportunity to work at BYU, and especially in Dr. Lee’s lab. He has been a great mentor and helped me get where I am today.”

By Jessica Henrie